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'It's Weird': Tyson Gay On Latest Drama Over U.S. Men's Relay Race

Men's 4x100m relay teammates Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and Michael Rodgers react after being disqualified from the race at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro Friday.
Pedro Ugarte
AFP/Getty Images
Men's 4x100m relay teammates Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and Michael Rodgers react after being disqualified from the race at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro Friday.

It's a story that might sound familiar: A promising U.S. men's 4x100m relay team was disqualified from a marquee race because of a bad baton exchange. Team member Tyson Gay calls it both weird and bad luck.

In fact, in a post-race interview that lasted less than three minutes, Gay used the word "weird" no fewer than seven times to describe how this race went for the Americans.

In the initial results, Jamaica won the race at Rio's Olympic Stadium, followed by Japan and the U.S. — but after the teams finished their victory lap and were about to speak to the media, the Americans were shocked to see a "DQ" tag had been placed next to their ranking.

Officials "ruled that one of their baton exchanges was outside the legal zone," as Greg wrote in his initial post about the race.

The U.S. team of Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Gay and Trayvon Bromell had turned in a time of 37.62 seconds, 0.35 seconds behind Jamaica's winning time of 37.27. But that result didn't stand.

After the race, Gay told journalists — including NPR's Russell Lewis — that he was shocked by the outcome. USA Track and Field appealed the disqualification to track's international ruling body, but the result stands.

The disqualification echoes (and likely drown out) the men's nightmare in the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, when they dropped the baton and didn't reach the final.

But the team's troubles extend past that. The U.S. squad's silver medal finish in the London 2012 Olympics was voided last year, over the doping suspensions that have hit both Gay and Gatlin. And Friday night Gay recalled another disqualification, in 2009, he said, for a bad handoff. Then there was last year's world championship, where a horrible baton exchange slowed the Americans.

Here's Gay talking about the latest setback:

"It has to be the worst luck for this country ever. It's always something weird; stupid; simple — mistakes that always cost us. And I don't understand. We had great sticks in practice, great chemistry, great everything, and then something so simple. I can't think of nothing else to say but bad luck. I mean, it's, weird. "

Gay said that officials told the team that Justin Gatlin received the baton too early, resulting in a disqualification. He added that it was similar to one they'd incurred in 2009 — but that in this case, the runners involved in the exchange believe it was clean.

With the Americans' result now thrown out, Canada gets the bronze medal, Gay said, adding, "It's so weird, man."

We don't mean to poke fun at Gay — if anything, his repeated use of the word "weird" is the perfect illustration of the current status of a team that's seen dropped batons and other problems, but one that had seemingly gotten past those issues.

He added, "I mean, I couldn't even shed a tear, I was so shocked. It was so shocking to the point where I couldn't even cry. Because it's almost to the point of like, 'Damn, bad luck again.'

"You know? It's weird. I don't get it. It's... I don't get it."

"We always have bad luck," Gay said.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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