USA dominates sprint relay finals as World Relays concludes in the Bahamas

By Jess Whittington for World Athletics May 06, 2024

USA broke their own 10-year-old championship record to dominate the women’s 4x100m at the World Athletics Relays Bahamas 24, before their teammates threatened the men’s 4x100m mark to clinch another win in Nassau on Sunday (5).

After helping her nation to a heat win and Olympic qualification on Saturday, Gabby Thomas vowed they could go even quicker in the final. She wasn’t wrong.

The women’s 4x100m championship record of 41.88 had been set at the inaugural World Athletics Relays in Nassau in 2014. A decade on, another US quartet made history in the Bahamian capital, as Tamari Davis, Thomas, Celera Barnes and Melissa Jefferson combined to clock 41.85 and cap a successful campaign.

They won by almost a second, while France proved they will be a force at their home Olympics later this year by securing the runner-up spot in 42.75. Third place was claimed by Great Britain & NI in 42.80.

As she had done in the previous day’s heats, Davis got the race started for USA, running a strong first leg to put her nation ahead. Olympic and world 200m medallist Thomas, who joined Davis on USA’s world title-winning team in Budapest last year, was ready to take over and she maintained the advantage before handing the baton to Barnes.

They had put Jefferson in a great position and the win never looked in doubt, as the two-time world relay gold medallist surged down the home straight. The fight for second place was won by France, as Mallory Leconte – racing in lane one – held off Great Britain’s Aleeya Sibbons. Germany finished fourth and Australia fifth.

While her teammates posed for photos, Thomas left the track to prepare for the 4x400m final less than 20 minutes later, which USA also won.

The men’s 4x100m championship record of 37.38 was also set by USA in Nassau but in 2015, during the second edition of the event. It still stands, but only just, as Courtney Lindsey, Kenny Bednarek, Kyree King and Noah Lyles teamed up to run a world-leading 37.40.

That same US quartet had run 37.49 to win the heats and they were similarly dominant in the final, winning by almost half a second ahead of 2022 world champions Canada.

Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse anchored Canada to second place in 37.89. Olympic champions Italy crossed the line next, but the team was later disqualified for a changeover occurring outside the zone. As a result, France secured third place in 38.44, just 0.01 ahead of Japan and Great Britain who both clocked 38.45 and were separated by only one thousandth of a second.

“We were talking after the race about what else we can do,” said Lyles, who ran the anchor leg during USA’s world title win in Budapest after his individual 100m and 200m victories. “Me and Kyree can get more out of that exchange zone and Kenny and Kyree can do the same. We were faster today, but still, it is all about the zone.”

The team certainly looked in the zone. Lindsey ran the first leg, going up against Canada’s Aaron Brown. Bednarek then took over from Lindsey and ran the second leg against athletes including Italy’s Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs.

Bednarek handed the baton to King and then Lyles powered home to secure the win, chased by De Grasse, France’s Aymeric Priam and Sota Miwa of Japan.

 

Teams that missed out on Paris places on day one had another chance to book their spots for the Olympics in a second round of races ahead of the finals on Sunday. Competition was fierce, with the top two in each of the three heats securing automatic qualification for the Olympics.

The 2021 World Relays winners Italy cruised to the first 4x100m Paris place of the evening, winning the first women’s heat in 42.60. It shows they mean business as despite not making it through to defend their title in Nassau, they went more than a second faster than their winning time from three years ago. Cote d’Ivoire missed out on an automatic qualifying place by just three thousands of a second on day one but multiple global medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou-Smith was determined that her team would not be denied again. She received the baton behind Italy and Spain but stormed past Maria Isabel Perez, and almost caught Arianna De Masi, to secure the second spot in 42.63.

Jamaica will defend their Olympic title after they secured their Paris place on the second attempt. After finishing fifth in their race in the first round, they were dominant winners on day two, with world U20 200m bronze medallist Alana Reid crossing the finish line in 42.74. More than half a second back, Trinidad and Tobago’s Leah Bertrand gave chase to finish second in 43.54.

