Alex Mills, one of our most frequent writers, had some definite opinions regarding the importance of the World Relays, and why athletes who were not there should be competing there in 2017. He also wants a hurdle relays added, among other things.
When the idea of the World Relays was initially promoted few knew exactly what to expect from the first ever event of it’s kind. Yet now only two years on from it’s inauguration it’s hard to imagine an outdoor season without it. So after a second year of the world’s best athletes championing team sprit and stretching out their legs in their national team strips over in Bahamas, as they revel in final stages the pre season sweat, I wonder, is there anything about the competition that still needs to change?
The answer is of course yes.
While we had some epic battles and incredible performances over the weekend, most notably from a team perspective by the US men’s 4X100m and individually in the guise of the excellent 48.79 from Sanya Richards-Ross, too many of the less traditional relay events remain diluted and need to start being treated with a little bit more respect.
Aside from the US, who claimed all four titles in the DMR and the 800m, who can really say that they tried their utmost to make sure they came out on top? The quality and the commitment of the nations involved in the relays as a whole, including Kenya, in each of those events, was more than questionable, as they selected either a weakened squad or none at all.
Not only that, but with the field sizes often only 5 teams strong, even for those who did enter teams, it can hardly be seen as achievement to have made the podium.
Even so, at least those countries made light of the fact that both events were non-Olympic qualifiers, because surely that’s what the world relays are all about. You can have a 4X100 or 4X400m in almost any major meet or championships, but nowhere else will you be given the chance of potentially seeing David Rudisha relying on Asbel Kiprop to be able compete internationally in a distance relay.
Not only that, but by being involved you are giving the athletes an opportunity to test their racing speed in a far more competitive environment than the likes of the Penn Relays ands Payton Jordan Invitational. Add to that the freshness and the attainability of the event records, maybe even a world record, and surely an additional, highly attractive, time bonus is well in reach.
Issues with the current format aside, there is also a divine need to not leave the sport’s hurdlers behind in this revolutionary format, and so I hope to see them involved in the competition in the next two years, especially if the organisers want to break up the all the regular relays to avoid boredom.
Forgetting these improvements for the moment, I’d still like to credit the IAAF and the Bahamians for putting on another brilliant spectacle and for the excitement that it will bring to 2015 on the track. Not only do the performances from the last weekend raise the spirits about the importance of the relays in the context of athletics, but they also whet the appetite for the fans of athletics for the potentially epic relays at the World Championships in Beijing and for some excellent individual breakouts this summer.
Aside from the continuation of the Bolt and Gatlin rivalry and the less exclusive, yet equally enthralling contest between the USA and Jamaica’s female sprinters, the United States in particular have shown us that they have a number athletes who could well make the successful step up when it comes to taking on individual duties later this summer.
For three of the four athletes in their women’s 800 metres team to run 2 minute splits or less, or Ben Blankenship to have finished the way he did in the DMR, at this stage of the season is incredible. Not only does it set up the US Championships to be one of the most stacked middle distance spectacles in history but it also shines a light on what could come further along the line. Especially when you consider the performances that we saw over the two days in the Caribbean came despite an extensive list of absentees from their roster.
Remember, there was no former world champion Jenny Simpson, world bronze medallist Brenda Martinez, Olympic silver medallist Leo Manzano, two-time world medallist Matt Centrowitz or double Olympian Andrew Wheating in their DMR squads, let alone the likes of reigning world silver medallist Nick Symmonds in the 4x800m.
So 20 months on from having had three female 800m runners in the world championship final for the very first time, and almost three years on from Leo and Centro finishing 3 and 4 at London 2012, things could be even sweeter in China.
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