And American national teams have little of that. The U.S. system for choosing relay members for world championships and Olympics is based on individual placement in the 100-meter dash at the USA championships (or the Olympic Trials in Olympic years). The 4 x 100 isn't even contested in those meets. The relay is an all-star team that has never run together, and, as Poole notes, many of them have not run relays on a regular basis for years, as they would in a school system. Further complicating matters, many of them have run only the anchor position on a relay team, which means their hand-off skills are poor.
"Other teams run together all the time," says Poole.
Between the Olympic Trials and the Olympics, the teams practice together, but only as often as they can manage between individual races in Europe. They have few opportunities to pass the baton in actual competition, and it is impossible to simulate the adrenaline of competition in practice. If all that weren't problematic enough, the U.S. uses substitutes in the heats to rest their top sprinters for the open 100 or 200, which means another lost opportunity to practice exchanges. Few other teams do this.
The solution is simple, Poole says — "Have relay teams qualify as a team to represent the U.S. — don't use an all-star team. The top sprinters could create a relay team, but they would only qualify for the (world championships or Olympics) if their team won at the Olympic Trials."
U.S. officials will balk at any suggestion of breaking from tradition, but something needs to change.
The misadventures of the United States 4x100-meter relay teams.
1988 Olympics — DQ (heats)
1995 World Championships — DNF.(heats)
1997 World Championships — DNF (heats)
2001 World Championships — DQ (semifinals)
2005 World Championships — DNF (heats)
2008 Olympics – DNF (semifinals)
2009 World Championships — DQ (finals)
2011 World Championships — DNF (semifinals)
1991 World championships — DNF (semifinals)
2001 World Championships — DQ (finals)
2003 World Championships — DQ (finals)
2004 Olympics — DNF (finals)
2008 Olympics — DNF (semifinals)
2009 World Championships — DNF (heats)
DQ =3D Disqualified for passing the baton out of the exchange zone.
DNF =3D Did not finish race due to dropped baton or fall.
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