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News03 May 2024

Olympic qualification the main goal for global stars in Nassau


Participants at the WRE Bahamas 24 pre-event press conference (© Francesca Grana)

At the pre-event press conference for the World Athletics Relays Bahamas 24, 10 of the world’s best sprinters spoke of their ambitions to secure Olympic relay qualification this weekend when they compete at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium in Nassau.

Noah Lyles – the world 100m, 200m and 4x100m champion – will be aiming to secure USA’s place at the Paris 2024 Olympics in the men’s 4x100m. He’ll also be using this weekend’s event as a stepping stone towards a potential tilt at winning four medals at the Games, where he intends to compete in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m.

He won’t, however, be contesting the longer event in Nassau.

“I won’t be running the 4x400m here – when I did it at the World Indoors, let’s just say it caused a lot of controversy,” said Lyles, who ran third leg for the USA in the 4x400m at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow, where he claimed silver. “This year I will be training specifically for the 100m and 200m, but also to be in good shape for the 400m so that I can be part of the 4x400m at the Paris Olympics. I’m in the best shape of my life, and I know I’ve been saying that for two years, but it’s very true.”

Marcell Jacobs, the defending Olympic 100m and 4x100m champion and defending World Relays 4x100m winner, will be doing all he can to prevent Lyles reaching the top of the podium in Nassau and Paris.

“There has been a lot of change in my life since Budapest,” said the Italian. “I’ve moved to the US and changed coaches. I’m really happy – the work we’ve been doing in training is really good. Now I’m here with my teammates; we’re the defending World Relays champions and the Olympic champions and hopefully we’ll win again here.”

Seven years on from forming part of the victorious Bahamian mixed 4x400m team in Nassau, two-time Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo will race on home soil again as she continues her comeback following the birth of her son Maicel in April last year.

“Training has been going really well. We’re back at it full time now and just getting things ready for the Olympic Games,” she said.

Reflecting on the 2017 World Relays, she added: “That’s a memory that really stuck with us. Being able to compete at home, and on top of that to bring home the gold in the first mixed relay, it was awesome. We heard the crowd going crazy and we ran with it from there. We’re definitely going to come out here and put on a show for the crowd.”

World 200m finalist Anthonique Strachan also formed part of that winning mixed relay squad seven years ago and after being convinced by her teammates Miller-Uibo and Steven Gardiner, she’s stepping up again.

“I’m just helping out the quarter-milers this weekend,” she laughed. “They need an extra little fast leg, I’m going to try to be that. I’m not a quarter-miler, that’s not my event. Shaunae had to beg me – Shaunae and Stevie, they sort of cornered me!”

Steven Gardiner, the Olympic 400m champion, has great faith in Strachan and his other teammates.

“Many people here were involved in putting together our mixed relay team,” he said. “Anthonique did an amazing job in 2017, so why not have her on the team again? I know what she’s capable of doing – she’s a fighter, so I know she’ll bring the stick around. She just talks, but she will do it.”

Alonzo Russell, Olympic bronze medallist in the men’s 4x400m in 2016, will be making his mixed relay debut this weekend and cannot wait to join three of the victorious athletes from 2017.

“It’s my first time on a mixed relay,” said Russell, who last competed at the World Relays back in 2015, also in Nassau. “I’m excited to put in a strong performance in front of a home crowd and get the team to Paris.”

World indoor 60m hurdles champion Devynne Charlton is no stranger to a relay, but this will be her first time competing at the global event.

“I’m a hurdler that can sprint. It’s a little different, it takes me back to high school and college because I was doing double duties there. I’m excited to be in a team environment again.”

It also gives her the opportunity to race back on home soil, where she received a celebratory homecoming after her success in Glasgow in March.

“It was a big deal when I came home, the reception was amazing,” she said. “I almost wasn’t able to walk the streets because people were stopping to get a picture with me. It was overwhelming but amazing to see the pride that Bahamian people felt for something that I did.”

Another global gold medallist in action is Lieke Klaver, who formed part of the triumphant Dutch women’s 4x400m teams at the World Championships in Budapest and World Indoor Championships in Glasgow.

“The main goal is to qualify all five teams for the Olympics. That’s what we came for,” she said.

Sharing insight into her mindset when on the track with her teammates, she added: “I always try to keep my heartbeat as low as possible, not to get too much of the environment inside of me. I focus on the girls – I know it’s just four of us and that makes me so calm. I like to be on the first leg because then I can pass on the baton and let the girls do the rest and not look! But the second leg, I love it. There’s so much speed.”

After running a recent 11.02 100m, just 0.03 off her PB, Olympic and world relay medallist Imani Lansiquot also has Paris qualification ambitions for her Great Britain 4x100m team.

“We’ve been training really hard. All eyes are on Paris and I feel like I’m in fantastic shape,” she said. “This is my first World Relays. It fit perfectly with my preparations for the year and I feel like I’m going to do a really good job for my team.”

Few athletes will be feeling the pressure this weekend as much as Teo Andant and his French teammates.

The men’s 4x400m quartet provided France with their only medal at last year’s World Championships, so expectations are high as they approach an Olympic Games on home soil.

“I’ve done a round-the-world trip – I’ve been to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – just to be ready for the Olympics,” he said. “We’re all very ready and we’re very determined. It’s the year of our lives for us French athletes – a home Olympics comes around just once in 100 years, so we’ve got to get this one right.”

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