Though the Bahamian quartet thrilled the crowd with a last-gasp third-place finish, in the end it was disappointment for the hosts in the heats of the men’s 4x400m in Nassau on Saturday night (22), and they weren’t the only victims of the stringent qualification criteria.
With only two to qualify automatically, the first heat saw Great Britain and Northern Ireland lead the way for the vast majority of the race, only to surrender victory approaching the line as France’s Thomas Jordier powered past Theo Campbell to win in 3:04.74.
Great Britain and Northern Ireland came home second in 3:05.19 to secure automatic qualification, with The Bahamas, anchored by world leader Steven Gardiner, raising the roof with a powerful final leg to take third in 3:05.37.
The 21-year-old Bahamian used every inch of his gargantuan stride to ease past Kevin Borlee in the final yards, the Belgians surprisingly having to settle for fourth in 3:05.45, but neither their time or that of The Bahamas (3:05.37) was enough to advance.
In the second heat, Trinidad and Tobago caused an upset, their anchor man Lalonde Gordon coming from several metres back to pass David Verburg of the US with just metres to run.
Trinidad and Tobago had led briefly after two legs, but Tony McQuay put the USA firmly in the ascendancy entering the final leg, though it was a lead they simply couldn’t protect. Trinidad and Tobago took the win in 3:02.51, the US second in 3:02.62, with Cuba advancing on time after their third-place finish in 3:04.97.
"I did a good job bringing it home," said Gordon. "Getting the win here means a better lane in the final tomorrow. It was important."
The third heat was a much more straightforward affair, with Botswana taking command from the outset and never relinquishing the lead. They were led off by Isaac Makwala, who handed over to Karabo Sibanda, leaving them in front of Jamaica at the halfway point.
That lead was consolidated by Onkabetse Nkobolo on the third leg, with young star Baboloki Thebe bringing them home to victory in 3:03.09. Jamaica was a close second in 3:03.52, with Brazil coming home third in 3:05.05, enough to see them through as non-automatic qualifiers.
"I think fighting for a medal is definitely possible," said Sibanda. "In Rio we were fifth and we didn't have everybody in the team. Now we are coming to full force so we can do it!"
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF