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Allyson Felix bumped on 4×100 relay; USA gets a second chance

RIO DE JANEIRO — It was a disaster, pure and simple. And then, a reprieve.

The U.S. women’s 4×100 relay dropped the baton on the second exchange on Thursday in the qualifying heats, knocking them out of the final. However, Allyson Felix said she was bumped by a Brazilian runner right before she got to the zone, and replays confirmed. Brazil was disqualified, and a U.S. appeal was upheld.

But the Americans can’t simply be advanced to the final on the eight-lane Rio track, so there will be a surreal scenario on Thursday night — the USA’s 4×100 relay running alone in a time trial at 7 p,m. in Rio (6 ET). The USA will have to run faster that 42.70, which would replace eighth-place qualifier China.

An initial statement from USA Track and Field to USA TODAY Sports suggested that there might be a second run-off between China and Canada, who both clocked 42.70, but the IAAF took the time out to the thousandths, which places Canada seventh.

Meanwhile, China has appealed the USA’s reinstatement, according to the IAAF.

Here is how it happened:

As seven-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix relay prepared for the second exchange, she dragged her on the polyurethane turf, forcing her to stumble toward English Gardner and, in a surreal scene, toss the baton to her teammate.

It glanced off Gardner and hit the track, thudding to a halt and seemingly ending the USA’s hopes for defending its gold medal from the 2012 London Games.

Gardner put her hands on her head, in utter disbelief. She yelled. Felix stood by, and in a moment of clarity instructed Gardner to pick up the baton and finish the race.

An instant replay told the story. As Felix was about to enter the exchange zone, she was bumped on her right side by a Brazilian runner in the adjacent lane.

“I got bumped coming into the exchange zone,” Felix said. “It just completely threw me off balance. I tried to pull it together to get it to English. Maybe if I had one more step I could’ve, but I was falling as I was going to her.”

The team filed a protest, a spokesperson for USA Track and Field said immediately afterward. It is expected that the protest will claim that Felix’s progress was impeded by the contact. In all likelihood, the appeal will be successful.

“If you think about it, we’re going 20 miles an hour,” Gardner said, “so that’s going to mess up your timing.”

Disaster averted, the four-person team could breathe a sigh of relief — but remained upset by the moment, a worst-case-scenario nightmare that keeps all relay runners on their toes before and during competition.

“I think I got propelled,” Felix said. “I’m just very upset.”

Upset, true, but experienced enough to retain her focus amid the drama. Rather than wallow, Felix made sure the USA finished the race, because the appeal would have weaker merit if the team had failed to continue.

“I just remembered them telling us that if there’s an appeal you have to make an effort,” she said.

Brazil was disqualified but did not make the final.

Should they get through, they will have their hands full with Jamaica, which won silver four years ago and posted the best time of the opening heats (41.79 seconds).

“We’re going to regroup, get ourselves together and go out there and be ready to compete in the final,” Gardner said.

The American men (Mike Rodgers, Christian Coleman, Tyson Gay and Jarrion Lawson), who have had issues with baton passes in the past, qualified first overall.

TRACK AND FIELD AT THE RIO OLYMPICS

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