By Robert Taylor, Special to Trackalerts.Com
The 2015 IAAF World Relays was uneven in my view. Russia and Ethiopia did not send a team while Kenya sends a watered down team. To see Kenya coming last in a 4x800m race with Jamaica fielding a team finishing in front of Kenya explains it best. I am not saying the Jamaican team was not a worthy opponent, I am saying that at this point in track and field development, neither Jamaica male or female athletes are in the class of the Kenyan 800m elite runners.
The US dominated the victory stand with some excellent performances. Their female 4x400m team was in great form with Jamaica coming a credible second. For example, Sanya Richards was reported to have run a 48.7 leg. This is unusual to see an athlete running this fast at such an early juncture of the season. The way the US team performed without Allyson Felix, I am tempted to believe this will be another year of the Jamaican female 4x400m team playing the bridesmaid role.
The US males won the 4x100m and a hefty celebration ensued. I guess after a drought starting 2008, anything would be worthwhile celebrating. Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay seem to be in superb form and if Jamaica does not take notice they could be left lamenting in August at the World Championships. My expectation is that Jamaica will come stronger the next time around. To be fair, so will the US. The next time around I believe it will be a lot closer race at the very least.
It was hard for me to take a lot from most of relays, except to say the US female and male 4x400m teams will be difficult to beat and in the male sprinting, the same old horses will be leading the way. Bolt, Asafa, Gatlin and Gay seem to be the ones who will be dictating the medal situation. I do not know what to say about Yohan Blake at this time because of the two years’ season-ending injuries.
The usual challenger in the 4x400m, Bahamas and a mostly young and rising Trinidad & Tobago team should be in the mix seeking to dethrone the US. Jamaica seems to be at least 1 year away from a serious challenge for a medal or top place. The young quarter milers Jamaica have should need a little more time for senior maturity. European countries like Sweden, Great Britain and possible Poland and Russia should be competing for the minor medal spots.
The women 4x100m was and has been between Jamaica and the US for some time now except in 2008 when both teams did not finish because of one reason or another. Trinidad & Tobago with the rising star, if not already a star, Michelle-lee Ahye, along with Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Semoy Hackett and if they can find a credible fourth runner, could form a quality team to make it a three way clash. The Bahamas I think need a year or two before their female sprinters are developed enough to field a quality 4x100m team.
The Relays once again showed the depth of the US track & field team. They are the only country to field quality teams in all events. Fortunately or unfortunately depends on one’s perspective, countries like Jamaica, Kenya and Ethiopia concentrate on areas where they have comparative and competitive advantage. Thus, while the US dominated, they will find stiff competition in all races ranging from 100m through marathon and all relays. It is quite possible the US wins in the World Championship will be few and far between.
The just completed event, serves an excellent purpose, in that it provides additional competition for athletes and entertainment for the fans. Importantly, additional earning potential for athletes is accomplished. I believe more could be accomplished if the timing were later in the year. It takes place much too early in the athletic season, so depending on the athletes training schedule; they will either miss the meet or will turn up far from peak condition. This is compounded by the fact that 2015 is a World Championship year. Like the Olympics, it is athletics biggest competition. Thus, the athletes will have no problem sacrificing the Relays for the two major meets. The only solution I think is to have them later in the season where athletes are in superb condition and then the meet will be used for fine tuning of relay teams and races for athletes who need races before the big one.
In the off years, having the Relays during the time athletes are at or close to peak, will have better times and even world records that fans view as significant. This will improve the image of the event. An improved image is important in more ways than one. Then, we will see the top athletes coming in peak condition, with more fans turning up at the stadium and bigger television rights fees. This can bring in more money for the IAAF, athletes and Bahamas, the host country.
I know some deference is given to the Diamond League but the Relays happening at the right time of the year, will only help the sport of athletics. I have come to realize that not only fans but people on a whole, love top quality in all things of life over all else.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, trackalerts.com.