The inaugural IAAF World Relays will take place in The Bahamas this weekend, as teams from more than forty nations comprising in excess of 500 athletes immerse on Nassau for the innovative two-day event.
With an impressive prize purse of $1.4 million on offer, sprinters and middle-distance runners alike are set to contest the 10-event programme in the Bahamian capital on Saturday and Sunday.
Athletics powerhouses USA, Jamaica, Kenya and Russia are set to compete with strong squads in a timetable featuring the men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m, 4x800m and 4x1500m.
The top eight teams in the 4x100m and 4x400m, meanwhile, will automatically qualify for the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
In the men’s events, several star performers will be in action including world 100m champion, Yohan Blake named in Jamaica’s 4x100m team, global 400m victor, LaShawn Merritt in the 4x400m for the USA and Kenya’s world 1500m champion, Asbel Kiprop who contests the rarely-run 4x1500m.
With the past five major championship titles and the current world record (36.84) to their name, Jamaica are evidently a supreme dominant force to be reckoned with, and in addition to Blake ‘The Beast’, they include Kemar Bailey-Cole, Nesta Carter and Michael Frater on their team.
Their fierce rivals, the USA, should provide stiff competition and the Americans have Mike Rodgers, Trell Kimmons and Marvin Bracy in their corner.
The British team have admitted to having not practised much recently but will be looking to seek redemption for losing their global bronze medal through disqualification in Moscow last summer.
With world indoor 60m champion, Richard Kilty at the helm, the Great Britain outfit will also be leaning on Dwain Chambers and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey.
France, meanwhile, will rely on the swift assistance from European 100m champion, Christophe Lemaitre and European indoor 60m victor, Jimmy Vicaut.
Jamaica again, are heavy favourites with world 200m silver medallist, Warren Weir and team-mate, Nickel Ashmeade but the USA – who will utilise Wallace Spearman and Walter Dix – will provide a solid challenge.
Also in the hunt are strong teams from France (again with Lemaitre), Nigeria and hosts Bahamas.
The USA quartet have a commendable strength in depth which has seen them dominant at major championships in recent years but the Bahamian team – winners of the 2012 Olympic title in London – will undoubtedly be keen to reassert their authority on home ground.
Led by world indoor 400m runner-up, Chris Brown, the Bahamas will feature their complete Olympic-winning team with Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon Miller also in action.
The Americans have world 400m and 4x400m champion, LaShawn Merritt for support and an interesting entrant comes in the shape of Olympic triple jump champion, Christian Taylor who set a promising 45.17 personal best in Florida last month.
Jamaica are expected to be in the mix, whilst European champions, Belgium have the three Borelee brothers – Kevin, Jonathan and Dylan on their roster.
Three teams stand out in this event with Kenya leading the way.
Represented by Alfred Kipketer, Job Kinyor and James Magut, the Kenyans will face a strong US squad, who boast David Torrence and Duane Solomon.
Poland, meanwhile, will make use of world indoor 800m runner-up, Adam Kszczot and 2010 European 800m champion, Marcin Lewandowski.
Kenya again have the edge and they can boast having Kiprop, the fastest metric miler in the world in 2013 with 3:27.72, in their quest for glory.
The Kenyan outfit have already stated their intentions on claiming the world record – which, incidentally, belongs to them at 14:36.23.
Mugut, Nixon Chepseba and Silas Kiplagat will join forces with Kiprop for the favourites.
Ethiopia have access to world indoor medallists, Aman Wote and Mekonnen Gebremedhin, whilst the USA – with Olympic silver medallist, Leonel Manzano and Ryan Gregson – and Poland, with Kczszot and Lewandowski should also feature prominently.
In the women’s events, the stand-out performers include world and Olympic 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in Jamaica’s 4x100m and 4x200m quartets, Nigeria’s world 200m bronze medallist, Blessing Okagbare in the 4x100m and 4x200m and Hellen Obiri, the world indoor 3,000m champion in Kenya’s 4x1500m team.
In addition to Fraser-Pryce’s glittering individual athletic CV, ‘The Pocket Rocket’ was also the anchor leg runner of Jamaica’s world title-winning team in Moscow and helped them to Olympic silver in 2012.
The Caribbean island’s squad features all four members from the Russian capital, with Carrie Russell, Kerron Stewart and Schillonie Calvert combining, but the USA will provide a stiff challenge.
The Olympic champions with a 40.82 world record will be without their star performers but can still rely on Alexandria Anderson, Tianna Bartoletta, LaKeisha Lawson and
World bronze medallists, Great Britain and Northern Ireland bring in Asha Philip, Jodie Williams, Hayley Jones and Desiree Henry, whilst France and Nigeria are also expected to finish high up.
Again, Jamaica and the USA are the dominant force with the Jamaicans registering the same athletes from the 4x100m to their roster, and the US team supplying a completely fresh foursome headed by Bianca Knight, Shalonda Solomon and Kimberlyn Duncan.
Great Britain, Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago have all entered identical teams to their 4x100m squads, and as with the previous days’ shorter sprint relay, Fraser-Pryce and Okagbare should provide the class of the race.
The Americans will face off with the Russians and Jamaicans, and former world and Olympic 400m champion, Sanya Richards-Ross is an eye-catching member of the US outfit, having raced sparingly since the 2012 Olympic final due to health issues.
World champions, Russia pose a strong threat and Jamaica will take advantage of world indoor 400m runner-up, Kaliese Spencer and Novlene Williams-Mills.
The British team, meanwhile, can boast having world champion, Christine Ohuruogu in addition to Eilidh Child and Shana Cox.
Kenya start as favourites, aided by the likes of world champion, Eunice Sum and 2007 global victor, Janeth Jepkosgei.
Russia enters a similar team to their 4x400m squad and the USA are supported by world indoor champion, Chanelle Price, world bronze medallist, Brenda Martinez, world junior champion Ajee Wilson and Morgan Uceny.
Kenya will be considered the strong favourites following their 17:05.72 world record recently and will be headed by recent African 3,000m record holder, Hellen Obiri.
Together with Mercy Cherono and Irene Jelegat, the Kenyans are the firm top contenders and will be chased by Bahrain and the USA – the latter utilising Martinez and
Uceny once again.