World Athletics Relays (© AFP / Getty Images)
There’s a perception in athletics that relay disciplines are dominated by a small handful of superpowers. But if the World Athletics Relays has highlighted anything across its first four editions, it’s that relays are a far more diverse area of the sport than many people realise.
Of the 66 teams that have competed at the World Athletics Relays since the inaugural edition in 2014, 24 of them – representing all six continental areas – have achieved a top-three placing. And of those, 11 different teams have been victorious.
Unsurprisingly, the USA has been the most successful nation in the short history of the global event. But other countries, including The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, Brazil and 2021 hosts Poland, have all made their way on to the top of the World Relays podium.
In fact, it’s the surprise victories that have provided many of the more memorable moments across the first four editions. In Yokohama two years ago, for example, the Brazilian men’s 4x100m team celebrated wildly after their triumph, while the French women’s 4x200m team did likewise after their shock victory as a full-strength Jamaican team finished third.
Two years prior, when The Bahamas hosted the event for the third time, one of the enduring images of the event came from the host nation’s mixed 4x400m team. Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Steven Gardiner teamed up with Anthonique Strachan and Michael Mathieu to win by almost three seconds, much to the delight of the home crowd.
During that same weekend, Canada upset the USA in the men’s 4x200m and Barbados managed a surprise second-place finish in the men’s 4x100m. Germany, meanwhile, achieved their first World Athletics Relays victory by winning the women’s 4x100m.
And back in 2014 at the inaugural World Athletics Relays, Kenya triumphed in three races – thanks to the inclusion of middle-distance relays – and the tiny island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis finished second in the men’s 4x200m, out-performing many of the world’s top sprint teams and beaten only by a world record-breaking Jamaican quartet.
While the likes of USA, Jamaica and Great Britain will be among the favourites at the World Athletics Relays Silesia 2021, which will get underway in 100 days’ time, prepare to expect the unexpected when the world’s best sprinters line up in Chorzow’s Silesian Stadium on 1-2 May.