During the women’s 4x100m sprint at the IAAF World Championships, China’s team was disqualified thanks to a botched baton pass that may have cost them their shot at the 2020 Olympics Games.
According to the South China Morning Post, China’s relay team was in contention to medal at the championships on Saturday night until two of their runners fumbled a handover right before the final stretch of the race.
In a video of the moment (which you can watch here), the runners are seen sprinting back to the start of the passing zone to try it again as the other teams race toward the finish. The two runners then stop to yell at each other in confusion, apparently over who should carry the baton.
Finally, one of them takes the baton and sprints to the finish line, finishing with a time of 1:05:97, 23 seconds behind the seventh-place Italian team. Jamaica came in first with a time of 41.44 seconds, followed by Britain and the USA, according to News.com.au.
The incident immediately became the subject of ridicule on social media, with one YouTube user setting footage of the runners to the Benny Hill theme song.
“That was just flat out bizarre! It was like they’d never been on a track before,” wrote one commenter.
Despite the confusion and embarrassment, the team was praised for finishing the race, as television commentators — and apparently, the team — believed they would still qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics by simply completing the race.
“We were watching the Chinese, thinking, ‘What are they doing?’ — and actually to have the presence of mind to do that at that moment when your adrenaline, everything is going crazy, is pretty smart,” BBC host Gabby Logan remarked, according to the Morning Post.
“It does look calamitous but they have qualified for the Olympics,” she added.
As they would soon learn, because the team failed to complete the pass before crossing the designated yellow line on the track, they were immediately disqualified.
That means their chances of making it to the Olympics in Tokyo next year are now in jeopardy.
Not all is lost for China’s team, though. According to the Morning Post, the team can still qualify depending on their IAAF ranking next summer.