Beijing Stories: Raucous Relay Rants: Global Quartets Talking Smack in the Mixed Zone, by David Hunter


Jamaica4x1Intro-Beijing15.JPGJamaican 4x100m relay team, photo by

So, David Hunter gets the hard stuff to do.

He had to, on Saturday, go into the mixed zone and stir it up with the relay teams, and see if he could find some fun comments. Remember, this was done on Saturday. We are posting on Sunday.

Jamaica predicted their 4x400m women's win. Martyn Rooney, GBR, predicted his team on the podium, and there are some fun other comments as well!

15th IAAF World Championships In Athletics / Squawks From The Bird's Nest

Raucous Relay Rants!
Global Quartets Talkin' Smack In The Mixed Zone

August 29th, 2015

Beijing, China

There is something different - and very special - about the relay events at global track & field championships. Positioned as they always are at the tail end of the racing agenda, the 4 x 100 meter relay and the 4 x 400 meter relay take on added meaning in the final medal count and always have a big impact on national pride. The relays also seem to promote more swagger - but not of the overtly combative variety - in the athletes who compete in these team events. In the final days of these gatherings - when the initial jitters of competing in individual events have essentially subsided - the different team dynamic the relays provide can be a refreshing change from the unshared pressure and lonely isolation of competing in the individual events. Just like that, the member of your national team that you've been battling against to gain a spot in the 400 meter final is suddenly your trusted relay mate who's got your back! Almost to a person, the athletes really embrace this meet-ending change of pace. And after the first round heats in both the short and long relays, the athletes were upbeat and happy to share their views. Here's what they had to say:

Morgan Mitchell / ran the anchor leg on Australia's non-advancing 4 x 400 team [3:28.61]: "We get a pay day, so we're pretty happy with that. We ended up 6th, by .01 [behind 5th place Romania]." Who is it that you always want to make sure you beat? "Everyone! Romania got us, but there's always next year. We can kick back now and enjoy the rest of the meet now."

Carline Muir / ran 1st leg on Canada's advancing 4 x 4 team [3:26.14]: "I'm just so happy right now that we get a chance to show the world that Canada is here. So be aware!" How long has it been since the Canadian women reached a global 4 x 4 final? "A long time. Maybe 16 years. It's been a while." Team you want to beat the most? "Oh, we want to beat every team. We are just focusing on running and making a trip to the final. So we weren't really focusing on a team, per se. People need to be aware that Canada is there and they should watch their backs because we're coming."

Chrisann Gordon / ran the third leg on Jamaica's advancing preliminary round squad [3:23.62]. "I feel very good. I see the girls. They're going to do well tomorrow. And we can win the gold." Will Jamaica run the four women who ran the 400 meter final? "Yes." Which team does Jamaica always want to beat? "I'd like to say everybody, every team. We can call anybody out because we always have surprises in the finals. We can put it to anybody. But you know the U.S. team is going to come really hard." "The different racing atmosphere of the relays. "I think it's fun - teaming up together running for the same team. It's really fun."

Katrina Seymour / ran the third leg for the non-advancing Bahamas team [3:28.46]."We got 5th, I think [actually 6th] and we broke our national record. So I am pleased to God and I thank Him." Is there any particular team that you always want to beat? "Yes and no. I'll be happy if the Jamaicans win and do good because we're all in the Caribbean. We just do what we need to do and the better person wins."

Stephen Gardiner / ran the leadoff leg for the Bahamian squad which originally finished as an automatic qualifier, but was subsequently disqualified. "It was pretty tough, but we wanted to qualify for the final." Who ran your anchor leg: "Ramone Miller." What can you run in the final: "We'll have to make some adjustments and bring the full squad." Lineup changes? "Definitely." Same runners, same lineup? "I'd chance it now. But we'll see when we get there tomorrow." Do you feel a sense of kinship when running a relay with your teammates? "Yeah. The 4x4 has always been a big thing for the Bahamas. So we're just trying to keep it going." Any particular team or country that you and your teammates take special pride in beating? "Not that I know of. No rivalry going on." Will you be running in the final? "Who knows? Probably yes, maybe no. But we'll see tomorrow."

Anyika Onuor / ran the 2nd leg on the advancing Great Britain 4 x 400 relay team [3:23.90]: "I just love running with these girls. The 400 is hard at times. But with the laughter and what not, I'm enjoying it. We have a good group of girls here. And just once today we're just qualifying to get into the next round."

