Stuart Weir sets the scene for this weekend’s IAAF/BTC World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas
Great Britain will contest three events at the IAAF/BTC World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas, this weekend. With the first race starting at gone midnight on Saturday night/Sunday morning, it will be a late night for UK viewers.
The original plan was for GB to contest the four championship races – the men’s and women’s 4x100m and 4x400m. In addition to these events, the programme also includes 4x200m and 4x800m relays, plus a mixed 4x400m.
Sadly, the Rio bronze medal-winning women’s sprint relay team withdrew from the event because of a series of injury problems.
The women’s 4x400m, led by Christine Ohuruogu and also bronze medallists in Rio, will contest their event as will the men’s 4x400m team, who were controversially disqualified in Rio. The men’s 4x100m will also be part of the event which features 35 teams and more than 500 athletes.
The World Relays is a serious athletics competition but it is held in an atmosphere of fun with a touch of carnival. The location certainly helps. As GB team-member Laviai Nielsen said: “It’s a lovely place right next to the beach. It kind of feels like you’re on holiday, but there’s still work to be done so you can’t enjoy it too much. It’s not one of the worst places I have been taken to!”
Commonwealth and European 4x400m gold medallist Matthew Hudson-Smith confirmed the serious approach of the team. “Relays are huge,” he said. “Throughout my whole career, I have learned so much from being in the team environment – from people like Martyn (Rooney), Nigel (Levine), Rabah (Yousif) and all those who have shown me the ropes. I think it’s a good stepping stone to learn and develop and go into a championship environment.”
Watching the GB 4x400m teams practice for two hours, going through endless baton changes, you would never have thought this was anything but a serious event.
British Athletics performance director, Neil Black, said: “Across the entire team, we are taking the World Relays incredibly seriously.” On the withdrawal of the women’s 4x100m team, he added: “2017 is an even bigger year for us than 2016, so all our decisions are made with a long-term view of having our top athletes fit and competing to win medals in front of a home crowd in London.”
Let’s give the last word to Ohuruogu, who has run more relays that most. “I love this event,” she said. “It’s a chance for you to find your feet early in the season without the pressure of an individual event.
“It is really nice to have an international event to see how everyone else is getting on.
“That it’s in the Bahamas – in a holiday resort with a beach – doesn’t hurt. Why shouldn’t we enjoy it?” Why not, indeed!
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