TOKYO — After a preliminary win and subsequent disqualification, Team USA is back in the mix in the 4x400 mixed-gender relay at the Tokyo Olympics.
USA Track & Field announced early Saturday that the relay team had been reinstated after successfully appealing a ruling that had knocked it out of the event hours earlier. The Americans were initially disqualified for passing the baton outside the designated zone on their first exchange, between Elija Godwin and Lynna Irby.
Now, they are back in the final, which will be held Saturday night. And they will again be considered the favorites.
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This is the first time the mixed-gender relay has been contested at the Olympic Games, part of a broader initiative by the International Olympic Committee to promote gender equity within its ranks. The event has been included in recent world championships, however. The U.S. is the reigning world champion.
Allyson Felix was part of that title-winning team in 2019, and Saturday's reversal could prove to be especially pivotal for her legacy.
If she is selected to race in the final, she would be in line for her 10th Olympic medal. Among U.S. track and field athletes, only Carl Lewis (11 total medals) has won more.
The decision to reinstate the U.S. relay team capped what were surely a confusing few hours for its members, all of whom are competing in their first Olympics. Bryce Deadmon, 24, was the veteran of the group that competed Friday.
The sequence in question happened early in the race. Irby appeared to be standing well outside the zone before Godwin got to her, lining up roughly 10 meters from the bulk of the other No. 2 runners in her heat. But Irby's coach Lance Brauman told IndyStar, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, that officials at the track did not line the runners up correctly.
The disqualification came as a shock to members of the U.S. relay team as they walked off the track. Several of them blinked back tears as they spoke to reporters.
"We come out, we try our best," Godwin said. "It was a complete surprise to all of us. We heard the news. All we can do is prepare for the future, see what happens next."
"Next" will now come Saturday night. And it could end with the Americans putting medals around their necks.
Contact Tom Schad at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Team USA's mixed gender relay is reinstated after disqualification