Americans (from left) Kennedy Simon, Vernon Norwood, Allyson Felix and Elija Godwin took bronze at the world championships.
Americans (from left) Kennedy Simon, Elija Godwin, Allyson Felix and Vernon Norwood took bronze at the world championships. Photo by Chris Stone

Bianca Knight helped set a world record in the 4×100 relay at the 2012 London Olympics. On Friday night, tweeting about the mixed 4×400 relay at the world championships in Oregon, she was world-class passive-aggressive.

“They ran very well,” Knight said of Team USA’s two-man, two-woman squad including her 2012 teammate Allyson Felix, which took bronze. “But we could have picked a [world-record] squad easily. If they don’t care about the Mixed Relay, we shouldn’t participate in it.”

Knight said the winners — the Dominican Republic in a world-leading 3 minutes, 9.82 seconds — “didn’t come to play around.”

Although she said “we ran great,” Knight suggested the U.S. relay team “definitely needed” world-record hurdlers Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad or Shamier Little.

Knight wasn’t alone.

On the Track & Field News message board, some suggested Felix was put on the team in her swan-song season just to give her a chance of adding to her historic medal haul.

Other postings devoted to the mixed 4×4 at Eugene’s Hayward Field were brutal.

  • “Nothing like fighting with one arm tied behind your back.”
  • “If the USA is not interested in winning (which it was obviously not), why field a team at all? I thought it was just me that thought that a Mixed 4×4 was a poorly conceived gimmick, but obviously so did the USA coaches.”
  • “We didn’t send our A-team. … But we didn’t even send our A-minus or B-plus team!”
  • “It was not a B team from US, it was a C or a D team.”
  • “Arrogance if anything started when we put a C team out and still expected to win gold vs. world.”

At a sparsely attended 9-minute press conference, the golden Dominican squad of Lidio Andres Feliz, Marileidy Paulino, Alexander Ogando and Fiordaliza Cofil was asked if the Americans fielded their best possible quartet.

The question didn’t win any medals.

“We had to run two races on the same day,” Cofil said through a Spanish interpreter. “Exact same people. We had no changes [as the U.S. team had, adding Felix and subtracting Wadeline Jonathas]. “When God sets out something for us, we will achieve it. We ran the best we could without any change. If the others had the opportunity, we still come out victorious.”

Minutes later, at their own press conference, the subject was raised for the American team of Elija Godwin (a leadoff leg in 44.71), Felix (50.15), Vernon Norwood (44.40) and Kennedy Simon (50.90) — who was passed by Cofil (49.92) and Femke Bol.

Olympic medalist Bol anchored the Netherlands to silver in 48.95 seconds — four days before she runs a heat of the grueling one-lap hurdles.

On Twitter, sprinter Knight cheered Felix with: “Last lap of a fantabulous career! Greatness! Truly legendary!”

But that didn’t stop her from later tweeting: “That was not a real try for gold.”

Addressing the American bronze medalists, Times of San Diego cited the Knight tweets and asked their reactions to the suggestion the event has second-class status.

Felix, 36, chose to highlight the newness of the event — contested only once before at the world championships.

“It’s really cool because fans really enjoy it,” said the Los Angeles native. “Any time there’s something new, it has to grow. … We all ran with a lot of heart. And it was a special night for us.”

Norwood, 29, defended the event, if not the relay selection process.

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Running second leg, Allyson Felix passes to U.S. teammate Vernon Norwood in the mixed 4×400 relay. Photo by Chris Stone
Hurdle specialist Femke Bol of Holland nearly caught Fiordaliza Cofil of the Dominican Republic in the mixed 4×400 relay. Photo by Chris Stone
The Dominican Republic’s Fiordaliza Cofil and Netherlands’ Femke Bol stormed by America’s Kennedy Simon in the final stretch. Photo by Chris Stone
Allyson Felix recovers from her 400-meter leg at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. Photo by Chris Stone
Allyson Felix crowned her ninth world championships with a 19th medal. Photo by Chris Stone
Allyson Felix shared her medal moment with daughter Camryn. Photo by Chris Stone

“I think it’s great for the sport to have a mixed relay,” he said. “You look at countries that have less depth than the U.S. It gives them an opportunity to showcase their talent and put them on the podium. … You’re going to see a lot more smaller countries being competitive in the event.”

Pressed on whether Team USA put together the best mixed 4×4 relay, Norwood said: “That’s a hard question to answer because you have a lot of depth in the 400, so we could have put anybody out there and they could have got the same results or even better results.”

Felix touched on a key issue: With many American athletes focusing on their individual events, would they even consider running a relay on the first day of the meet?

“I think we respect that,” Felix said.

The Jamaican mixed-relay team wasn’t happy with their fifth-place finish. Photo by Ken Stone

She conceded that “we could have put a number of different teams together” but noted: “We were the four that were running tonight, and I think that’s the amazing thing about America — we have a lot of depth. You run as hard as you can and leave it all on the track.”

Godwin of Georgia took fourth in the 400 at the national championships that served as the world-meet trials. But he was effectively fifth on the depth chart, since Diamond League champion Michael Cherry had a bye to the Oregon meet.

The 23-year-old appeared to take offense at the question.

“It’s four of us out there on the track tonight and that’s what (we ought to) focus on,” Godwin said. “I can’t say that I want to give my energy to someone who felt like we didn’t put the best team out on the track — because to me that’s irrelevant.”

He added: “We came out and we did what we’re supposed to do. We did the best we could, and I think that’s what’s most important.”

Relay anchor Simon of the University of Texas said the chosen team “definitely put our best foot forward.”

She saw a handicap, however, noting two tired collegians on this team.

“We did what we had to do, considering that we had a long collegiate season, so I felt like … we couldn’t ask for more,” Simon said.

Later in the press conference, an emotional Felix summed up lessons from a career that included 30 medals in world or Olympic competition.

Leg times in the mixed 4×400 relay show the American men were the fastest in their stints but the U.S. women were well off the pace. Photo by Ken Stone

“I can’t tell you how many times this sport has broken my heart,” she said, “but what I can say is that every defeat, every feeling of failure [is] an opportunity to get better, and I wish that I really would have known that earlier in my career.”

She admits that losses left her “almost paralyzed by the feeling of disappointment instead of realizing that this is going to make me better, and this is going to motivate me to do more than I could imagine later on.”

Felix said she couldn’t imagine running masters track — the unpaid circuit of older-adult age-group meets. But she said: “I’m a fan of the sport. I’ll cheer them on.”

But she offered advice to others.

“There’s so much to take away from the moment,” she said, whether it’s “a great moment or a low moment, there’s something to learn. That would be the biggest thing that I would pass along. Embrace the journey — all of it.”





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Ellen Bullock