Steven Gardiner hands the baton to Shaunae Miller-Uibo during the mixed 4x400m at the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2017 (© Getty Images)
Updated 13 Feb 2019
Leading international athletes have welcomed the addition of two exciting new events to the programme for the IAAF World Relays Yokohama 2019.
A mixed 2x2x400m relay and mixed shuttle hurdles relay have been added to the programme of events. Joining the men's and women's 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m and the mixed 4x400m, it means there will now be three men's events, three women's events and three mixed events being contested on the weekend of 11-12 May.
The mixed shuttle hurdles event is a completely new addition to the World Relays programme. Usually held as a single-sex race, the event in Yokohama will feature two men and two women on each team, running 110m legs.
The relay will begin with the women running their standard 100m hurdles race from the finish line towards the traditional start, but running an extra 10 metres at the end of their leg to account for the extra distance.
They will then change over to the first man on the team who will run 110m back up the straight in the adjacent lane and then change over to the second woman, and so on.
“I’m excited that the hurdles can be part of a relay,” said world 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson. “I always enjoy participating in the traditional relays and now that my own event can be incorporated into a team event, it makes the World Relays even more enticing!
“I’m still on the comeback trail from my achilles injury that ruled me out of the Commonwealth Games last year and so I haven’t decided when I’ll make my return yet,” added the 2012 Olympic champion. “It all depends on what the body decides. If I can make the IAAF World Relays a part of my pre-World Championships schedule, I’ll be one excited athlete – especially now that the hurdles is featuring!”
US indoor champion Sharika Nelvis is excited by the prospect of being able to compete at the World Relays.
“This is super great news,” said Nelvis. “I’ve always wanted to be in a shuttle hurdles relay. Hopefully this opens the door to it being in the Olympics one day in the future, but it being at the World Relays is a great start. And it should be fun!”
European champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde also backs the new additions.
“I’ve always been a little envious because I could never take part in a sprint relay,” said the French sprint hurdler. “But now that the IAAF is introducing the shuttle hurdles relay, the world is in for a great show. It’s going to be fantastic and you can count on me!”
The mixed 2x2x400m, designed for middle distance specialists, requires both members of the team to run two 400m legs of a relay. As with the mixed 4x400m, each team can choose to start with a man or the woman. The athletes then take it in turns to run their two legs of the relay.
Inspired by a mixed relay event introduced to biathlon in recent years, the 2x2x400m replaces the 4x800m relay, which proved to have limited appeal at previous editions of the World Relays.
“I like the idea of this relay because it’s comparable to the 800m,” said European 800m champion Adam Kszczot. “I love it actually.
“I like the fact that both men and women get to compete together,” he added. “I was speaking to Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, who won the European 400m gold and 4x400m gold in a short space of time. This relay is quite similar to what she did and we would both love to be involved.”
USA’s world indoor finalist Raevyn Rogers feels it will be an attractive prospect for both 400m and 800m runners.
“This relay will really highlight the talent of being a middle-distance runner,” she said. “Being a mixed relay makes it more exciting because essentially you’ll have the best runner in each event, whether it’s a top female or male 800m runner or 400m runner.”
IAAF President Sebastian Coe is excited to see how the new events will unfold in Yokohama.
"The IAAF World Relays is our youngest World Athletics Series event and it was designed to be fun for our athletes and fans so it's the perfect place to try new formats," said Coe. "I’ve been championing innovation in our sport since I took the reins so it’s great to see the addition of a dynamic relay that will showcase our sprint hurdlers and I’ll be fascinated to see how the mixed 2x2x400m relay unfolds as a new endurance event that has never been tried before in athletics. I’m sure that both will contribute to the youthful, energetic atmosphere of the event, which we’re confident will be a resounding success in our new host city Yokohama in May."