World Relays - Atlanta City Games

NASSAU, Bahamas— The 2024 edition of the World Relays returned to its original home in the Bahamas, and the action on the opening day (4 May) of the two-day event was pulsating. Forty teams secured automatic qualification to the Paris Olympics by finishing in the top two of their respective heats. In contrast, others have taken the longer route and will be banking on making the cut on the second day.

With the supremely talented Femke Bol on the anchor leg, the Netherlands got things rolling in the 4x400m mixed relay, setting a championship record of 3:12.16. The win secured automatic qualification to the Paris Olympics for the Netherlands. The Dominican Republic finished second in 3:14.39 to punch their ticket for Paris. However, it took a herculean effort from world champion Marileidy Paulino, who ran the fastest split on the night (48.93), to pull the Dominican Republic team from the point of no return to second on the last leg. 

Jamaica, who finished third in a season’s best 3:14.83, will have another opportunity to make amends in the mixed relay on the second day. ALSO READ: “I’m excited and can’t wait for the rest of the season.”Jaydon Hibbert Says after Win in Bermuda

Interestingly, the Dutch team’s record only lasted a few minutes as Team USA chopped off a good chunk, revising it to 3:11.52 in the following heat. Nigeria, with the impressive Chide Okezie, who had a 44.78-second split on the third leg, finished runner-up in 3:13.79. 

Multiple world champion Noah Lyles led a dominant-looking USA team to a world-leading 37.49 seconds in the men’s 4x100m. Lyles, who clocked 8.95 seconds on anchor, was supported by Courtney Lindsey (10.32), Kenneth Bednarek (8.91) and Kyree King (9.31). Reigning Olympic champions, Italy, with a fit-looking Lamont Marcell Jacobs in their midst, was second in a season’s best 38.14 seconds. 

Andre DeGrasse steered Canada home in heat three in a season’s best 38.11 seconds. Behind him, a fierce battle ensued for second spot with Thailand, Australia and Jamaica. The promising Sandrey Davision of Jamaica produced the race of his life to edge his Australian rival in a photo finish at the tape. Jamaica and Australia were credited with 38.50, with Jamaica getting the nod by four thousandths of a second (.492 to .496). Interestingly, this was Jamaica’s first and only top-two finish on the night.

In the women’s 4x100m relay qualification, Team USA, Poland, Germany and Great Britain/Northern Ireland cruised through their respective heats with impressive wins. On the contrary, the host nation, the Bahamas, and her Caribbean counterparts, Trinidad and Tobago and Olympic champions Jamaica, struggled with team chemistry and baton exchanges. They must improve significantly on the second day to restore confidence in their supporters. 

Ireland was the fastest qualifier in the women’s 4x400m after registering a national record of 3:24.38. They were followed by the United States and Great Britain/Northern Ireland, who finished inside 3:25.00. The Polish team looked well-polished while cruising to victory in their heat, and a competitive final is predicted on day two. 

The men’s 4x400m relay produced some drama. Team USA, which crossed the finish line first in heat one, was disqualified under World Athletics relay race rule DQ TR24.20. Team USA was in third position with 200m to go on the second leg; however, when the runners entered the home straight, the third leg runner for USA, Champion Allison, moved over in lane one to collect the baton, which brought about the disqualification and victory to Japan in 3:00.98.

Botswana showed their pedigree as they were the only team to break 3 minutes legally, and they did so with the help of the prodigiously talented Letsile Tebogo. The young Botswana athlete showed his vast range on the second leg after collecting the baton in seventh position. Tebogo motored around the field like a Leyland Truck, reeling his rivals and led until the closing moments of handing over. Tebogo’s split was clocked at 43.49 seconds.

The excitement was just getting started as spectators witnessed an exhilarating battle between South Africa and Botswana on the final leg. South Africa had the lead through 2022 World U20 400m hurdles champion Lythe Pillay, who was saddled with the responsibility of keeping current world leader Bayapo Ndori at bay. Ndori tracked Pillay like a seasoned hunter, and Pillay was likewise an elusive prey. Both men flicked a switch and barreled towards the finish line like a train without brakes with 50m to go. It was anybody’s race up to that point, but Ndori’s courage and tenacity pulled him through.  Botswana won by a whisker in 2:59.73, with South Africa 0.03 seconds behind. 

It was a fitting finale to bring the curtains down on an enthralling night of action. 

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