By Noel 'Bravo' Francis, Special to

This could be one of the best and most competitive events of the IAAF World Relays. Bahamas captured the 2012 London Olympic title in this event with a tremendous all-round effort. They were unfortunate at the IAAF 2013 World Championship when they failed to qualify for the final after resting their top quarter-milers in the first round.

This year the Bahamas quartet must be eager to perform before their home fans and provide them with a splendid gift. The Bahamian passion and pride that will emanate throughout this particular race will be unbelievable. The country has retained the winning quartet (Michael Mathieu, Demetrius Pinder, Chris Brown & Ramon Miller) from the 2012 London Olympics.

The same team warmed up for the World Relays with a dramatic victory at the Penn Relays in the 4x400m U.S.A versus the World. The team is planning to repeat that victory and dispel any doubts about their status as one of the top ranking national teams so far this season.

Despite the rapid decline of superstar Jeremy Wariner who has faded into obscurity, Team U.S.A still has several quality quarter-milers in their ranks. The U.S.A has been the dominant force in this event, winning five successive 4x400m World Championship titles since their disqualification in 2003. After suffering a shocking loss at the 2012 London Olympics, the U.S. bounced back to winning ways last year at the 2013 IAAF World Championship. Top quarter-miler LaShawn Merritt and his teammates will need to produce something special to deny the Bahamians on home soil on May 25, 2014.

The other Team U.S.A. relay pool members joining LaShawn Merritt in Nassau are Tony McQuay, David Verburg, Torrin Lawrence, Clayton Parros and the somewhat surprising selection of Olympic triple jump champion turn quarter-miler Christian Taylor. Taylor’s reward came because of his impressive run at the Drake Relays where he ran a personal best of 45.17 seconds against a quality field that included LaShawn Merritt, Kirani James, Luguelin Santos and Yousef Al-Masrahi. The notable absentees from Team US are three members from the 2014 World Indoor Championship gold medal team (Kyle Clemons, Kind Butler and Calvin Smith).

Clemons and Butler who also ran for Team U.S.A. at the 2014 Penn Relays (U.S. vs. World 4x400m) seem to have either lost form or fallen out of favour with the selectors. The U.S. 4x400m squad chosen will have a lot to prove in Bahamas, especially newcomer Christian Taylor who will not have the luxury of six attempts to get it right in this discipline.

Jamaica, the 4x400m silver medallist from the 2013 IAAF World Championships will miss the services of rising star Javon Francis who is recovering from an injury. Additionally, national record holder and promising quarter-miler Germaine Gonzales has not competed internationally for over a year, which is a major blow to Jamaica. Many track fans cannot forget Gonzales’ brilliant second leg in the 4x400m final at the 2011 World Championship.

Therefore, one can understand the frustration of the Jamaican track fans, as it is unclear to them if Gonzales is injured or retired. Looking ahead, the current athletes will have ‘many rivers to cross’ and need a fearless leader at this time to enforce a winning culture among the group. According to a JAAA release, the list of possible quarter-milers vying to make the Jamaican 4x400m squad should include Omar Johnson, Chumaine Fitten, Edino Steele, Dane Hyatt, Jermaine Brown and Rusheen McDonald. Although Jamaica will assemble a competent team, some observers feel it will struggle to win a medal, however, making the top eight and qualifying for the Beijing Games is the ultimate goal.

Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) fans would want to see their team return to their 2012 Olympic bronze medal form. The twin-island republic has some quality quarter-milers capable of challenging the top teams and winning a medal. The list includes 2012 double Olympic bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon, 2009 World Championship bronze medallist Renny Quow, Jereem Richards, Jarrin Solomon and Zwede Hewitt.

However, track fans are really looking forward to seeing young T&T star Machel Cedenio in action. Cedenio who seems ‘Ready for the road’ is poised to have a breakout season this year and play a major role in his country’s quest for glory in Bahamas. A notable absentee for the calypso country is Deon Lendore the 2014 NCAA Indoor Champion and the anchor runner on the Trinidad & Tobago 2012 4x400m bronze medal team. He is one of the fastest quarter-milers outdoors this year with 44.90 seconds. Lendore who attends Texas A & M University is unavailable at this time.

Great Britain & N.I., Belgium and Poland are three of the top European teams who could make this event very interesting. Of the three teams, Great Britain seems the most potent. Their squad of Dan Awde, Michael Bingham, Jamie Bowie, Nigel Levine, Martyn Rooney and Conrad Williams looks quite strong and could cause some anxious moments for their opponents. The 2013 World Championship bronze medallist Russia despite not having any superstars in their squad will be aiming to secure another podium spot. A classic final awaits track fans. The men’s 4x400m world record is 2:54.29 set by the U.S.A. in 1993.


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