New Haven’s Jared Connaughton stood up and took responsibility for his team being disqualified Saturday at the Summer Olympics.
And then the country stood squarely behind him — showing the 27-year-old sprinter the support of a nation.
“Reading the thousands of supportive messages and tweets from you all means the world to me,” Connaughton said Sunday on Twitter. “It’s been awful, but your support has been great!”
Connaughton ran the third leg of the 4x100-metre relay in Saturday’s final. His left foot stepped on the border of his lane as he entered a turn prior to handing off the baton to Justyn Warner for the anchor leg.
The Canadian team, which included Gavin Smellie and Oluseyi Smith, crossed the finish line in 38.07 seconds and appeared to win a bronze medal.
The jubilation quickly turned to disappointment when it was announced the team was disqualified for Connaughton’s infraction.
The sprinter, the only one on the team from the Beijing Games four years earlier, took full responsibility in a post-race TV interview.
“I’m so sorry everyone. My heart is broken. I let my team down. I’m sorry,” Connaughton said on Twitter afterwards. “This has been the most emotional night of my life. I’m proud to have had the chance to compete with a great team. I’m honored!”
Connaughton told Vancouver Sun columnist Cam Cole it is a “stupid rule.”
“It used to be three consecutive steps (on the line), now it’s one. Again, the one false start rule is stupid, the one step on the line is stupid. So many officials in this sport set the athletes up to fail. It’s a game of inches, and it’s so unforgiving,” he said.
“It’s tough on Jared, because he’s worked harder than anyone on that team to put us here,” head coach Alex Gardiner told Cole.
“He was very apologetic, but he doesn’t need to be.”
When Canada lost the bronze, the fourth-place Trinidad and Tobago team with bronze medals.
Here are some of the comments posted online after the 4x100-metre relay final:
“My brother Jared Connaughton has a heart the size of Canada! Champion of class and Canadian pride! I love you.” — Ellen Connaughton
“So proud of our 4x100m men’s relay team!! Not only proud of their speed, but so proud of @jncoolc’s character & integrity.” — Heather Moyse, Summerside native and Olympic bobsledder
“When Jared Connaughton comes home I’m buying that man a beer. Took a ton of guts to go on national TV and take responsibility.” — Jim Laing, Sportsnet
“Connaughton: “It was my fault.” Takes a big man to say it. Champ in my book.” — Eric Francis, Calgary Sun columnist
Jared Connaughton deserves medal for the way he accepted blame for a lane violation that DQ’d Canada. Not easy to do. But he did it. — Terry Bell, Vancouver Province
“It’s easy to celebrate a great victory, much more difficult to take ownership of a stinging defeat. Great job, Jared Connaughton.” — Bob MacKenzie, TSN
“Jared Cannaughton showing the world what a true Island man is made of, pure class!” — PEI Encyclopedia
“Jared! You ran like the wind! You all did! A privilege to be there! Head high! Best wishes!” — Scott Russell, CBC
From our website:
“You are a young man of world class. To accept full responsibility for this unfortunate turn of events in such a gracious way certainly speaks volumes about you as a person. Disappointing for you and your mates, but life goes on, and tomorrow will be another day. You are indeed held very, very high in my books.” — Proud islander
“Before the race and after we were taught just what Islanders are made of. Proud to be one of them and Jared re-enforced it for every Islander. You are our Hero and thanks for what you did as a true honest Islander. Thanks for the whole team as you all are winners in our hearts. You are indeed Sons of Canada.” — Betty Begg
“Jared, hold your head up high - you are a true class act! You and your teammates ran like the wind today, and deserved that medal (rule or no rule). Your foot was on the line, but not in the other lane - I think they need to rewrite the rule. You did nothing to hang your head about. P.E.I. and all of Canada are SO very proud of you!” — Another Proud Islander