Canada’s men’s 4×100 metre athletics relay team has returned to the Olympic podium after a 20-year absence, winning bronze on Friday in Rio de Janeiro.
Running a time of 37.64 seconds and completing the race in national record time behind Jamaica and Japan, the team of Akeem Haynes, Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse brought Canada back to the Olympic podium in relay for the first time since Atlanta 1996. Bolade Ajomale ran the semis for Canada to get the country to the final.
For De Grasse, it’s his third medal of the Games, adding to his individual 100m bronze and 200m silver. He becomes the first Canadian to triple medal in the three coveted sprint distances at the same Olympic Games, a feat achieved by only 10 other men.
Canada last won an Olympic relay medal – gold – at the Games in Atlanta when Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert, Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey led a Canadian triumph in 37.69 seconds against shocked Americans on their home track. That record time set on August 3, 1996 fell on Friday night.
Initially it was thought that Canada had placed fourth behind the United States (37.62). However, while the American squad was doing its lap of honour, officials were reviewing the race and found USA to have an illegal baton exchange in the first zone. Trinidad and Tobago was also disqualified.
The situation is a reversal of what happened at Toronto 2015 Pan American Games last year, when Canada was guilty of a violation and the United States with Trinidad and Tobago (later joined by Brazil) all protested to have the host nation disqualified, allowing each protesting country to move up in medal positions.
Canada is no stranger to Olympic disqualifications, with the nation stripped of a relay bronze medal at London 2012 for a line violation, but it has also been on the good news end of disqualification scenarios.
This is the second consecutive time in a major athletics championship that Canada has benefited from an U.S. ouster. A dispute arose in the 4x100m relay at the world championships last year in Beijing, when the United States – thought to be second – was judged to have made an illegal baton exchange. Canada, originally fourth, was soon elevated to third at the United States’ expense.
Jamaica’s victory gives Usain Bolt – who ran its anchor leg – his ninth gold medal. That ties him with Finland’s 1920s distance running dynamo Paavo Nurmi and controversial U.S. sprinter Carl Lewis for most Olympic gold medals in athletics.
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What’s unique about Bolt is that he is the first person ever to win the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m events at three consecutive Olympic Games. The feat arrives two days short of the global superstar’s 30th birthday. He has said that Rio de Janeiro will be his last Olympic Games, which – if holds – will mean the next Olympic champion in the two individual sprint distances will be someone other than Bolt at Tokyo 2020, something that hasn’t happened since Athens 2004.
Japan’s second place finish was clocked at 37.60 seconds.