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Canada's men's relay team gives up gold after disqualification

Canada's men's relay team gives up gold after disqualification

Posted by PanamericanWorld on July 26, 2015

The four members of Canada's men's 4x100-metre relay team had danced along the track, each draped in a Canadian flag, posing for pictures, shaking hands, wearing the wide smiles of gold medallists.

In the moment it took for an official to quietly motion them over, those smiles disappeared.

The men's team was disqualified from the Pan American Games after Gavin Smellie stepped on the lane line in the leaf-off leg, denying sprint phenom Andre De Grasse a third gold medal.

"There is no margin of error when you step on the line," Athletics Canada head coach Peter Eriksson said. "You step on the line you should be disqualified . . . however it happens many times that people can get away with it."

The United States, Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil all filed a joint protest.

Trinidad and Tobago runner Niconnor Alexander claimed responsibility for pointing the infraction out to officials.

"It's disappointing but this happens all the time, it's part of the game," Eriksson said.

Smellie, from Brampton, Ont., De Grasse, from Markham, Ont., Brendon Rodney of Brampton, and Aaron Brown of Toronto appeared to have won the gold medal when they crossed in what would have been a Games-record time of 38.06 seconds. "You can see the guys ran super fast and did a phenomenal performance and that can never be taken away from them," Eriksson said.

Canada is far too familiar with the heartbreak of disqualification, and the image of the four puzzled runners conjured images of the distraught foursome at the 2012 London Olympics. Canada celebrated there too, before learning that Jared Connaughton had stepped on the line.

Canada was also disqualified for botched handoffs at both last summer's Commonwealth Games and the IAAF World Relays earlier this season.

This time the team didn't learn its fate until after two protests, and nearly two hours had passed, during which Canadian team officials huddled over video of the infringement.

"We've just got to stay patient. We practised this," De Grasse said, before learning of the team's disqualification. "We had a training camp two weeks ago in Ottawa. We did well there and we know what we need to do. I felt like we did a good job and I think we came away with the gold medal."

The DQ also erased what would have been a historic performance for De Grasse. The 20-year-old from Markham, Ont., would have been the first to win the 100, 200 and relay since Jamaican great Donald Quarrie in 1971.

Had Canada kept its relay gold, De Grasse said: "I think it tops my 100 metre and 200 metres to be a part of this group right here."

The Canadians survived an earlier protest by the U.S. claiming Rodney stepped out of his lane.

The U.S. moved from silver to gold, with Brazil taking second and Trinidad and Tobago moving up to third.

The disqualification marred an otherwise strong night — and strong Games overall — for Canada's track and field team, which won 26 medals, including 11 gold, the team's best-ever result.

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