I wanted our readers to see and consider the column written by Stuart Weir on the mixed relays at the World Relays, which were held the weekend of April 21-23.
This mixed relay will become more and more important as we get to the upcoming Olympics as the IOC seems very interested in the event.
The mixed 4 by 400 relay at the IAAF/BTC World Relays attracted a lot of interest. The rules specified two male and two female athletes but not the running order. How many different combinations would we see among the 8 teams? In fact there were just two combinations:
MFMF (used by Botswana, Kenya, Trinidad and USA) and
MFFM (Australia, Bahamas, Jamaica and Poland)
This meant that the first leg was contested 100% by men who all handed over to a woman. The fun started on the third leg with four women handing over to women and four to men. The race was between Bahamas and USA and it added to the intrigue that those two teams had different running orders.
As the two male runners completed the first leg, Steven Gardiner had put Bahamas into the lead as he handed over to Olympic Champion, Shaunae Miller-Uibo who ran 49.60 to establish a big lead for the home team. Miller-Uibo handed over to Anthonique Strachan who went out fast before being reeled in by Paul Dedewo of the US who completed leg three in the lead but Bahamas had a male runner on the final leg and the US a female. Michael Mathieu overtook Claudia Francis to bring the Bahamas home in 3:14.42 to win by 2.87 seconds.
At one level Bahamas won because their four runners completed the course quicker than the American runners but that is too simplistic. Bahamas had a good tactical appraoch. By “front-loading” Gardiner and Miller-Uibo Bahamas gained a four and a half seconds lead at half-way and while US won the second half of the race, they were unable to make up 4.5 seconds. Tactics and the order of the runners always play a part in the outcome of relays and it did here.
That two of the legs were man v woman may not have affected the result, it certainly made the spectacle more interesting – with Bahamas leading at half-way, US snatching the lead on leg 3 and Bahamas grabbing it back on the final leg. Paul Dedewo (US third leg) told me that he found it easy playing catch-up, “there is nothing easier than having someone to chase” adding that he enjoyed chasing down a girl!
Interestingly GB did not enter the mixed relay although it was considered an option. I understand that had the race been structured so that men ran against men and women against women GB would in principle have been interested. However, the team management did not want to have their women running against men.
Tianna Bartoletta had an interesting perspective – seeing mixed relays “like a NASCAR race. Because of the differences in the ways that men and women accelerate it could be a disaster”. Of a 4 by 100 mixed relay she said: “It would be fun to see but I don’t know if I would be brave enough to try it for myself”.
I loved watching the race in the Bahamas. I slightly regret that there were only 2 formations used. It would have been interesting to see teams start with 2 men or 2 women. But that is for another time. If tennis can have mixed doubles at Grand Slams, why could we not have mixed relays in a World Championship or Diamond League?