Eilidh Child / lead-off runner on the advancing Great Britain 4 x 400 squad: "It's really quite difficult with the long staggers because you really have no idea what's going on behind you. For me, I look behind and don't see anybody. I just keep working. I didn't know where to pass the baton, but I think it was a good show in leadoff. I tried to give the girls the best chance for us." Running as a 4-person team: "It is different. Especially getting that team support. It is nice to be put on a team. Ultimately you want to do well for yourself. But you want to do well for the girls too. It is nice feeling. We don't get to run too much as a relay team." Any special rival you love to beat? "Anybody! We want to beat anybody. We like to beat European teams because we race them a little bit more."

Delanno Williams / ran the second leg on the victorious Great Britain 4 x 400 relay team which won Heat 1 [2:59.05]: "It went well. Just looking forward to the finals tomorrow." On Rooney as an anchor: "Yeah, Rooney is very good. We took it pretty easy in the preliminary. He fit in.. Tomorrow, we bring it. We just bring it." Does GBR have more juice for tomorrow's final? "Wait until we see." Same lineup, same athletes? "Not sure. It all depends on the coaches and how they feel. And then we take it from there." Different dynamic in the relay as opposed to an individual event? "Exactly. I feel confident running the relays. That's why I do it a lot. I am really looking forward to tomorrow where our team can go out there and give it our best shot - whichever 4 guys go out there tomorrow." Is there one team you really like to beat? "Not really. I never think about it that way. I just go out there and do my best. It doesn't really matter."

Martyn Rooney / Great Britain's 6'5" 4 x 400 anchor man. His take on GBR's preliminary round performance: "It was set up very nicely for me. I didn't have to do much, really. We have a really good squad of young gents and they're running really very well. I am glad we made the final. We finally got a wild card first leg runner and a wild card second leg runner." Will he run the anchor in tomorrow's final? "I hope so. Whatever it takes for us to win a medal, I'll be there." Can BGR drop its time in the final. "I think so. I think Delanno is running incredibly well. I think we have it pretty well set up. It will be quicker tomorrow night." Any particular rival you love to beat. "I don't think so. Whatever it takes, whoever we have to beat, we have to beat. It's not against another team, we just want to race." Can GBR get on the podium? "I hope so. I need to be up there."

Jessica Beard / ran the second leg of the USA's advancing 4 x 400 relay team [3:23.05]: On the leg she wanted run: "I wanted to finish strong and make sure that all the other legs didn't have to overwork. Everybody put forth the effort, but nobody had to really exert a lot of energy. We're going to have a really fast final tomorrow and so we want everybody to be as fresh and as fit as possible. That's what my role was. And I think I did that successfully." Leg assignments for the final: "We are not really sure. But whatever we put out there, you know that's the Team USA at the moment. And it's going to be the coaches' decision. And all we can do is just go with what the coaches decide and just back them up." Who has cooler hair, you or Dawn Harper Nelson? "That is so hard because Dawn switches it up and she is on, doing it sharp. I'm going to have to give it to Dawn because I respect her so much. Let's just call it a tie." What's it going to take to get a medal? "Back in 2011, we ran 3:18. I'm thinking we are back around there or even faster - 3:17; 3:16. I am looking forward to the 4 going out there and doing that."

Phyllis Francis / ran the leadoff leg on the USA4 x 400 squad: Any particular team you target to beat? "I feel like they are all the same. We are Team USA. We are #1. We're the best team out there. And we just want to compete and move on." The special group dynamic of relay racing: "Absolutely, it's a team effort. It's all about sportsmanship. We want to work together as a team and excel and do well. I really like relays because we get together and it's great." Being on the team with seasoned veteran Jessica Beard: "It's amazing. I look up to her. She's my roommate. I'm really happy."

Vernon Norwood / ran the anchor leg on the USA's victorious 4 x 400 squad [2:58.13 WL]: "I've got to give credit to Kyle Clemons, Tony McQuay, and Bryshon Nellum. They brought it to me and my job was just to secure the win for today. My strategy just is to keep the lead, build on the lead, and continue to make it bigger and bigger and just bring it on home." Any special pressure on the anchor? "No. I've been anchor for my whole college career. And I came here to do the same thing. So it was pretty much normal so I just got the job done." Do you know the four that will be running in the final? "Not sure."

