Elaine Thompson anchors Jamaica to a World Relays record in the women's 4x200m (© Getty Images)
There may not be World Championships places at stake in the 4x200m, but many of the world’s leading sprinters have opted to contest the rarely-run event at the IAAF World Relays Yokohama 2019 as part of their early season preparations.
Although the USA has dominated every edition of the World Relays to date, the men’s 4x200m is one discipline they have not yet won.
Jamaica won in 2014 with a world record of 1:18.63 and then retained their title one year later with the USA being disqualified on both occasions. Canada, meanwhile, won in 2017 with USA finishing runners-up.
Canada hasn’t put forward a men’s 4x200m team this year; instead, the four men that carried them to victory in 2017 will contest the 4x100m in Yokohama.
This year USA has fielded a team with two sub-20-second performers in the form of Isiah Young and Remontay McClain. 400m specialist Vernon Norwood, a world 4x400m champion indoors and outdoors in 2016 and 2015 respectively, steps down in distance.
Jamaica’s squad boasts the likes of 2015 world 4x100m champion Rasheed Dwyer, 2013 world 4x100m champion Oshane Bailey, 2016 world U20 200m bronze medallist Nigel Ellis, and sub-20-second man Julian Forte.
Keen to impress the home supporters, Japan has put together a strong line-up for the 4x200m, including Olympic 4x100m silver medallists Aska Cambridge and Shota Iizuka and world 4x100m bronze medallist Kenji Fujimitsu.
South Africa’s team is also strong. African 100m champion Akani Simbine will team up with 2015 world 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana, 20.01 performer Luxolo Adams and rising talent Sinesipho Dambile.
Paulo Andre de Oliveira has impressed in a handful of early-season races in California and leads a strong Brazilian 4x200m team in Yokohama, while Olympic 200m bronze medallist Christophe Lemaitre headlines the French team.
Given the strength of their team, Jamaica clearly has every intention of holding on to their 4x200m crown.
Three of the women that contributed to their 2017 victory – Shericka Jackson, Shashalee Forbes and Elaine Thompson – will be joined by two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and 2013 world 400m bronze medallist Stephenie Ann McPherson.
The championship record of 1:29.04 they set two years ago could come under threat. The long-standing world record of 1:27.46, set in 2000, may be a bit of a stretch, but there will likely be numerous revisions to the world all-time list in Yokohama.
After winning in 2014, USA failed to finish in 2015 and was a well-beaten third in 2017. With the likes of 2018 NCAA indoor champion Gabrielle Thomas, 22.02 performer Kyra Jefferson and 2017 NCAA 100m champion Mikiah Brisco in their line-up, they are perhaps the only team that can match Jamaica in terms of pure speed. It’s just a question of which team has the better baton passing.
Nigeria’s team doesn’t look quite as strong as the quartet that won the 4x200m in 2015, but 400m specialist Patience George and sprint hurdler Tobi Amusan will be valuable assets.
China, France, Germany and even Ecuador could all be in contention for a top-three finish, while the support will be strong for the Japanese team.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF