USA's David Verburg in the 4x400m at the IAAF World Relays (© Getty Images)
A new addition to the programme for this year’s IAAF World Relays, the mixed 4x400m is set to bring the curtain down on Sunday night’s programme, and as anyone who has witnessed one of these races knows, it’s set to provide a delightfully chaotic climax.
The event was first staged at an IAAF event at the IAAF World Youth Championships Cali 2015, where the mixed-sex battle for the silver medal raised the roof inside the Pascual Guerrero stadium as Canada’s Kyra Constantine fought South Africa’s Kyle Appel all the way down the home straight on the final leg, the pair falling over the line together with Appel eventually given the verdict.
Back then, the US ran out comfortable winners, and with quarter-mile talent to burn in their ranks, it will come as a surprise if they fail to do so here. The race comes 78 minutes after the women’s 4x400m final, and just 34 minutes after the men’s race, so it will be fascinating to see if LaShawn Merritt, who is named in the US squad, chooses to compete twice.
If he does, they are justified favourites for the title, given Natasha Hastings, Phyllis Francis and David Verburg are also named in their squad.
However, if both Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo choose to run this final – both are named in the Bahamian mixed 4x400m squad – they should give the local fans cause for celebration at the end of the night in Nassau.
Both started the season in sparkling form, with Gardiner running a national 400m record of 44.26 earlier this month and Miller clocking a wind-aided (3.1m/s) 21.90 for 200m last weekend.
Jamaica, with Jaheel Hyde, Ristananna Tracey and Tiffany James in their ranks, are also likely to be in contention, while Poland, Kenya, Botswana, Australia and Trinidad and Tobago should fight out the minor placings.
Teams are given the freedom to line up in whichever order they choose, allowing for sizeable leads to develop – and indeed collapse – as the race progresses. It should make for a thrilling finale to an event that thrives on drama.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF