By Noel "Bravo" Francis, Special to TrackAlerts.com
Jamaica seem to have a stranglehold on the men’s 4x100m, the country has won the last five major global championships, that is, the last three World Championships and two Olympics Games in this event. At the time of writing, the official Jamaican squad was not announced. However, it is looking more unlikely that the incomparable Usain Bolt who has recovered sufficiently from a foot injury will participate in Bahamas.
The World and Olympic champion is not in a hurry to compete and is likely to open his season sometime in June. Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake who missed last season through injury is gradually finding his rhythm and should return to the team. The returning Michael Frater from injury will boost the team morale, whilst veteran starter Nesta Carter alongside youngsters Kemar Bailey-Cole, Warren Weir, Nickel Asmeade and UTECH sprinter Andrew Fisher if available could form the rest of the relay pool.
Jamaica holds the current 4x100m world record of 36.84 seconds. If the entire Jamaican squad is fit, the fireworks could start before the closing ceremony on the final night of competition.
The U.S.A currently does not seem to have the same depth of top class sprinters like Jamaica. They received a massive blow last year when their best sprinter Tyson Gay failed a drug test. Tyson Gay could return to competition from suspension this year, however, he will miss the IAAF World Relays. His absence is a huge setback and the Americans could struggle to keep pace with a Jamaican quartet at full strength.
Nevertheless, it is my view that a U.S.A. squad comprising Michael Rodgers, Trell Kimmons, Walter Dix, Marvin Bracy, Calesio Newman and Charles Simon is still dangerous. We got a glimpse of some relay teams at the 120th Penn Relays in the U.S versus the World contests. At that meet a 4x100m United States quartet including three members from the silver medal team at last year’s World Championship (Justin Gatlin, Charles Silmon & Rakieem Salaam) defeated a third string Jamaica team in a very close encounter. Gatlin, who seems humble until he speaks, had been talking up a storm about his ability and America’s chances in his post-race interview at the Penn Relays.
However, just like the negative wind that he has encountered in his races so far, the U.S. selectors are going in the opposite direction and have omitted Gatlin from their squad to the World Relays. Nevertheless, track fans worldwide are looking forward to these two giants (Jamaica & U.S.A.) in sprint relays to produce a cracking race.
Another Caribbean team, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) could book their spot to Beijing; however, they would want to qualify in style with a podium finish. The T&T team should come from Richard Thompson, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns, Rondell Sorillo and promising young sprinter Jonathan Farinha. The Great Britain team has had their share of problems in the past, the most recent being their bizarre disqualification at the 2013 World Championship which cost them the bronze medal and perhaps many sleepless nights.
This year they have taken a serious approach by preparing meticulously in warmer weather. We hope the eight-week bonding exercise by some members of the Great Britain squad in Florida will lead to better cohesion this time around. The Great Britain & N.I. squad includes World Indoor 60m champion Richard Kilty, James Ellington, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Dwain Chambers, Andrew Robertson & Danny Talbot. The only setback to Great Britain’s chances, is the absence of their leading sprinter James Dasaolu through injury and World Junior 100m Champion Adam Gemili who has university exams.
World Championship bronze medallist Canada, who benefitted from Great Britain’s blunder on appeal, and who had suffered a similar fate (disqualification) at the 2012 London Olympics will want to ensure there are no more drama this time around and qualify for Beijing fair and square on the track and not in the boardroom. This level of determination from the teams should intensify the battle for bronze and could prove to be the most competitive aspect of this 4x100m event. Japan, St. Kitts & Nevis, France and Brazil should also be engaged in a spirited dash to claim a medal. Former World and Olympic champion Maurice Greene is now a member of the Nigerian coaching staff; let us see if he will have an impact on that country’s sprint relay teams, whose performances have been ordinary over the years.