Column: About the IAAF World Relays in Yokohama

2019 / 02 / 21

The World Relays was established in 2014 with the aim of spreading the appeal of track and field and relay events to the world. The three past events in 2014, 2015 and 2017 were held in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. This article introduces each of the past events, including the fourth World Relays, which will be held in Japan.

Summary of the first three World Relays

The 1st: May 24th – 25th 2014

The inaugural World Relay consisted of 10 events, the men and women’s 4×100m, 4×200m, 4×400m, 4×800m, and 4×1500m. 576 athletes entered from 43 countries. In all, three world records were broken: in the men’s 4×200m (Jamaica: 1:18.13), men’s 4×1500m (Kenya: 14:22.22), and women’s 4×1500 m (Kenya: 16:33.58). The USA, which earned 60 points as well as winning five events, took home the Golden Baton, followed closely by Jamaica.

The 2nd: May 2nd – 3rd 2015

584 athletes took part from 42 countries. Men and women’s distance medley relays (1200m, 400m, 800m, 1600m) took the place of the men and women’s 4×1500m relays, for a total of 10 events. The USA set two new world records for both the men’s and women’s races (men’s: 9:15.50, women’s: 10:36.50), won seven events and gained a total of 63 points, earning them the Golden Baton for the second year running. Additionally, in what became the focus of the battle between the USA and Jamaica, Jamaica’s anchor and holder of the 100m and 200m world records, Usain Bolt, joined in the 4×100m relay. Jamaica finished a close second, unable to overcome the massive lead the USA took at the start (which won with 37:38, a new record for the games). Despite the loss, the crowd cheered the Jamaican superstar’s race with excitement.

The 3rd: April 22nd – 23rd 2017

This time with nine events in total, the Third World Relay included the mixed 4×400m relay, replacing the men and women’s distance medley from 2015. 35 countries entered with a total of 509 athletes. In the mixed 4×400m relay, the final event of the game, the local Bahamian team achieved their first victory at the 3:14.43 mark. The entire stadium went wild. Also, with the fact that the Olympics were held the previous year, the third World Relays saw rather subdued times across the board. The USA dominated the men’s 4×100m, 4×400m, 4×800m, the women’s 4×400m and 4×800m, and the mixed relay, scoring a total of 60 points and once again took home the Golden Baton for the third year in a row.

How will the fourth World Relays in Japan play out?

The relay event has always been popular in Japan, the host of the fourth World Relays.It gained widespread attention particularly during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when Japan won their long-awaited first medal (at the time it was a bronze medal, but it later moved up to silver in 2017 due to a doping violation on part of one of the leading nations).

Obtaining silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics and bronze at the 2017 World Championships in London, Japan has steadily gained in strength. Japan is currently fourth in the world records at 37.60. following Jamaica (36.84), the USA (37.38) and the UK (37.47).

Japan has competed in multiple events since the first World Relays. Japan has earned the right to appear at the 2015 World Championships in Athletics in Beijing after coming in fifth place at 38.40 in the men’s 4×100m in the first World Relays. Japan also entered the 2016 Rio Olympics by winning bronze in the men’s 4×100m in the second World Relays, following close behind the USA and Jamaica.

The fourth World Relays will be held at the International Stadium Yokohama, where the Japan National Championships – Relay Events has been held for many years in the past. This stadium is where Japan will vie for their first victory in the upcoming World Relays. The fourth World Relays would also be the fastest route to winning the 2019 World Championships in Doha, which would be the “ticket” to participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Whether it be in the men’s 4×400m (in which Japan has achieved a number of winning performances in past Olympics and world championships), or in both women’s relays (where Japan aims to make great strides in the upcoming Olympics), various efforts are under way to beat previous records at the next World Relays.

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11 - 12th May 2019