The victorious Jamaican women's 4x100m quartet at the World U20 Championships in Nairobi (© Roger Sedres)
More than 1500 athletes from 145 teams are set to compete at the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 between 1-6 August.
Here we take a look at the 4x100m and 4x400m events at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium.
The four women who smashed the world U20 4x100m record in Nairobi last year will be reunited in Cali.
What’s even more mind-boggling is the fact that they will all still be U20 athletes next year too. But enough about 2023; it’s all about winning titles and breaking records in 2022 for Jamaica’s Tina and Tia Clayton, Serena Cole and Kerrica Hill.
All four of them are faster now than they were in 2021. Tina Clayton, who won the individual 100m title in Nairobi last year, improved to 10.96 this season to break the Jamaican U20 record. Earlier in the year she teamed up with sister Tia, Cole and Brianna Lyston at the Carifta Games and clocked 42.58 – significantly quicker than their world U20 record, but a mark that unfortunately won’t be ratified.
They’ll have a chance to put that right in Cali, though.
Not that their victory is guaranteed – as was the case at the recent World Athletics Championships Oregon22, where the USA defeated an all-star Jamaican 4x100m team that included the three individual 100m medallists.
Indeed, USA’s 4x100m team for Cali may well have been inspired by their senior counterparts and will no doubt be in contention to win in the Colombian capital.
As is the case with 4x100m relays at the senior level, Great Britain & Northern Ireland should be in the mix with Jamaica and USA. Their team includes recent European U18 winner Nia Wedderburn-Goodison.
The likes of Germany, Nigeria and Australia should also feature in the final and perhaps even make it on to the podium.
South Africa’s world U20 record in the 4x100m was one of the biggest surprises of last year’s World U20 Championships.
Two members of that record-breaking quartet will be in action in Cali, though this time all eyes will be on South Africa as they’ll line up as one of the favourites.
Benji Richardson and Letlhogonolo ‘Lucky’ Moleyane will be joined on the squad by Mukhethwa Tshifura, Bradley Nkoana and Bradley Oliphant. In terms of raw speed, their team appears stronger than the one that triumphed in Nairobi.
Relays, however, are about more than just foot speed; baton passing will be crucial, especially as most teams will be fielding young and inexperienced teams with relatively little time to practice. Last-minute fine tuning will be crucial in this event.
Speed certainly helps, though, and the likes of USA and Jamaica have that in abundance. Jamaica placed a close second to South Africa in Nairobi last year, also finishing inside the previous world U20 record that had been held by the USA.
Sandrey Davison, who anchored Jamaica to silver last year, is back on relay duty and will be out for vengeance. USA, meanwhile, will be keen to reclaim their record.
Other teams with the potential to challenge for medals include Nigeria, Great Britain & Northern Ireland, European U20 record-holders Poland, Australia and Spain.
Of all the relays in Cali, this could be the most competitive.
USA has the best depth this year, Jamaica has the fastest individual 400m entrant in Cali, and half of Nigeria’s victorious team from 2021 will return to defend their title.
National U20 champion Mekenze Kelley, who has set PBs of 22.78 for 200m and 51.98 for 400m this year, spearheads a strong US team. The five women who followed her at the US U20 Championships are also on the squad.
Dejanea Oakley, who has a best this year of 51.81, is the fastest performer on Jamaica’s squad. But perhaps the most interesting squad member is 100m and 200m specialist Brianna Lyston, who set a 200m PB of 22.53 into a -2.2m/s headwind earlier this year.
Ella Onojuvwevwo and Opeyemi Oke will be back on relay duty for Nigeria. But without the likes of Favour Ofili (now a senior) and Imaobong Nse Uko (not in Cali), their team this year may not be quite as dominant as it was in 2021.
If any of the big three teams aren’t quite at their best, the likes of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Germany and Italy could capitalise.
In any 4x400m at any level, it’s hard to look past the strength in depth of the USA.
They will start as the favourites for the title in Cali, given their line-up includes three of the four fastest U20 athletes in the world this year, including world U20 leader Steven McElroy and the two men who followed him across the line at the US U20 Championships, Anthony Schwartzman and Charlie Bartholomew.
Jamaica may not have quite the same speed as the USA but they still have impressive depth and could thrive off chasing down the big favourites. Defending champions Botswana will be without their individual world U20 400m champion from last year, Anthony Pesela, but the team should still fare well.
Japan and South Africa have good 400m depth this year and could be a factor. The likes of Poland and Great Britain & Northern Ireland can never be discounted in a 4x400m either.
Nigeria won the inaugural mixed 4x400m at the World U20 Championships in Nairobi last year, holding off a strong challenge from Poland and India. All three teams are entered for Cali so will clash as they try to make it on to the podium again. A US team didn't race in Nairobi, but will be looking to make an impact this time around.
Jamaica surprisingly finished outside of the medals in Nairobi, but they have the potential to field the strongest team for Cali. As with every country, a lot will depend on team selection and which athletes will get rested for individual events or the men’s or women’s relays.
Brazil and Great Britain & Northern Ireland should also feature in the final. South Africa and Italy made the final last time so will be keen to at least match that performance in Cali.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics