Series17 Jun 2021

Japan's seven wonders: World Athletics Relays Yokohama 2019


Japan's seven wonders - World Athletics Relays Yokohama 2019 (© Getty Images)


In the latest in our ‘seven wonders’ series, we turn our attention to the most recent global athletics event staged in Japan: the World Athletics Relays Yokohama 2019. 

Setting the scene 

The fourth edition of the World Athletics Relays was awarded to Yokohama, Japan after The Bahamas dropped out of staging the event for financial reasons. It was the first time the event had taken place outside of the Caribbean nation who had staged the first three versions of the event in Nassau (2014, 2015 and 2017). The 2019 World Relays took place inside the Yokohama International Stadium on 11-12 May.


Broken records 

A record-breaking 43 countries entered the 2019 edition of the World Athletics Relays – one more than the previous record set at the 2015 edition.  

Four countries also claimed their maiden victory at the World Relays: France, Brazil, Poland and Trinidad & Tobago. South Africa (second in the men’s 4x200m) and Italy (third in the women’s 4x400m) also achieved up their first top-three finish at a World Relays.


Headline acts 

In the three previous editions of the World Relays, the US had won gold in each and every men’s and women’s 4x400m, but their streak came to a shuddering halt in Yokohama. 

In the men’s event, a strong quartet of Nathan Strother, Fred Kerley and Michael Cherry handed the baton on to anchor Paul Dedewo with a comfortable five-metre lead. However, Dedewo badly tied up in the final 50 metres and was caught by the flying Machel Cedenio in the final stride as Trinidad & Tobago claimed an exhilarating victory. The USA, who crossed the line in second, was later disqualified for a lane violation. 

In the women’s 4x400m, the sequence of US success came to an end as a talented Polish quartet anchored by Justyna Swiety-Ersetic timed their run to perfection to deny the US by 0.16.

An experienced US quartet containing Noah Lyles was surprisingly defeated in the men’s 4x100m final by a talented and well-drilled Brazilian team, who clinched a narrow victory by 0.02 in a thrilling final. 

US earned some consolation by taking out the men’s 4x200m for the first time and winning all three mixed events – the 4x400m as well as the newly introduced 2x2x400m relay and shuttle hurdles relay. 


Home stars 

In the three previous editions of the World Relays, Japan had only once secured a top-three finish, placing third in the men’s 4x100m in 2015, but the host county fared much better in 2019. Japan actually surprisingly led after two legs of the shuttle hurdles relay until the US ran them down in the second half of the race. Still, second place was a rich reward for the host nation. Japan executed a tactically astute race to finish third in the 2x2x400m relay thanks to the efforts of Ayano Shiomi and Allon Tatsunami Clay.  

The host nation also claimed fourth-place finishes in the men’s 4x400m and women’s 4x200m as well as fifth spot in the men’s 4x200m. There was disappointment, however, for their highly-rated men’s 4x100m who were disqualified for a baton exchange mishap in the heats.


Talk of the town 

Besides the memorable success of Brazil (men’s 4x100m), Trinidad & Tobago (men’s 4x400m) and Poland (women’s 4x400m), France claimed a surprise victory in the women’s 4x200m. They did, however, benefit from a pair of shocking baton exchanges by the stellar Jamaican quartet of Elaine Thompson, Stephenie Ann McPherson, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson, who, despite a pair of blunders, still had the sheer speed to claim third place. 

The two new events on the programme – the 2x2x400m relay and shuttle hurdles relay – proved a hit with Kenya, who opted to lead off with a male athlete in the former event. But it proved the wrong tactic as USA’s Donavan Brazier executed a smartly judged plan to perfection to take the victory.

Spare a thought too for Australia, one of just three finalists who took to the start line for the shuttle hurdles relay. But Brianna Beahan committed a false start, leading to a heart-breaking disqualification.



Without doubt the introduction of the mixed 2x2x400m relay – to replace the previously featured 4x800m relay – proved a hit as teams were forced to think carefully about tactics and pace judgement in order to deliver. The introduction of the shuttle hurdles relay also injected a new element into the biennial competition.



The 2019 World Relays – the first be staged outside of The Bahamas – further helped expand the frontiers of the growing event. A record number of competing nations, plus the greatest spread of top-three finishes, further aided its global appeal while some exhilarating racing and multiple shocks and surprises made edition four of the World Relays, arguably, the best to date.  

Steve Landells for World Athletics

















アメリカは初めて男子4x200mを制し、また全ての混合種目 4x400mと初実施の2x2x400mとシャトルハードルリレーでも優勝した。
















World Athletics Steve Landells
World Athletics 大久保マイケル拓磨

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