USA's Francena McCorory in the 4x400m (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Beijing, China

Preview: women’s 4x400m – IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015

Two years ago, the women’s 4x400m produced one of the best finishes of the championships as Russia’s Antonina Krivoshapka held off Francena McCorory of the USA all the way around the final lap to the delight of a partisan Luzhniki Stadium crowd.

Krivoshapka is not back this year, but McCorory is. Owner the year’s three fastest times, McCorory was a victim of the first-three-across-the-line US selection policy when she had a relative shocker at the US Championships and could finish no higher than fourth.

But she is there for the relay, along with Allyson Felix, winner of the 400m at the US Championships whose decision to run the 400m, rather than the 200m, in the Bird’s Nest Stadium relegated McCorory to relay duties only. With Sanya Richards-Ross also in the squad, two of the three fastest in the world this year will run the relay for the US – a considerable bonus.

Felix’s presence in the 4x400m should ensure the USA of the win in Beijing. A squad anchored by McCorory ran the fastest time in the world this year in defeating Jamaica at the IAAF World Relays in May. Add Felix to the mix and it is hard to see any other team improving enough to beat the USA for the gold medal.

Phyllis Francis and Natasha Hastings, the first two runners of the IAAF World Relays team, will both be in Beijing having qualified, with Felix, for the individual event. 2009 world champion Richards-Ross ran the third leg in Nassau, and is in the relay squad only after being eliminated in the semi-finals of the US Championships.

Jamaica finished second at the World Relays and, with Russia, represent the biggest threat to the US hopes. Christine Day, Shericka Jackson and Stephenie Ann McPherson filled the first three places at the Jamaican Championships and all have run in the low-50-second range this season. Add in the veteran Novlene Williams-Mills and there is the basis for a strong relay squad.

Russia’s record in the 4x400m is outstanding, though the squad chosen for Beijing does not look as strong as many in the past. Taking history into account, however, they are sure to be there challenging for the medals.

Britain finished third at the IAAF World Relays and three of that team – Eilidh Child, Anyika Onuora and Seren Bundy-Davies – are among the nominations for Beijing. The addition of individual 400m defending champion Christine Ohuruogu gives them a strong chance at another medal.

France, the European champions indoor and out, will be looking to maintain their continental dominance at least by challenging Russia and Britain for the bronze medal.

Getting the baton around is not as big a challenge for a 4x400m team as for a sprint relay, but – as in the individual 400m – spreading the effort efficiently over one lap is crucial. Taking a lot of ground out of the opposition in the first half of the leg makes for exciting racing, but it is far more important to keep your head while others are losing theirs.

All up, though, Felix and her US teammates look to have this one covered.

Len Johnson for the IAAF