By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WITH less than 100 days to go before the start of the third IAAF World Relays, countries are now looking at fielding a team to compete in another discipline when the event returns in April at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium.
The IAAF has announced over the weekend that they will include a mixed 4 x 400 metre relay, which will close out the two-day event on Saturday night, just after the completion of the traditional meet ending 4 x 400m relays for women and men respectively.
Although they didn’t reveal too much details on how the event will be contested, the IAAF did indicate that the mixed relay, comprising of two men and two women, will add to the 2017 programme that will consist of four other relay disciplines, inclusive of the 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m and 4x800m for both men and women.
Tonique Williams, the Deputy Managing Director of the Local Organizing Committee, confirmed that the since the inception of the World Relays in 2014 when 276 men and 194 women from 41 member federations competed, the event has grown with 514 athletes from 42 countries featuring 284 men and 230 women in 2015.
The IAAF opted not to hold a World Relay last year because of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
However, with the World Relays returning this year, Williams said they are looking for a record number of countries and athletes to participate, especially with the inclusion of the mixed relay.
“We’ve having a men and women 4 x 4 and a mixed 4 x 4,” Williams said. “From the onset, the IAAF has been very adamant in wanting to re-engage track fans. They want to create events that are exciting and innovative, hence we’ve seen the World Relays come into being.
“At the World Relays, we’ve seen how they changed the introduction of the athletes and even the medal presentation. Now the World Relays is introducing the mixed relay this year, which they hope to engage more of the fans and the athletes. I think it is a good move and so it will be very exciting to see how some of the teams really put their teams together. I think it’s going to be an interesting event for these third World Relays.”
The USA dominated the first two editions, winning the inaugural Golden Baton, awarded to the team that accrues the most points, with 60. The following year USA underlined their dominance, taking seven victories and tallying 63 points.
Three world records were set in 2014: in the men’s 4x200m by Jamaica and by Kenyan squads in both the men’s and women’s 4x1500m. In 2015, world records were set by US quartets in both the men’s and women’s distance medley relays.
The inaugural World Relays allowed the top eight teams in both the men and women 4 x 100 and 4 x 400m to automatically qualify for the IAAF World Championships in 2015 in Beijing, China.
The top eight teams in the two disciplines for men and women automatically qualified for the Olympics last year.
It’s not known if the trend will continue with the top teams qualifying for the World Championships in London, England in August.
Only the men’s 4 x 400m team was able to qualify for both the World Championships and the Olympics at the two World Relays.
Williams, however, said despite the Bahamas focusing on the 4 x 400m, it should not diminish their plans to field a solid mixed 4 x 4 team.
“We now have opportunities to put more people on the track because we can look at athletes that have not made the 4 x 4 team to include in the mixed 4 x 4,” she said. “We’re not a distance programme, we’re more a sprint programme so it gives us more opportunities for our athletes to be involved.”