Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo during the mixed 4x400m at the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2017 (© Getty Images)
It had its critics, the mixed relay – the people who wrote it off as a gimmick, an event that would never catch on.
But try telling that to the several thousand fans inside the Thomas A Robinson Stadium in Nassau on Sunday night (23) as the hosts’ finest athletes, in the event’s final race, produced a performance that didn’t just set the pulses racing; it very nearly sent the eardrums bursting.
Entering the final leg, with Michael Mathieu facing a 30-metre deficit to the United States’ Claudia Francis, the noise reached ear-splitting levels as the Bahamian crowd chanted, cheered, and yes, screamed their support at their boys and girls in blue.
The beauty of the mixed relay is its anarchy, the absence of a set running order of sexes allowing for final legs like the one we witnessed here.
Given the line-ups, it was always going to boil down to a two-team race, The Bahamas versus USA, David versus Goliath. However, The Bahamas’ opening duo were no underdogs, but the undisputed class of this field, and it was there that the race was won.
Steven Gardiner blasted through his opening leg in 44.33, stealing a 12-metre lead on the US, and things went from bad to worse for the Americans then with Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the Olympic 400m champion, taking the baton for The Bahamas.
She obliterated her opposition – as she tends to do – with a 49.60 leg, leaving them a whopping five seconds to the good at halfway.
But then things changed, with the first battle of the sexes playing out on the third leg – Paul Dedewo of the US powering by Anthonique Strachan of The Bahamas around the final turn en route to a 45.23-second leg, with Strachan fading towards the finish.
"It was definitely fun running with the boys," she said. "When I got taken over on the home stretch, I immediately thought, 'where is Michael [Mathieu]?'"
Dedewo opened up a three-second advantage over Strachan by the time he handed over the baton, but would it be enough?
Claudia Francis duly took off like a scared rabbit for the USA, aware that if she was to stand any chance of fending off Bahamian anchor Mathieu, it would take a special kind of effort.
With the stomping and shrieking in the stadium reaching thunderous levels, Mathieu ate into the advantage over the first 200 metres, then powered by around the final turn, opening up blissful daylight between himself and Francis from there to the finish, which he reached in 3:14.42.
The US took second in 3:17.29, with Jamaica third in 3:20.26.
"It was an amazing feeling to finish the event with victory in front of the home crowd, especially as it was a full house," said Miller-Uibo. "I hope the mixed relay stays in the programme, especially as we won!"
She and her teammates certainly made a convincing case. It was the event, the sport, on show at its finest. Long may it live.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF