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It seems no one — including the athletes — had anything nice to say about Team USA's surprisingly slow finish in their qualifying round at the men's 4x100m relay in the Tokyo Games.
"We just didn't get the job done today. No excuses," silver medalist Fred Kerley told reporters afterward in a terse postmortem after the unsuccessful team event on Thursday, in which the U.S. placed sixth in their heat and failed to make the cut for the final on Friday.
Cravon Gillespie, another member of the relay, was equally unsparing.
"Honestly, I'm not even sure. It's definitely frustrating coming this far, making the team," he told reporters. To not make it to the final is "not why we're here," he said.
"We've definitely got to pick it up for the worlds [championships] next year and the next Olympics," he said, "because this is unacceptable."
The U.S. has historically dominated in the event, though American runners have struggled since 2004, when they won silver. (They failed to either finish or were disqualified in the three Games after that.)
Photo by Lu Lin/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images
Carl Lewis, a 10-time Olympic medalist who twice helped the U.S. win gold in the men's 4x100m, agreed with Gillespie's assessment. He told USA Today the result was "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," he said.
He tweeted, equally blunt: "The USA team did everything wrong in the men's relay. 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."
Citing his own experience as a coach whose players have run U.S. relays, Lewis suggested to USA Today that part of the problem was a rudderless system in which the wrong runners were vying for the race — and sometimes for the wrong spots.
"If you break it down, people were in the wrong legs, obviously they were not taught how to pass the baton in those legs," he told the paper. "Just simple things like that. I watched it. I'm not blaming the athletes so much. This was leadership."
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Speaking with reporters Thursday in Tokyo after the relay qualifying, Ronnie Baker, another member of the team, alluded to issues with cohesion.
"We are all running fast right now: Fred is running 9.8 and I am running 9.8. Trying to time that up perfectly with a couple of practices is tough," he said.
Kerley, asked if they knew that the heat would be such a challenge, said simply:
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.