Nigeria, who have never finished higher than fifth in this event at the IAAF World Championships, emerged as a potential medal contender on Saturday morning’s heats after an assured and emphatic win in the first of two heats.
Carline Muir ran a strong first leg to give Canada the lead at the first changeover but once the stagger had unwound on the second leg, the combination of Funke Oladoye, Tosin Adeloye and Patience Okon George brought Nigeria home in a time of 3:23:27.
The Nigerians will probably need to break their national record of 3:21.04, set at the 1996 Olympics, if they are to stand on the podium but look like they have the personnel to achieve those golas.
Behind them, pre-arce favourites Jamaica and Russia filled the other two automatic qualifying spots, with 3:23.62 and 3:23.75 respectively, closing on George in the closing stages of the race but Nigeria had too much in Hand to be denied the victory.
Canada drifted back on the final two legs but did secure their place in Sunday’s final as a fastets non-automatic qualifier with 3:26.14.
In the second heat, gold medal favourites USA looked in fine form and won almost as they pleased in 3:23.05, with Phyllis Francis going into the lead almost from the gun and then the rest of the team just consolidating the lead.
Former world champion Sanya Richards-Ross, just as she had done at the IAAF World Relays in May, proved to be the star turn and contributed an outstanding third leg which put daylight between the Americans and their nearest rivals.
With individual 400m winner Allyson Felix expected to come into the team for the final, a shake up of the team that won the heat – Phyllis Francis, Jessica Beard, Richards-Ross and Francena McCorory – is expected, but whoever they field they will start as most people’s choice to take the title, just as they have done at four of the last six world championships.
Behind them, Great Britain came home in a season’s best of 3:23.90 and France followed in third to qualify automatically for the final while Ukraine also progressed as a non-automatic qualifier after finishing fourth in 3:26.01, Olha Lyakhova running a solitary final leg but keeping her focus to take her team through.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF