Poland's Karol Zalewski celebrates during the mixed 4x400m at the 2019 World Athletics Relays in Yokohama (© Getty Images)
After making its major championships debut in Doha in 2019, the mixed 4x400m relay will take to the Olympic stage for the first time in Tokyo. This weekend’s World Athletics Relays Silesia 21 is the perfect opportunity for teams to prove form and achieve qualification just three months out from the Games.
The eight teams to make the mixed 4x400m final at the Silesian Stadium in Chorzow on 1-2 May will automatically qualify for the Olympics, while World Athletics Championships Oregon22 places are also up for grabs for the top 12 – the eight teams in the final and those with the four next best times in the first round.
Team tactics together with the combination of female and male athletes racing alongside each other makes for an exciting contest and in Silesia the Polish team will have the extra boost of competing on home soil.
Of the 22 teams entered, Poland is one of the four having already booked a place in Tokyo thanks to making the final at the 2019 World Athletics Championships. The Doha team included Wiktor Suwara, Rafal Omelko, Iga Baumgart-Witan and Justyna Swiety-Ersetic and while that quartet is not in action in Silesia, the squad does include three members of Poland's men’s world indoor 4x400m record-breaking team at the 2018 World Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham – Karol Zalewski, Lukasz Krawczuk and Jakub Krzewina – who are also entered for the men’s event.
They are joined in the mixed squad by Natalia Kaczmarek, who ran in the women’s 4x400m heats in Birmingham before her teammates went on to claim silver in the final, plus her European U23 title-winning teammates Karolina Lozowska and Natalia Widawska.
In Doha, Poland was the only team not to follow the man-woman-woman-man format, with the male runners instead taking on the first two legs and the women running the third and anchor, which added an extra dimension to the race. The team eventually finished fifth in a national record of 3:12.33.
Finishing one place ahead of Poland in Doha – behind medallists the USA, Jamaica and Bahrain – was Great Britain and for Silesia the GB squad features world indoor and European relay bronze medallist Amy Allcock plus European indoor relay medallists Ama Pipi, Joe Brier and James Williams.
The Borlee brothers have won multiple relay medals for Belgium and in Silesia Jonathan, Kevin and Dylan have all been entered for both the men’s and mixed 4x400m along with Jonathan Sacoor, while their female teammates include 2019 European indoor 400m silver medallist Cynthia Bolingo.
Lucas Carvalho, Tiffani Marinho and Geisa Coutinho were part of Brazil’s world final team and are also in Silesia, while Colombia’s Anthony Zambrano, who won world silver in Doha in 44.15, is entered for both his nation’s men’s and mixed teams.
European indoor 400m champion Femke Bol, Lieke Klaver and Lisanne de Witte are also featuring on two squads as they have been named for the Dutch women’s and mixed events.
Aron Koech anchored Kenya to third in Yokohama behind USA and Canada two years ago and is again included in the squad along with national 400m record-holder Hellen Syombua and Emmanuel Korir.
Kenya is currently in the running for a Tokyo place thanks to the team’s time of 3:16.90 in Yokohama but the competition in Silesia gives the squad the chance to seal that Olympic place, with Italy, Ukraine, Germany, France, Czech Republic and Japan among the teams in a similar position.
The USA team broke the world record in both the heats and final at the World Championships in Doha, clocking 3:12.42 and then 3:09.34. The competition record is the 3:14.42 run by The Bahamas at the 2017 edition of the event on home soil in Nassau.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics