Why don’t we get the fun stuff out of the way first, shall we?
Jamaica is the owner of the greatest sprinting team in the history of time. One day that will change, but until then we have to be in awe of what they have put together.
In case you weren’t familiar with the cast of characters: Nesta Carter, the Jamaican lead runner, is one of five men in the history of time to run the 100m dash in under 9.8 seconds. You didn’t see him in the individual 100m race because he didn’t qualify, three Jamaicans ran three faster qualifying times before the games. Think about that.
Michael Frater is probably the least decorated of the four Jamaican relay sprinters. His personal best in the 100m is 9.88 seconds in 2011, despite suffering a ruptured knee ligament in 2010. Asafa Powell, the Jamaican sprinting legend, lost his spot on the 4×100 team to Frater. Powell is not an easy man to knock off, but Frater did.
Yohan Blake needs no introduction at this point. He is beastly; the second best runner in the world. Any country would love to have him as a runner. The only reason he is not the face of Jamaican sprinting is because there’s a pretty quick whippersnapper in front of him.
Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the history of the world. He is, in many ways, the face of the Olympic games and personally accounts for 35% of Jamaica’s gold medals at the Olympics. He is, by his own admission, a legend.
These four destroyed the world record today by three tenths of a second with a time of 36.85. They are monsters on the track, and you can’t take away from what they have done. They are the greatest ever and it’s officially not very close.
The United States, to their credit, ran well but, to bring in a useful American sporting analogy, they are the Utah Jazz to Jordan’s Bulls. Filled with greats, just not capable of winning the big one while the heavyweight Jamaicans are on top. It’s not easy, but you could do worse.
The Americans were second today by a fair margin and tied the previous world record of 37.04. Stockton and Malone understand how you feel.
If you can find somewhere to watch this race and you haven’t already, do it and let your jaw drop. These are fast men.
That’s the fun part.
Canada came into the relay final as a medal hope. They posted a good time in qualifying and were granted the good fortune of a Great Britain disqualification to earn their spot in the final. The best relay team since Atlanta 1996 had been assembled and it was conceivable, based on qualifying performance at least, that Canada would earn themselves a medal.
They didn’t disappoint. With Jamaica and the USA in a clear fight for first and second — a fight which turned into more of a beatdown when the anchor hand off occurred — Canada made their move. Justyn Warner ran an electric final leg, bringing the Canadians from fifth to third where they crossed the line. The board showed quite clearly for the world what happened.
Bronze. Canada. They did it. They had their moment.
The time, as we all know, did not stand. Team captain Jared Connaughton stepped on the inside line during his handoff which was recorded as a line violation. Canada was disqualified. Trinidad and Tobago have bronze medals now, and Canada is left with the memory of their name being lit up with disqualification lights.
Then the tone changed.
We, as a nation jumping up and down, went from exuberant to heartbroken in a matter of seconds. They were disqualified? Why? How? Answers weren’t readily apparent, but eventually came to light. Reality set in. No medal for the first track performance to bring us out of our seats in 16 years.
From admiring a spectacular performance to wallowing in pity. According to many, crying in a flag became the adopted symbol of our London 2012 campaign. That’s the memory we took away from this moment, from these games: Falling short for country. The reaction was an embarrassment only made worse by the decision to parade four sprinters — four sprinters who had just come up an executive decision short of their dream — in front of a camera and ask the deep questions: “How does it feel to win a medal and have it taken away?” while someone in a truck preps a montage of tears and muzak for the roll into commercials.
How does it feel? It feels terrible. If that’s all you can come up with, perhaps you shouldn’t be asking questions. “What’s your perfect Sunday?” would have more apt given that tomorrow is Sunday and the disqualification happened on Saturday night.
We don’t give a damn who stepped on that line. We don’t need to hear them try and verbalize how gutted they are. We sure as hell don’t need a half-witted montage cataloging tears in a vague effort to convey the cruelty of sport. We saw, we know, we felt it. Every single one of us did.
Canada not winning a medal changes absolutely nothing about that race. They ran the third fastest time in a final featuring the eight fastest countries in the world. They electrified us for 30 seconds. They had us overjoyed in an event where we hadn’t been an issue for nearly 20 years.
A foot on a line changes none of those things. It may result in a disqualification, but the moment is unchanged, only the memory is.
Jared Connaughton isn’t a hero because he went in front of a camera and apologized for stepping on a line. He’s a hero because he is the team captain of Canada’s 4x100m relay team who were, medal or no medal, the third fastest relay team in the final heat. He’s a hero because Gavin Smellie, Oluseyi Smith, and Justyn Warner are heroes. They’re heroes because they brought us out of our seats and made us even more proud — if that’s possible — to be Canadian.
They were at that moment and that’s how they should stand in our memory.
Canadian track is coming back, and when it does, you’ll have Smellie, Smyth, Connaughton and Warner to thank for getting the wheels in motion by getting us out of our seats.
They owe us nothing, let alone an apology.