Track and field legend Carl Lewis, who knows a thing or nine about winning Olympic gold, had some things to get off his chest after the men’s 4x100m relay team failed to advance in Thursday’s qualifying round.
Team USA, which has historically dominated this event, unfortunately did the complete opposite on Thursday. And after stumbling to a sixth-place finish, Yahoo Sports reports that the U.S. has now failed to win a medal in this event for the fourth straight Olympics:
The problems started for the U.S. on the first leg of the relay when [sprinter Trayvon] Bromell again couldn’t recapture his early-season form and got the Americans off to a sluggish start. Bromell, who surprisingly failed to make the finals of the men’s 100 earlier this week, neither gained nor lost any ground on most of the rest of the field during his leg.
The U.S. was still in the middle of the pack at the end of the second leg when [Fred] Kerley ran up on a slow-to-start [Ronnie] Baker and clumsily tried to hand off the baton. The exchange was so butterfingered that Baker had to slow dramatically and the Americans lost significant ground to their rivals.
There was still time to salvage things enough to survive and advance, but neither Baker nor Gillespie could deliver. Gillespie, in particular, faded in the latter half of his leg, allowing unheralded Ghana to overtake the U.S. for fifth place by two hundredths of a second.
“I don’t have no words, honestly,” Bromell told NBC’s Lewis Johnson after the race, Yahoo notes. “I’m honestly kind of mad. Not at these guys, they did what they could do. I did what I can do. I can really just speak for myself in a sense. Like I said, these guys did their job, I did what I could do. On the first leg, it just—it’s really some B.S. for real, to be honest with you.”
Adding insult to injury, Lewis offered his own assessment of what transpired to his nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter.
“The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay,” he tweeted. “The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU kids I saw.”
While many have been quick to denounce Lewis’ critique as harsh, if there’s anyone who’s more than qualified to speak on this situation it’s him. Throughout the course of his Olympic career, the Willingboro Township, N.J., native collected nine Olympic gold medals and competed in a multitude of events that include the 100m, the 200m, the long jump, and—wait for it—the 4x100m relay.
“This was a football coach taking a team to the Super Bowl and losing 99-0 because they were completely ill-prepared,” Lewis told USA Today. “It’s unacceptable. It’s so disheartening to see this because it’s people’s lives. We’re just playing games with people’s lives. That’s why I’m so upset. It’s totally avoidable. And America is sitting there rooting for the United States and then they have this clown show. I can’t take it anymore. It’s just unacceptable. It is not hard to do the relay.”
He added, “We’ve been talking about this forever. The relay program has been a disaster for years because there’s no leadership and no system. When I said everything is wrong, it is. If you break it down, people were in the wrong legs, obviously they were not taught how to pass the baton in those legs. Just simple things like that. I watched it. I’m not blaming the athletes so much. This was leadership.”
Hopefully, each of the participants, as well as USA Track & Field, are able to grow from this experience.