Olympics Summer

Canada in sprint relay final, double disaster for U.S.

Pierre Browne of Toronto ran a strong last leg on Thursday to help Canada qualify for the final of the men's 4x100-metre relay at the Beijing Olympics.

Pierre Browne of Toronto ran a strong last leg on Thursday to help Canada qualify for the final of the men's 4x100-metre relay at the Beijing Olympics.

Canada finished in 38.77 seconds in their semifinal, second behind Jamaica. The Canadian team also included Hank Palmer of Pierrefonds, Que., Anson Henry of Pickering, Ont., and Jared Connaughton of New Haven, P.E.I. 
Jared Connaughton, left, urges Pierre Browne on for his 4x100-metre relay anchor leg in Thursday's semifinal. ((Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press))

"This isn't really a surprise to us, we expected to be in the final and we are," said Henry. "We came in here expecting to be battling for a podium spot, there's been talk we come here and we're just happy to be here, but we're not just happy to be here, we want to leave with a medal around our necks."

Jamaica easily won the heat in 38.31 seconds. Former 100-metre world-record holder Asafa Powell ran the last leg for the Jamaicans, with Usain Bolt not running just one day after winning his second sprint gold of the Games, in the 200 metres.

Bolt is expected to run in Friday's final, which appears to be Jamaica's to lose provided it gets clean exchanges.

The race for third was anyone's heading into the final exchange, but anchor Browne pulled away from runners from Germany and China.

It appeared Great Britain had taken second, but the team was later disqualified.

Both U.S. relay teams botch exchanges

The United States suffered disaster in their semifinal heat. The baton fell on the final exchange, between Darvis Patton and Tyson Gay.

When Gay reached his hand back for the exchange, he never got a grasp of the baton.

"I went to grab it and there was nothing," said Gay. "It's kind of the way it's been happening to me this Olympics.

"I take full blame for it," Gay added. "I kind of feel I let them down."

The men's 100 world champion in 2007, Gay was going for his first Olympic medal after he failed to advance to the 100 final. He didn't qualify for the 200 at the U.S. Olympic trials due to injury.

Richard Thompson and Marc Burns ran strong for Trinidad and Tobago as they took their heat in 38.26 seconds, followed by Japan and the Netherlands.

Nigeria, Poland and South Africa also didn't make it to the finish line, each botching the final exchange. 

"The thing is, in a relay you've got to expect that a couple of favourites will drop out, so basically the biggest thing is to focus on each other and that's what we did," said Henry. "We're really thinking about getting on the podium."

Netherlands, Brazil, Germany and China will also be in the men's final.
Torri Edwards reacts in shock as Lauryn Williams tries to scoop up the fallen baton for the United States in the relay semifinals. ((Nick Laham/Getty Images))

Disaster struck twice for the Americans, as the women's 4x100-metre relay team also couldn't make the final exchange in their semifinal. The baton got caught up between Torri Edwards, who ran the third leg, and anchor Lauryn Williams.

"If people want to assess the blame to me, that's OK," Williams said. "I mean, I can take whatever it is that people are going to dish out. We had good chemistry. The hand was back there. She was there. I don't know what happened."

Belgium won the heat in 42.92 seconds, followed by Great Britain.

Olympic 100-metre champion Shelly-ann Fraser led off for Jamaica, which easily won the second semifinal heat in 42.23 seconds. Veronica Campbell-Brown, who had just 90 minutes earlier won the 200 gold, ran the anchor.

Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson, who also ran the 200, were rested for the relay.

Russia finished second in the same heat to qualify for the final, which takes place on Friday.

Brazil, Nigeria, Poland and Germany will also race in the final.

It is the first time since 1912 that the U.S. men's relay team did not advance to the Olympic final; for the American women, it was the first time since 1948.

With files from the Canadian Press