This semifinal was just like any other—vocal Brazilian crowd, starting pistol, a spot in the final on the line—only there was no one else on the track. In a slightly surreal scene, the U.S. women’s 4x100m team were granted a solo re-run after successfully protesting their disqualification in their heat earlier Thursday.
The team—Tianna Bartoletta in the blocks, Allyson Felix, English Gardner, and Morolake Akinosun as the anchor—dropped the baton on the second handoff in the morning’s heat. It looked for a moment like a nightmare replay of the 2008 Olympics, when the U.S. team fumbled a handoff and were disqualified in an early heat. But this time the Americans lodged an appeal, and replays showed Felix had indeed been bumped by a Brazilian runner.
Under most circumstances, the U.S. would’ve been granted automatic entry into the final. But there were already eight qualifiers and only eight lanes on the track, so the Americans, the defending 2012 gold medalists, had to prove they could bump someone out. So they got a re-run all alone—the first of its kind in Olympic history.
(Note: NBC has been weird about putting up then taking down embeddable video. If it’s gone when you read this, you can watch the “race” here.)
The U.S. merely needed to beat China’s eighth-place time of 42.70 seconds to advance. They ended up running 41.77, the fastest time of the day.
“It was weird but it was a lot of fun doing it,” Akinosun would say after, adding, “It kind of felt like a glorified practice.”
So the Chinese are out of the final (as were the Brazilians, who were disqualified for obstruction on the bump that jostled Felix in the semifinal—which is why there were a decent amount of boos from the home crowd for the Americans on their re-run). The final is tonight, and the Jamaicans are favored, and there’ll be one more potential handicap for the Americans: they’ll be in either lane 8 or lane 1, the least desirable lanes, because they weren’t among the top three finishers in their heat.
Their morning heat, that is. On their re-run they were pretty much guaranteed to come in first: