TOKYO — The United States failed to qualify for the final of the men’s 4×100-meter relay after bungling a baton transfer, yet again, and placing sixth in its heat.
The baton failure slowed down the team, as the United States finished in 38.10 seconds. China, Canada and Italy took the top three spots in the heat to automatically qualify for Friday’s final.
The baton exchange has given the U.S. men trouble in the past. At the 2016 Rio Games, the United States finished third, but the team was disqualified after the first exchange was ruled to have taken place outside the exchange zone.
The men’s 4×100-meter team in 2008 and 2012 and the women’s relay in 2004 and 2008 all failed to make it around the track successfully.
The men got off to a mediocre start on Thursday from Trayvon Bromell and the sloppy baton passing spelled doom, despite the United States’ unmatched depth in sprinting.
“I just didn’t do my job,” Bromell said after the race. He was the fastest man in the world coming into the Games but failed to make the final of the 100 meters as well.
The baton pass that felled the Americans came in the transfer between the second and third legs as Fred Kerley handed the stick to Ronnie Baker, but far too slowly. Both men were finalists in the 100 meters, with Kerley taking the silver in that race.
The result drew immediate criticism from the biggest name in American track and field.
“The U.S.A. team did everything wrong in the men’s relay,” Carl Lewis said on Twitter. “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 U.S.A. team to look worse than the A.A.U. kids I saw.”
Minutes later, the U.S. disappointment continued, as Hansle Parchment of Jamaica upset the world champion Grant Holloway in the 110-meter high hurdles. Holloway had the lead early but could not hang on. Ronald Levy of Jamaica won the bronze, relegating Devon Allen of the United States to fourth.
The sprint relay, however, continues to be the mystery that the U.S. team cannot solve. It has not won a medal in the event since 2004, when the Americans took the silver medal. Not making the final of the race brings the frustration to a new level. Teams from China, Canada, Italy, Germany and Ghana all outran the Americans.
The United States won the event at the 2019 world championships, but that group included Justin Gatlin, who did not make the Olympic team, and Christian Coleman, who missed the Olympics because he is serving a drug suspension.