Feature01 Nov 2020

Six standout moments from the World Athletics Relays


Highlights from the World Relays (© Getty Images)

Following three memorable editions in Nassau and an unforgettable event in Yokohama, the World Athletics Relays will head to Europe for the first time when the Polish region of Silesia plays host on 1-2 May 2021.

To mark the six-month countdown to next year’s event, we look at six standout moments from past editions of the World Athletics Relays


Kenya demolishes world 4x1500m record, 2014

Just two-and-a-half hours into the first session of the inaugural World Relays, the enthusiastic crowd at Nassau's Thomas A Robinson Stadium was treated to a world record.

A full-strength Kenyan quartet of Faith Kipyegon, Hellen Obiri, Mercy Cherono and Irene Jelagat joined forces to demolish the previous record by 32 seconds, becoming the first team to cover the 6000m distance within 17 minutes.

Cherono opened with a leg of 4:07.4, leading at the handover, and Kipyegon followed with 4:08.5, by which point the Kenyan team had an 80-metre lead over their nearest opponents. Jelagat then ran a leg of 4:10.8 before Obiri brought them home with a 4:06.9 effort, crossing the line in 16:33.58.

Such was Kenya’s dominance, they finished 22 seconds ahead of the US team, whose performance of 16:55.33 was also well inside the previous world record.


Jamaica takes down long-standing 4x200m record, 2014

Just minutes after Kenya smashed the newly established world record in the women’s 4x1500m, a formidable Jamaican quartet headed out on to the track to take aim at the world record in the men’s 4x200m.

Although the event is rarely staged, the world record for the men’s 4x200m – 1:18.68 – had stood for 20 years as it was set by a full-strength Santa Monica Track Club team comprising Floyd Heard, Leroy Burrell, Michael Marsh and Carl Lewis.

But Jamaica’s team for Nassau was hardly lacking in footspeed either. Nickel Ashmeade, pushed by Antoine Adams of St Kitts and Nevis, gave Jamaica a slight advantage on the first leg before 2013 world silver medallist Warren Weir produced a 19.2 split to open up a clear margin ahead of the half-way point.

Jermaine Brown held the lead on leg three and then 2011 world champion Yohan Blake produced a 19.4 anchor to cross the line in 1:18.63, shaving 0.05 from the previous record.

“We had a strong team, good four guys here,” said Ashmeade. “We ran a smart, smooth race, and it paid off.”


Distance medley delight for US quartets, 2015

The distance medley made its first –and, so far, only – appearance at the World Relays in 2015 and the USA confirmed their all-round relay dominance by winning both finals with world record performances.

In the women’s race, France held a marginal lead from USA’s Treniere Moser at the end of the opening 1200m leg, 3:18.11 to 3:18.38, but a swift 50.12 lap by 2012 Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross put the US in total control with a lead of almost three seconds.

Ajee Wilson completed her 800m effort in 2:00.08 and Shannon Rowbury covered the final 1600m stage in 4:27.92 to lead the quartet to a time of 10:36.50 – well under the previous mark posted indoors by a different US team.

The US men’s team replicated the feat just 24 hours later. They were in second place behind Australia after the first two legs with Kyle Merber covering 1200m in 2:53.56 and Brycen Spratling clocking 45.95 for the 400m leg.

A 1:44.75 effort from Brandon Johnson on the 800m stage gave the US a narrow lead over Kenya, but it was short lived as Timothy Cheruiyot darted into the lead at the start of the 1500m anchor leg. Refusing to panic, USA’s Ben Blankenship bided his time and gradually made up the deficit, finally hitting the front on the final bend.

He crossed the line in 9:15.50 to take 0.06 from the previous world record set nine years prior by Kenya.


The Bahamas dominate as mixed 4x400m makes its World Relays debut, 2017

It was third time lucky for The Bahamas when the mixed 4x400m made its debut at the World Relays in 2017.

Hosts of the first three editions of the World Relays, The Bahamas had finished a close second to the USA in the men’s 4x400m in 2014 and 2015. But the addition of the mixed event meant the home team could make use of their star performer, Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo.

Steven Gardiner gave the team a comfortable lead on the opening leg with a stunning 44.33 effort, roared on by the home crowd. Miller-Uibo then took the baton and blazed around the track in 49.60 to extend their lead to almost five seconds.

Anthonique Strachan then found herself up against USA’s Paul Dedewo on the third leg and the long-time leaders unsurprisingly dropped to second place by the end of that stage. But The Bahamas still had their second man, Michael Mathieu, to draft in.

He overtook USA’s Claudia Francis on the final leg to regain the lead and give The Bahamas their first ever victory at the World Relays, winning by almost three seconds in 3:14.42.


Brazil upstages USA in men’s 4x100m, 2019

Anything can, and will, happen in a relay. The 2019 edition of the World Relays was testament to that.

Brazil’s 4x100m squad of Rodrigo do Nascimento, Jorge Vides, Derick Silva and Paulo André Camilo de Oliveira teamed up to pull off the biggest upset of the event in the final race of the weekend in Yokohama.

In a close and competitive race, by the time De Oliveira received the baton for the final leg, Brazil was in third place behind China and Great Britain & Northern Ireland. The US team, meanwhile, was another metre behind in fourth but had 200m star Noah Lyles on anchor.

De Oliveira edged ahead of his British and Chinese opponents and held off a fast-finishing Lyles to cross the line in 38.05, winning by just 0.02.


Poland dethrones US women in 4x400m, 2019

Earlier in the evening, USA had suffered another shock defeat, this time to the hands of Poland in the women’s 4x400m.

Having won the women’s 4x400m at all three previous editions of the World Relays, the US team was favoured to win again in Yokohama. Jaide Stepter (52.5) and Shakima Wimbley (50.8) led for the USA on the first two legs, but they only had a relatively slender 0.4 margin over Poland at that point.

Anna Kielbasinska edged into the lead in the final 40 metres of the third leg as USA’s Jessica Beared faded to fourth. USA’s world indoor champion Courtney Okolo made up a bit of ground for the USA on the final leg, but there was no catching European 400m champion Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, who anchored Poland to victory in 3:27.49.