U.S. Men’s 4x100 Meter Relay Teams Win 1st Championship in 12 Years
By ANTOINE WILEY ‘20
Christian Coleman, Justin Gatlin, Mike Rodgers, and Noah Lyles just clocked a blistering 37.10 seconds in the 4x100 meter relay at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, setting the fastest American time ever and the second fastest time in history. The 2019 Doha Championships was one for the record books; in the finals, Great Britain and Japan set new 4x100 meter European and Asian records respectively. The U.S., Great Britain, Japan, and Brazil blitzed the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 8th fastest races ever. The day before, in the heats leading up to the final, South Africa set the7th fastest time ever.
The U.S. men’s 4x100 meter men’s relay team has a bad history with baton passing (they failed to reach the finals in the Beijing 2008 Olympics after dropping the baton), and Canada actually filed a protest against Team U.S.A. after the Americans failed to complete a proper baton exchange. However, Team U.S.A. managed to seal the deal in the final with four efficient baton passes that ensured victory. It also helped that the U.S.A. relay team was stacked this year. Christian Coleman, who won the 100 meter dash at Doha this year (he ran a 9.76 second 100 meter dash—the 6th fastest time ever), ran the first leg; Justin Gatlin, the Athens gold medalist in the 100 meter dash and Doha silver medalist in the 100 meter dash, ran the second leg; Mike Rodgers, two-time World Championships silver medalist in the 4x100 meter relay, ran third; Noah Lyles, the reigning 200m world champion, ran anchor.
Gatlin continues to shine as a historically unprecedented beacon of consistency; he won silver at the 2016 Olympics in the 100 meter dash as a thirty-four-year-old, became the oldest man to win a non-relay sprinting Olympic medal, and the following year, won gold in the 2017 World Championships. Gatlin’s advanced age makes his second place finish in the 100 meter dash at Doha this year all the more impressive; he’s a full fifteen years older than Coleman, who beat him for gold, and he’s thirteen years older than Andre De Grasse, whom he beat for silver by nine hundredths of a second. The 4x100 meter championship meant a lot to Gatlin, as Doha was his ninth. However, Gatlin is now almost thirty-eight, so his sprinting days are nearing their end, no matter how prodigious his sprinting longevity has been so far.
Unfortunately, this relay team probably won’t be competing for much longer, since thirty-four-year-old Rodgers is also pretty old for a sprinter. On the plus side, Coleman and Lyles are twenty-three and twenty-two respectively, and have years of competing ahead of them. Team U.S.A. also has a long way to go to be a team that can consistently execute baton hand-offs. From 1995 to 2016, the U.S. men’s 4x100 meter relay team has either utterly failed at baton passing or been disqualified a stunning eight times at the Olympics and World Championships. If the U.S.A. attains the same mastery of hand-off technique as Team Japan, it would be able to shave off whole tenths of a second off their time. With the rising talents of Coleman and Lyles, however, sprinting looks to be in good hands for many years to come.