Vernon Norwood competes at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo.
TOKYO – Team USA won its first track and field Olympic medal Saturday, a bronze in the 4x400-meter mixed relay, after a mixed-up start to the event making its Games debut the night before.
The Americans were disqualified for an illegal exchange in the preliminaries. After many anxious moments, they were reinstated after an appeal.
“We ended up getting our joy back and we walked away with some hardware,” said Vernon Norwood, who anchored the relay in the final.
He was part of a new quartet that also included Trevor Stewart leading off, followed by Kendall Ellis and Kaylin Whitney. All of the teams in the final chose to run the two women on the middle legs.
Norwood got the baton in fourth place and appeared ready to claim the silver medal behind Poland. But the Dominican Republic’s Alexander Ogando dove past him as he was striding toward the finish line, relegating Team USA to bronze by one-hundredth of a second. The Dominicans had also been DQed in the prelims and reinstated.
Poland set an Olympic record – improving on its own time from the preliminaries – of 3 minutes, 9.87 seconds, followed by the Dominican Republic at 3:10.21 and Team USA at 3:10.22.
In the preliminaries, the handoff from Elija Godwin — whose previous claim to fame was being impaled by a javelin and recovering from it — to Lynna Irby on the first exchange was ruled outside the zone. Taylor Manson and Bryce Deadmon were the other two runners as Team USA clocked 3:11.39.
Team USA argued that an official told Irby to stand in the wrong place for the handoff.
Runners in the preliminaries also receive medals, although they do not stand on the podium for the ceremony.
“They got us here into the final, so it’s just as much their medal as it is ours,” Ellis said. “It’s a group of eight; we all earned this medal together, so I’m thankful for them going out and setting the tone yesterday.”
Ellis and Stewart placed fourth in the men’s and women’s 400s at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track and Field while Whitney and Norwood each finished fifth.
“Honestly, I can say yesterday I was nervous, just because of the whole ordeal that happened the night before,” said Stewart. “But coming in today, I had a few talks with people, family included, and I knew what I had to do.”
Some people had hoped to see Allyson Felix in this relay, which was seen as a great chance for her to win her 10th Olympic medal, but Felix will presumably concentrate on the women’s 4 x 400 and the individual 400 race.
At the 2019 World Championships in Doha, when the event appeared at its first major international meet, Felix ran a leg on the gold-medal winning relay, which set the world record of 3:09.34.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Ellis said. “It’s great to represent our country in yet another event, an event that’s so different from the standard track and field (that) is separated into men and women. It’s nice that we get to come together and put the best of the best from each gender and see what we’ve got.”