Kyle Clemons / ran the leadoff leg for the USA 4 x 400 squad: "Honestly, I was nervous. It was my first world championship. Tony and Bryshon were like, 'Calm down. Calm down. It's no different than the other races. Focus. You got it, man. Just do what you do. Do what got you here.' They kind of encouraged me. I really got out. The job was to clear the pack. And just make it easy and take it home. And that's exactly what we did. We went out there and took care of business."

Tony McQuay / ran the second leg for Team USA on the 4 x 400 quartet: Special teams you want to beat? "Definitely. At the end of the day, we focus on ourselves: the previous meets, the times we've run. That's all we focus on: ourselves and beating our previous times." What about trash talk from competitors on other teams? "It just goes in one ear and out of the other. If anything, it just fuels us to just go out there and break the world record." Who has cooler hair? You or Dawn Harper Nelson? "Dawn Harper." His race: "My mission was to go out there and get control of the race. I felt like I did that. I got a little tightened up at the end. At the end of the day I gave the stick off clean to Bryshon and he was able to pull it through for the team."

Bryshon Nellom / ran the third leg on Team USA's winning 4 x 400 squad: "Every year, every team is trying to beat us. So it doesn't matter if it's Jamaica one year and the Bahamas the next year. We're going to go out there and worry about USA." His bumpy beginning: "It was a little rough at the beginning of my start, but I was able to keep my composure and stay patient and make sure I get the baton off in first." The first curve? "I was bumped. You know, you get that in relays. But all you got to do is show them who's the boss at the end of the race.

Asha Phillips / ran the leadoff of leg for the advancing Great Britain women's 4 x 100 relay team which finished second in heat one - grabbing a big Q in 42.48: "I think we got off to a great start. We've got the qualification. That was our aim for the semi-finals. To get a season's best was even better. So we are grateful for that." Who do you especially like to beat? "Honestly, we're not gunning for anybody. We don't really have any malice between any of the other girls . They're absolutely amazing on the other teams. But what we want to do is just do our best. We know that the Americans and the Jamaicans are normally the top two teams. And our aim is to be as close to them as possible - if not pass them and try and beat them." Same lineup for the final? "We are not too sure yet. So far the way we've done it we have a great four set. We also have some other athletes we could trade in. But at the moment, we have no idea just yet."

Sven Knipphals / ran the second leg on Germany's advancing 4 x 100 relay foursome which grab a big Q with a 38.57: "Basically, we had really, really poor exchanges. I couldn't see my run-off mark. And the last one wasn't really good as well. We've got loads of potential and we still made it with a big Q. So our running potential is very high. The other race a lot quicker. But we're pretty sure can run around thirty-eight zero in the final and make it a lot better. Two weeks ago we raced the Netherlands and we beat them by three meters. And today they ran 38.41. We can definitely run around thirty eight dead which is our national record. And that is what we are going to attack." Same lineup for the final? "So far, that's going to be it." Any particular team you love to beat? "In this particular race, it's just about yourself. You can't control the other lanes. It's just our own race. We don't care about the other countries in the other lanes. We have to do our best and see where we rank in the end. Obviously, we think about what the other teams are doing. But in our lane, we are doing our job. And that's the main focus."

Mike Rodgers / ran the anchor on the USA's winning 4 x 100 relay squad which grabbed a big Q with a 37.91 clocking: "We did safe passes for this round. Nobody was really full of speed. We did safe steps to get the baton around and get ready for tonight." The USA exchanges: "We just did them safe this morning, got out in front comfortably, and just relaxed. No pressure. Just around." Confident for the final? "Yeah, I was just jogging because tonight is going to be a real dogfight." Will he run the anchor? "Yeah, I will run the anchor tonight. Everybody else is going to run a little bit faster. Everybody was going kinda easy in the first round." Same lineup? "Same four - just a little bit faster. We'll see you guys tonight. There are going to be fireworks." Any particular teams you are gunning for? "The main goal: we want to win the gold medal. That's good enough."

After the preliminary rounds of both the short and long relays, it is easy enough in the adrenaline-driven frenzy of the mixed zone to comment with bravado on the performance of your relay team and to project with confidence on how crisply your squad will race in the final. But it is only in the actual running of that final - when the money is on the table - will we at last learn which teams not only can talk the talk, but also can walk the walk.

Dave Hunter, who ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the highly revered Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic era, is a track and field announcer, broadcaster, and journalist. To find out more about Dave, please visit

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