This is Stuart’s final column on the 2019 IAAF World Relays. He liked the World Relays, but, what does it mean?
Yokohama Stadium, May 12, 2019, photo by Stuart Weir
The World Relays an evaluation
I thoroughly enjoyed my two days at the World Relays but it all seems a bit of a pointless exercise. Imagine an athlete on his deathbed contemplating his career. Will his thought be: “It was all worth it, I won a World Relay medal” – or I would have done had there been medals.
The World Relays consists of the championship events men’s and women’s 4 by 100 and 4 by 400 and the new mixed 4 by 400 and a range of other (unusual) distances. The event was given more significance this year by the offer of qualification for the World Championship relays for the top 8/10/12 finishers. It is difficult to think why 10 wildcards should be offered in the 4 by 400 (men’s and women’s) other than to give some significance to the B races.
The problem is that you cannot have an international track and field festival of 5 races. The rest of the program consists of unusual and rarely run events like 4 by 200 metres, 2 X 2 X 400 mixed relay and the mixed hurdles shuttle.
In previous years we have had 4 by 800 and 4 by 1500 relays. Kenya won a 1500 relay but Asbel Kiprop told me it was an odd experience: “It was strange to run alone [with a big lead on the last leg]. I posted 3:32 running alone all the way with just the baton. It is a bit challenging running alone when you don’t have any company in the race”.
The timing of the event is also a challenge. For many athletes it was the first race of the season. Britain’s, CJ Ujah, for example, told me: “This is my first outdoor race of the season. So the main aim is just to get my legs moving and see where I am with my training and how it’s going”. Martyn Rooney said GB’s disappointing 5th place finish in the 4 by 400: “We need a few races” adding that he was confident that “we can run well at the World Champs when it comes to the real medals”.
The GB 4 by 400m women’s teams also said it was too early in the season to make any judgments about their performance. Laviai Nielsen told me that she struggled to run two competitive races in two days so early in the season. She obviously does not know about Jonathan Sacoor of Belgium who was in the men’s and mixed 4×400 finals less than 20 minutes apart!
One of my personal highlights of the event was watching a beautiful and graceful run by Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce in the 4 by 200m BUT it was rather spoiled by Jamaica’s inability to carry out baton changes in an event they never run. That Jamaica chose to put Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann in a 4 by 200 rather than the championship distance of 4 by 100 shows that they were not taking the event that seriously.
GB only contested the championship events the 4 by 100 and 4 by 400 – this year including the mixed 400. However, two British sprinters expressed their disappointment that GB had not entered teams in the 4 by 200, particularly as they had had a relay camp in Japan last week. Entering the 4 by 200 would have ensured that everyone got a run.