BEIJING (Reuters) - Tyson Gay’s miserable Olympics continued on Thursday when he and U.S. team mate Darvis Patton contrived to drop the baton in their 4x100 meters relay heat.
The U.S. were cruising towards the final and a shot at a 16th gold medal in the event when Patton bore down on Gay for the last changeover, but a mix-up ended with the baton tumbling to the rain-soaked track.
“I don’t know what happened,” triple world champion Gay told reporters. “The stick was in my hand. I think I felt it hit my hand, but I don’t think it was in all the way before I grabbed. It’s probably my fault, I take the blame for it.”
Gay had also been bidding to make up for his failure to reach the 100m final.
On a night of mishaps in the sprint relay heats, Britain’s men, surprise winners in Athens four years ago, were disqualified from heat two after completing their third change outside the box.
Nigeria were also eliminated after dropping the baton in heat one, meaning all three teams on the podium in Athens will take no further part in the event. Trinidad and Tobago won the heat, with Japan second.
The night got worse for the Americans when their women’s 4x100m team dropped the baton after a mix-up between the experienced Torri Edwards and Lauryn Williams, also on the third handover and also with qualification appearing a formality.
It was an echo of four years ago when Williams was involved in a botched handover with Marion Jones.
“We trained hard, we had great chemistry this time,” Williams said. “Things did not go as planned...the stick had a mind of its own.”
Edwards said she was “heartbroken”.
Jamaica’s men and women showed how it was supposed to be done, winning their respective heats with ease. The men’s quartet included Asafa Powell but Usain Bolt, winner of the Beijing 100m and 200m in world record times, was rested for the final.
“We were looking forward to running against the Americans in the final because they are one of the best teams out there. But our team is very strong. It would have been hard to beat us,” Powell said.
Editing by Ed Osmond