Two blistering world records in front of a raucous crowd: the IAAF’s inaugural World Relays could hardly have had a better launching pad than in a sultry Nassau on Saturday.
The almost sell-out crowd at the floodlit 15,000-seat Thomas A. Robinson stadium, buoyed by a military brass band and high-stepping carnival dancers, lent massively to an amazing atmosphere so often found lacking at major meets, but one which the athletes seemed to lap up.
There might have been no Usain Bolt, nursing an injury and not due back in action until mid-June, but training partner Yohan Blake, back after missing last season with a troublesome hamstring, stepped into his shoes with aplomb.
Snatching the baton from Jermaine Brown as anchor leg, the world’s second-fastest man made the most of a rolling start to accelerate around the bend and then fly down the home stretch.
The Jamaicans clocked 1min 18.63sec to beat the previous best, set by the United States in 1994, by 0.05sec.
St Kitts and Nevis took silver in 1:20.51, with France claiming bronze in an European record of 1:20.66 after the US team were disqualified.
The Jamaicans’ exploits followed fast on an incredible show of power running by a Hellen Obiri-led Kenyan quartet in the women’s 4x1500m.
A deceptively slow pace over the opening lap was swiftly put to one side as the Kenyans took more than 32 seconds off their previous world record, set in Nairobi last month.
The Kenyans clocked 16min 33.58sec for gold, the silver medal-winning US team timing 16:55.33 for a new American record, while Australia took bronze in 17:08.65, a record for Oceania.
The first gold of the night went to Kenya in an unexpectedly dramatic finish in sultry conditions with temperatures hitting 30 degree Celsius.
Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich, Sammy Kibet Kirongo, Job Koech Kinyor and Alfred Kipketer covered eight laps of the track in 7:08.40sec in a gun-to-ribbon victory in the 4x800m.
Rotich shot Kenya out to a 50-metre lead, American Brandon Johnson doing his best to cut the deficit on the third leg.
Kipketer had it all to do on the final leg, but after accelerating away too quickly, faded badly on his second lap to just scrape home, 0.29sec ahead of Polish anchor Adam Kszczot, the world indoor silver medallist.
“We’re very happy about winning the first gold of the first World Relays,” said Kinyor. “Our plan was just to run our race, and our goal was to win, and we managed to execute our plan.”
The USA team took bronze with 7:09.06.
The fourth and final title of the night went the way of the United States in the women’s 4x100m relay, Lakeisha Lawson powering the team home in 41.88sec, after their Jamaican rivals fluffed their anchor-leg handover.
In heats for the men and women’s 4x400m relays, there were a few surprises.
The Russian women, reigning world champions, did not start, and the Belgian men’s team, featuring three Borlee brothers, missed out on Sunday’s final by a mere one-hundredth of a second.
The second and final day of the World Relays on Sunday sees finals for the men in the 4x100m, 4x1500m, and the women in the 4x200m and 4x800m.
A sell-out is predicted Sunday for an event the IAAF launched to attract a younger generation to the track. Having set social media ablaze on Saturday, track and field leaders will be patting themselves on the back. – AFP, May 25, 2014.