By Alpheus Finlayson
Relays have been an integral and most popular part of athletic competitions from time immoral.
This has been for several reasons. One is the fact that they are competitions for schools, clubs, or nations, with which numerous persons can identify.
From the Bahamian experience one needs only to look at the reception in The Bahamas to the Golden Girls “Down Under” in Sydney 4am Bahamas time, and the Golden Knights in London in 2012.
The other reason is that success in most relay competitions requires good baton exchanges and strategic set up.
We need only remember the USA sprint relay teams in Beijing and Berlin.
Also the Jamaican Women’s 4x100m team was expected to break the world record in Berlin and botched the baton exchange.
When the Cuban team captured the Bronze medal in the men’s 4x100m relay in Sydney, the legendary Alberto Juantorena indicated that it was a special event, and not just the putting together of fast runners. It required skill.
The French team set a world record in the 4x100m when they had no athlete capable of making an Olympic or World Championship final!
Neither did Cuba, whose team consisted of Jesse Cesar, Luis Peres, Ivan Garcia, and Freddy Mayola.
The entire world was shocked in London when Chris Brown, who usually anchored The Bahamas 4x400m relay team, was switched to the starting leg.
Pauline Davis-Thompson anchored the Bahamas women’s 4x100m relay in Atlanta in 1996 but was switched to the third leg at the World Championships in Seville in 1999 and the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. The Bahamas won both.
The success of the team, in my belief has more significance on the school, club, or nation than that of an individual athlete, hence the popularity of the relay events.
Added to that, they usually close out championships.
Please note that the popularity of the men’s 4x100m relay in the last five years has influenced the organizers to have them close out the championships. It was traditional that the 4x400m relay closed out the championships.
The Relay Tradition in the United States
Relay events have been quite popular in the United States. We can mention the Texas Relays, the Kansas Relays, The Mt. SAC Relays, the Drake Relays, and of course the Penn Relays which have been staged by the University of Pennsylvania at Franklyn Field in Philadelphia since 1894!
Several years ago the Penn Relays included what they call “The USA vs. The World”, which gathers the top teams in the world in selected relays, which is shown on national television.
Countries from around the world look forward to an invitation to those events.
The Top Eight National Relay Teams of All Time
As we approach the IAAF Inaugural World Relays set for May 24th and 25thin The Bahamas, we decided to take a look at those top eight national teams of all time in the events that will be contested. Once again they are the 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m, 4x800m, and 4×1500 for both men and women.
Information was provided by the IAAF and Track and Field News.
In some cases the top teams in a country consisted in either club teams or school teams, especially in the United States.
Those teams are:
United States- 40.82sec- Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight
and Carmelita Jeter, London, 10th August 2012
2-Jamaica- 41.29sec- Moscow, 18th August 2013
3- East Germany- 41.37sec, Canberra, Australia, 6th October 1985
4- Russia- 41.49sec, Stuttgart,Germany, 22nd August 1993
5- France- 41.78sec, Paris, France, 30th,August 2003
6- Germany- 41.91sec, Tokyo, Japan, 31st August 1991
7- Bahamas-41.92sec, Seville, Spain, 29th August 1999
8- Soviet Union-42.01sec, Seoul, Korea, 1st October 1988
Jamaica- 36.84sec, Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt
London, 11th August 2012
2. USA-37.04sec-2nd, London, 11th August 2012
3. Trinidad & Tobago- 37.62sec, Berlin, 22nd August 2009
4. Canada- 37.69sec, 3rd August 1996
5. Great Britain- 37.73sec -2nd, Seville, 29th August 1999
6. France- 37.79sec Split, Yugoslavia, 1st September 1990
7. Brasil-37.90sec-2nd, Sydney, Australia, 30th September 2000
8. Nigeria-37.94sec, Athens, Greece, 7th August 1997
USA-1:27.46- LaTasha Jenkins, LaTasha Colander,
Nanceen Perry, Marion Jones
Philadelphia, USA, 29th April 2000
2-East Germany-1:28.15, Jena, East Germany, 9th August 1980
3. Jamaica-1:30.23, Philadelphia, 28th April 2001
* No other teams listed
USA (Santa Monica Track Club) – 1:18.68 Mike Marsh, Leroy Burrell
Floyd Heard, Carl Lewis
Walnut, USA,17th April 1994
- USA has top five performances. IAAF or Track & Field News do not list any additional teams
Soviet Union- 3:15.17- Tatyana Ledovskaya, Olga Nazarova
Marina Pinigina, Olga Bryzgina
Seoul, Korea, 1st October 1988
2. USA- 3:15.51- Seoul, 1st October 1988
3. East Germany- 3:15.92- Efurt, 3rd June 1984
4. Russia- 3:18.29-Stuttgart, 22August 1993
5. Jamaica- 3:18.71- Daegu, South Korea, 3rd September 2011
6. Great Britain- 3:20.04- Osaka, Japan, 6th September 2007
7. EUN- 3:20.20- Barcelona, Spain, 8th August 1992
8. Czech Republic- 3:20.32- Helsinki, 14th August 1983
USA- 2:54.29- Andrew Valmon, Quincy Watts
Harry “Butch” Reynolds, Michael Johnson
Stuttgart, Germany, 22nd August 1993
2. Great Britain- 3:56.60- Atlanta, 7th August 1996
3. Bahamas-3:56.72- Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder
Michael Mathieu, Ramon Miller
London, 10th August 2012
4. Jamaica- 2:56.75- Athens, Greece, 10th August 1997
5. Poland- 2:58.00- Uniondale, USA, 22nd July 1998
6. Russia- 2:58.06- Beijing, China, 23rd August 2008
7. Brasil- 2:58.56- Winnipeg, Canada, 30th July 1999
8. Nigeria- 2:58.68, Sydney, Australia, 30th September 2000
Soviet Union- 7:50.17- NadezhdaOlizarenko, LyurouGurina
Lyudmila Borisova, Irina Podyalovskaya
Moscow, 5th August 1984
- No other listing
Kenya- 7:02.43-Joseph Muta, William Yiampoy
Israel Kombich, Wilfred Bungei
Brussels, Belgium, 25th August 2006
2. USA- 7:02.82- Brussels, Belgium, 25th August 2006
3. Great Britain- 7:03.89, London, 30th August 1982
4. South Africa-7:04.70, Stuttgart, 6th June 1999
5. Qatar- 7:06.66-Brussels, 25th August 206
6. Soviet Union- 7:07.40, Moscow, 5th August 1984
7. West Germany- 7:08.5, Wiesbaden, Germany, 13th August 1996
* No additional team listed by IAAF or Track & Field News
USA- 17.08.34- Chantelle Price, Phoebe Wright
Rolanda Bell, Sarah Bowman
Philadelphia, USA, 24th April 2009
- No additional listing by IAAF or Track & Field News
Kenya- 14:36.23-William Biwot, Gideon Gathimba
Geoffrey Rono, Augustus Choge
Brussels, 4th September 2009
Heightened Relay Activity in the 2014 Season
Due to the hosting of the Inaugural World Relay Championships there will be heightened awareness of the relay meets around the world and in those meets who put on relay competitions.
The USA vs The World will have special significance as nations gear up for The Bahamas.
Also, based upon the time in the season, May, federations will have some challenges selecting teams and athletes will have to demonstrate in their individual event that they are fit to be selected, when the federation is unable to hold trials for both World Relays and national teams for summer international competitions.
With all this in mind we decided to show you just what the top teams of all time have done and look forward to seeing what your team can do in The Bahamas.