 

Nigeria and Switzerland were well away in the third and final heat and while Nigeria clinched victory in a close finish – 42.71 to 42.75 – they were both rewarded with Paris places.

The first of the evening’s men’s 4x100m races saw Germany triumph, as Yannick Wolf held on for the win in 38.57. But the real drama was happening behind him. Liberia were in fourth place at the final changeover but Joseph Fahnbulleh blazed the anchor leg, overtaking Brazil and then Switzerland to clinch an Olympic spot by five thousandths of a second. Liberia and Switzerland both clocked 38.65 – a national record for the former – while Brazil followed in fourth.

Ghana and Nigeria ran away with the second heat and their places for the Olympics never seemed in doubt as they clocked 38.29 and 38.57, respectively. There was more success for Africa in the third and final heat as Akani Simbine ran a storming anchor for South Africa. After that final leg timed at 8.92, he crossed the finish line with 38.08 on the clock to ensure his team will be in Paris.

They’ll be joined by Australia, who were pipped for second place by just four thousandths of a second in the first round, as the quartet went 0.04 quicker than on day one to finish runner-up in 38.46.

 

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  • Stephen Francis criticizes JAAA for men’s 4x400m relay qualification failure; offers suggestion to possibly beat June 30 deadline Stephen Francis criticizes JAAA for men’s 4x400m relay qualification failure; offers suggestion to possibly beat June 30 deadline

    Renowned athletics coach Stephen Francis has publicly criticized the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) for what he described as gross incompetence, which has placed the country on the cusp of failing to qualify for the men’s 4x400m relay at this summer’s Paris Olympic Games.

    Francis, known for his no-nonsense approach, did not mince words as he laid bare his frustrations with the governing body’s handling of the situation, as the country’s recent bid to make it into the top 16 in the world, again ended in disappointment.

    The team of Reheem Hayles, JeVaughn Powell, Kimar Farquharson and Tarees Rhoden, gallantly clocked 2:59.75 against a Barbados team, and an international quartet at the NACAC New Life Invitational in Bahamas on Sunday, but failed to run faster than the 2:59.12 seconds set by Zambia in March.

    That was Jamaica’s third attempt at qualification, following two failures at the World Athletics Relays, also held in the Bahamas, in May. Fourteen teams qualified from the World Relays with the next best two teams, based on times run during the qualifying window, being added.

    France (2:58.46) and Zambia, currently occupy those slots, with Jamaica now in a race against time to surpass one of the two before the close of the qualification window on June 30.

    Should the Jamaicans fail to do so, it would be the first time in decades that the country would be absent from the men’s 4x400m at any major championship.

    Francis believes all this could have been avoided had JAAA’s president Garth Gayle appointed competent individuals with immense knowledge of how to manage the situation accordingly.

    “Garth Gayle is a trying man, but he consistently gets letdown by the appointments he makes. Jamaica historically has treated senior athletics as an adjunct to junior athletics, so the same people are there, school principals and their technical committees, making these decisions on issues they know absolutely nothing about,” Francis told SportsMax.TV in an exclusive interview.

    “They know nothing about senior athletics. They might have some kind of resume in (managing) juniors, being a high school principal or a coach at a high school, so (the country suffers) as a result of these personnel, because they keep making stupid decisions when it comes to seniors,” he added.

    To drive home his point, Francis, a highly decorated coach, explained that the country’s teams to the World Athletics Relays were chosen based on early season times.

    “That is rubbish…unheard of, and only people who know nothing about senior athletics would ever even suggest that. (Those with proper knowledge) know that in April, nobody starts to run because people are more peaking for the summer, so what they should have done for the World relays is to run the teams you expect to run down in June. You make them aware early enough that, ‘we're going to select so try and get in shape because we need to qualify, we need to get to the final,” Francis reasoned.