Men’s 4x800m

One of the great things about this year’s IAAF World Relays is that it will give the middle distance runners a great opportunity to be in the spotlight just like the sprinters. This 4x800m event will be the first of two straight finals on the opening day. Some fans are thankful there are no preliminary rounds in the events that go beyond one lap.

An important fact concerning this event states if the final number of entries requires the running of more than one heat, then the final placing will be determined by time. In other words a time final will decide.

Kenya has been preparing intensely for the IAAF World Relays by hosting a series of relay qualification meets around the country between March and April as well as a national trial. Kenya is perhaps the most suited of the African countries to seize control of the middle distance relays, as they possess several of the world’s best athletes ranging from 800m and beyond.

The East African country is the proud record holder of both the men’s 4x800m (7:02.43) and 4x1500m (14:36.23). The Kenyans are determined to protect their legacy and have selected a very strong men’s 4x800m squad for the World Relays (Alfred Kipketer, Job Kinyor, Ferguson Rotich, Sammy Kirongo and Nicholas Kiplagat).

However, a notable absentee from the Kenyan team will be David Rudisha the Olympic Champion and world record-holder at 800m (1:40.91). Rudisha who missed most of last season due to injury is set to open his season in the same city where it ended last year at the New York Diamond League. Another athlete who will be missing from the World Relays is Rudisha’s compatriot and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Timothy Kitum whose form has dipped considerably.

Over the last few years, the U.S.A. has had some very good 800m runners plying their trade on the Diamond League circuit. While some observers feel Team U.S.A does not have the firepower to topple the Kenyans, an interesting tussle should ensue between both countries. With Kenya’s David Rudisha not participating, some persons are of the view that this 4x800m final will be a lot closer because the Kenyans will not be at full strength.

However, the Americans will be missing a few stars as well in 2013 World Championship silver medallist Nick Symmonds and U.S Indoor Champion Erik Sowinski who ran 1:44.58 seconds outdoor in April. 

Duane Solomon Jnr, the 2013 American champion, has been showing good early season form and clocked a fast 1:43.88 at a meet in April. He along with Brandon Johnson, Robby Andrews, Michael Rutt and Mark Wieczorek complete the U.S.A. 4X800m squad. This squad, despite the absence of Symmonds and Sowinski should run well and claim a podium spot. This is shaping up to be a very exciting race.

Women’s 4x800m

Some observers feel that competition among the women in the 4x800m will be a lot closer than that of the men. If this theory holds true then track fans will witness riveting action throughout the event. The Kenyan women did not produce any intimidating times at the trials; however, the squad remains confident of winning gold in Bahamas.

Reigning World champion Eunice Sum and 2007 World champion Janeth Jepkosgei leads a talented set of runners that include former World Youth champion Cherono Koech, Sylvia Chesebe, Miriam Chepkemoi and Agatha Jeruto. Eunice Sum like most of the Kenyans giving interviews has ambitions of breaking the World Record in this event.

However, it is my view that with the absence of Pamela Jelimo, the only record the current Kenyan team can break is their own national record of 8:07.58; the women’s 4x800m world record of 7:50.17 should remain intact.

Team U.S.A. is one of the teams who many observers consider could make the Kenyans produce some extra sweat on their way to victory. Some of America’s top performers emerging over the last two years are World Championship bronze medallist Brenda Martinez, Alysia Montano, Ajee Wilson, Laura Roesler, Amy Weissenbach and Chanelle Price. Price is the 2014 World Indoor Champion at 800m and followed up that performance at the Doha Diamond League with a personal best run of 1:59.75.

The American five-member squad chosen for the World Relays includes Martinez, Wilson, Price along with Geena Gall-Lara and Charlene Lipsey. Based on the circumstances this was probably the best available group. With no major global championship scheduled this year, some athletes have wisely used the time to explore other important areas of their life and start a family.

Therefore, congratulations are in order for America’s 800m national champion Alysia Montano, who made this tactical move and should give birth in August this year. The scheduling of the World Relays in May could have played a part in the omission of two of the U.S.A’s most exciting teenagers in Mary Cain and Olivia Baker both still attending high school. The versatile Cain is excellent at 800m and 1500m and was a finalist at the 2013 World Championship.

Baker’s claim to fame came at the Penn Relays with two stunning anchor legs in 2013 and 2014. This year she produced the fastest ever 800m split (2:02.55) in the 4x800m Championship of America final for high school girls. Despite her youth, Baker is an excellent relay runner who would not be out of her league against some of the seniors. 

A few Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago will be using the World Relays to give their upcoming middle distance runners international exposure. It will be a big moment for these athletes and it is hoped that the valuable lessons learnt will be manifested in the near future.

Last year Russia had three of the world’s best 800m runners in Ekaterina Poistogova, Mariya Savinova and Elena Kotulskaya. Savinova won the 2011 World Championship title and was runner-up last year. She is also the 2012 Olympic Champion. It could be very interesting if Russia can find another competent athlete to complete the team.

Another team that could spring a surprise is Australia. They have at least four runners capable of running 2:02.00 splits or faster. The squad of Zoe Buckman, Kelly Hetherington, Brittany McGowan, Selma Kajan, Heidi Gregson and Bridey Delaney will not be playing the role of rabbit, instead they should be in the mix challenging for a medal. The team tactics employed in this event could be one of the deciding factors.


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