The World Relays were held May 24-25 in the Thomas A. Robinson stadium in Nassau, in the Bahamas. 40 countries and 500 athletes battled for $1.4 million in prize money. The 4 x 200 WR, the 4x 1500m WR in both men and women’s races, astounded.
Bahamas 2014, photo by PhotoRun.net
The crowd of 15,000 Bahamanians jumped and screamed all through the 4 x 400m men’s race as Chris Brown, the godfather of relays in the Bahamas, tried vainly to break the US team. With Ramon Miller hurt just before the final, and LaShawn Merritt fit and rested, the question of who would win, may have been a mute point.
Here is Elliott Denman’s thoughtful reprise of the World Relays. I apologize to all as Elliott sent this Tuesday and I could not find it in my emails. It reads as a wonderful testament to an event well conceived and well-run.
My only change: the Men’s 4 x 400m, with the Bahamas and US, should be the last race!
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
You know I’m not an “I told you so” kind of guy.
Never was, never wanted to be.
You know, “I told you so” about this personality trait years ago.
But, you know what? I think it’s time I told you that it’s time to make an exception.
Yep, it’s time to tell you that “I told you so” about The World Relays years and years ago.
“Told you so” and wrote about it, too.
Not too many paid attention all those years back when I said that the track meet the world really needed to see was The World Relays. Trust me, the situation has changed. Oh, has it. The world has now seen.
Inspiration came early in the first inclusions of the “USA vs. the World” races in the Penn Relays.
They were big hits right from the beginning, making the already-sensational Penn Relays,
already attracting America’s largest, most vociferous, most passionate track fans to
Franklin Field the final Thursday and Friday (for collegiate and scholastic features)
and Saturday (now with “USA vs. The World”) of every April, even more so.
So the hint was dropped to “Mr. Penn Relays,” meet director Dave Johnson.
“Yo, Dave, how about taking it one step further? How about taking “USA vs. the World”
out of Saturday at the Penn Relays and doing a full-fledged edition of The World Relays
at Franklin Field on a whole separate day, maybe the last Sunday of April?
It’s been a while now, but I believe Dave Johnson’s response was along the lines of “hmmmmm?”
I called one of my early writings on the notion of The World Relays to the attention of
Mr. Bob Hersh, Senior Vice President of the IAAF Council, and thus the most influential American
in the matter of international track and field, too.
I believe that Bob Hersh’s response was along the lines of “hmmmmm,” too.
Well, here it is one day past Memorial Day in the USA and all those wondrous athletes from so many nations
– over 1,000 representing over 40 global federations – who gathered to perform wondrous deeds in the first edition of the IAAF World
Relays the last two days are on their way home from Thomas A. Robinson
Stadium in Nassau, the Bahamas, with memories of this brilliant competition
still reverberating around their thought processes and ringing in their ears.
Sure it took a while to get this meet up and running and included in the IAAF
global calendar but once the process got rolling it became a win-win-proposition.
No more “hmmmmms.”
It was win-win-win all the way in Nassau.
“Better in the Bahamas?” You betcha bottom Bahamian dollar.
The host organizers, from Local Organizing Committee chairman Keith Parker, to Mike Sands, the former Penn Stater who now heads The Bahamas AAA, to managing director Lionel Haven, with the ongoing support of Prime Minister Perry G. Christie, got it all right.
From the pre-meet promotion to the signage all over New Providence Island, and surely beyond to the other far flung islands of the Bahamas group, to the first-class presentation of the event “on the day,” all created the world-class enthusiasm that The World Relays deserved.
The meet would attract virtually capacity crowds to Robinson Stadium both days,(although’s Saturday’s was slow arriving) an incredible atmosphere for the event that seemed to captivate the whole nation. There were incredibly warm welcomes extended to the delegations from all over planet, who regaled in all this atmosphere to deliver an historic inaugural event that will long be remembered.
The World Relays got it done, and got it right.
And the athletes surely got the message.
With 10 events (men’s and women’s 4×100, 4×200, 4×400, 4×800 and 4×1500) on the schedule, the runners more than upheld their end of the bargain by delivering three world record-setting winners, and truly great stuff in the other seven.
There were national records in profusion, sizzling “splits” and great racing, often (but not always) right down to the wire.
Some big early leads evaporated – as in the men’s 4×800. Kenya anchorman Alfred Kipketer seemed to have it all under control with less than 150 meters to go – until it wasn’t under control at all. Poland’s Adam Kszczot and USA’s Duane Solomon, alert to the opportunity, found new gears as Kipketer seemed to lose his.
It boiled down the the final strides before Team Kenya (7:08.40) held on to win over Team Poland (7:08.69) and Team USA (7:09.06.) Imagine that – after 16 laps the world’s three top teams separated by just 66/100ths of a second.
Then again, some early leads just got bigger – as Kenya’s wonderful 4×1500 women clobbered the world record with their 16:33.58 15-lap run and even distant-second Team USA (16:53.33) went under the previous world record figures.
Team Kenya’s 4×1500 men – featuring 2013 world champion Asbel Kiprot – were absolute dominators, too, lowering the WR to 14:22.22, taking a huge 14-second bite out of the old mark. Silver-medal Team USA fought off Team Ethiopia – no easy feat – and was rewarded with a national record of 14:40.80.
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt – “Mr. Track and Field” to much of the world – sat this one out as he rehabbed some minor injuries and prepped to hit the European Circuit in June. Sure the crowd would have delighted to see “the Lightning Bolt” in full flight – but did Team Jamaica fret over its chances minus its main man?
No, no, no, not at all.
All that Nickel Ashmeade, Warren Weir, Jermaine Brown and Johan Blake did was pool their talents to lower the world 4×200 record to 1:18.63, and the Nesta Carter-Ashmeade-Julian Forte-Blake squad blaze to the 4×100 crown in 37.77.
Oh yes, they got the baton around the track without a glitch – something Team USA men (DQ’d on exchange zone mishaps in both the 4×100 and 4×200) could never say.
sp; It was left for the Team USA women to show the American men how to get this thing straight.
They were just brilliant – sweeping the 4×100 (41.88), 4×200 (1:29.45), 4×400 (3:21.73) and 4×800 (8:01.58) finals with a dazzling display of speed and baton-womanship.
Perhaps the lone thing the organizers might have amended would be the scheduling of the men’s 4×400.
Through most of Olympic history, this race was the grand finale. But in Nassau (at London 2012 and Moscow 2013) it was the men’s 4×100 (perhaps in the hope it would include Usain Bolt) that was set for last.
So the men’s 4×400 went off in Sunday’s second hour instead of its third. So no really big deal.
It still became the event Bahamians were anticipating all along, the race that matched their beloved
“Golden Knights,” who’d won the 2012 London Olympic title, against their mighty American neighbors.
Sizewise, this added up to a clear mismatch. Reckon this, the Bahamas population is somewhere close to 350,000, USA’s somewhere beyond 318 million.
It was no mismatch at all.
With announcers Ato Boldon (from the warmup area) and Garry Hill (at the stadium), along with the beloved “Junkanoo” bands, working the crowd into a frenzy, the scene was set for what many figured would be one of the epic events in track and field annals.
To anyone who was there – and I was one of those fortunate souls – the decibel levels reached world-record levels well before the race began and got even higher as the world’s best foursomes had it out.
“With that crowd, I was so hyped, I was hyped from the beginning,” said Bahamas leadoff LaToy Williams (a late insertion after regular “Golden Knight” Ramon Miller suffered an ankle injury Saturday.)
“Golden Knights” Demetrius Pinder, Chris Bfrown and Michael Mathieu would keep their nation in the thick of it as Team USA countered with David Verburg, Tony McQuay, triple jumper-turned-star 400 man Christian Taylor and LaShawn Merritt.
In a race of moves and lead swings, it boiled down to the final 80 meters, and they would belong to
Merritt, the 2008 Olympic 400 champion still at the very top of his game.
The gallant Mathieu simply couldn’t hold off the already-well-decorated American in the final strides,
as the win went to Team USA (2:57.52) over Team Bahamas (2:57.59) with Team Trinidad andTobago right up there, too, with a national-record 2:58.34.
Each winning team collected $50,000; the three world-record foursomes earned $50,000 more. Nice payoffs ranged down to next seven places.
It was the sure highlight event of the meet that gave us lots of brilliance.
Obviously, there was glory in it for all.
As Tony McQuay put it, “we’re grateful to the Bahamas; without them, this event wouldn’t have happened; it was good to feel the support of all the fans here.”
Know what, the Olympic Games and World Championship meets (with 22 individual events for men, 21 for women, and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays for both) now have a big-time challenger in thedepartments of drama, passion and pure elecricity.
The World Relays is everything those (basically) individual championship meets are – now multiplied by four.
The entire sports world, of course, is engulfed in team sports – your guys, your gals, vs. our guys, our gals.
And that’s what The World Relays now brings to track and field.
Bahamas was perfect setting and the perfect host for this first edition.
The island nation surely proved it deserved the right to “bring it on” once more in 2015.
And once the track and field universe catches on to how great The World Relays can really be,
it will get better and better and better.
“I told you so” and now it’s really happened.<
No more “hmmmms.”
It’s here, and hopefully forever.