USA leads the way with 4x100m heat wins at WRE Bahamas 24 | News | Bahamas 24

USA leads the way with 4x100m heat wins at WRE Bahamas 24 | News | Bahamas 24
USA leads the way with 4x100m heat wins at WRE Bahamas 24 | News | Bahamas 24

Both US teams made a statement in the first round of the 4x100m at the World Athletics Relays Bahamas 24 on Saturday (4), dominating their heats to storm into Sunday’s finals and – more importantly – secure their spots for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

With the top two teams in each of the four heats automatically qualifying for Paris, it was all to race for. Olympic hosts France also ensured they’ll have two teams on the start line in Paris, their men’s quartet clinching a heat win and their women’s team finishing runner-up to USA.

In the first round of the men’s competition, fans were treated to a clash between Olympic champions Italy and world champions USA. Courtney Lindsey started things off for USA and he handed the baton to Kenny Bednarek. He was Olympic 200m silver medalist against Olympic 100m champion in the second leg, as Bednarek went head-to-head with Marcell Jacobs.

Kyree King took over from Bednarek before Noah Lyles – the treble world champion – ran the anchor. As Lyles sprinted away, Filippo Tortu was left to chase him home as USA won in a world-leading 37.49, more than half a second ahead of Italy in 38.14. The 2019 World Relays winners Brazil finished third in 38.79.

Since the last World Athletics Relays in 2021 in Silesia, where Italy won the men’s 4x100m, there have been three major global titles on offer. Each was won by a different nation and the third of those victorious teams – 2022 world champions Canada – also finished on top in Nassau.

Anchored by Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse, Canada comfortably won the third heat, clocking 38.11, but there was a fierce battle for second spot. Australia had the advantage at the final handover but Jamaica’s Sandrey Davison came through to pip Joshua Azzopardi by just four thousandths of a second, with both teams clocking 38.50. It means Australia will be among the teams racing in Sunday’s ‘Olympic qualifying round 2’, where the top two teams in each heat will also qualify for Paris.

France didn’t seem satisfied to only secure their spot for the home Olympics – they wanted to do so in style. The team was up against 2017 world champions Great Britain in heat two and Aymeric Priam held off Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, who also brought the baton home during GB’s world title win, 38.32 to 38.36.

“We have been working on this for two years, so I am glad we achieved the qualification,” said Jeff Erius, France’s second leg runner. “All French teams have qualified so far. “It’s a great start.”

The fourth and final heat came down to a battle between Japan and China. While Japan led into the final leg, China had by far the smoother changeover, but as China’s Chen Jiapeng challenged, Japan’s Sota Miwa responded to win by 0.15 in 38.10.

Among those joining Brazil and Australia in fighting for Paris places again on Sunday will be Trinidad and Tobago, who finished third in heat two, and South Africa, third in heat four.

Paris place secured, USA eyes faster time in final

When it comes to the women’s 4x100m, either the United States or Jamaica had won at the previous three global championships. While world champions USA cruised through the first round in Nassau, Olympic champions Jamaica didn’t enjoy such a smooth ride and they will also be among the teams returning on Sunday to take another shot at Olympic qualification.

The US quartet of Tamari Davis, Gabby Thomas, Celera Barnes and Melissa Jefferson dominated from start to finish to win the first heat in 42.21.

USA’s 4x100m women celebrate their Olympic qualification (© Francesca Grana)

Davis got a strong start and she handed the baton to her world title-winning teammate Thomas, the individual Olympic and world 200m medalist, with a narrow lead. Thomas maintained the advantage and the team was unchallenged from there, as Barnes took over and then Jefferson brought them home to secure the first Olympic 4x100m place of the competition.

France were challenged by Nigeria in the closing stages, with a fast-finishing Tima Godbless chasing French anchor Mallory Leconte, but Leconte managed to hold on to claim the second qualification spot – 43.09 to 43.15.

“We came together and made it happen in such a short time,” said Thomas. “Tomorrow, I believe we will do better and can be faster.”

There was no hiding Poland’s delight following their heat two win. The team started well but China, Italy and Canada soon started to make their presence felt. At the final changeover, those four teams were pretty evenly matched and they ran in a row down the home straight. But Ewa Swoboda, Poland’s world indoor 60m silver medalist, proved the most poweful and she overcame her rivals to win in 42.81. Canada secured second in 42.98, 0.05 ahead of China, with 2021 winners Italy finishing fourth.

Germany won the women’s 4x100m when The Bahamas last hosted the World Athletics Relays in 2017 and seven years later they got their campaign off to a successful start. Two of the nation’s 2022 world bronze medal-winning team members – Rebekka Haase and Gina Luckenkemper – were on the team again this time and Haase crossed the finish line to win the third heat in 42.72.

While Australia’s men’s team missed out on an automatic qualifying spot for Paris by thousandths of a second, the women’s team clinched one by the same margin as Ebony Lane, Bree Masters, Ella Connolly and Torrie Lewis clocked an Oceanian record of 42.83 to deny Cote d ‘Ivoire by 0.003. That was despite a strong anchor leg from multiple global medalist Marie-Josee Ta Lou-Smith, that initially looked as though it may have been enough.

There were huge cheers as athletes took to the start line for the fourth and final heat, with world indoor 60m hurdles champion and world record-holder Devynne Charlton leading off for the host nation.

It was Liberia, through Ebony Morrison, that seemed to get the best start, but Great Britain soon looked in control. Asha Philip handed over to Imani Lansiquot before Bianca Williams took over. From there, it was down to Amy Hunt to get the baton home and she did so in the second-quickest time of the day – 42.33.

The Netherlands, anchored by Tasa Jiya, secured second in 42.88, finishing ahead of Liberia with a national record of 43.15.

The Bahamas, finishing fourth, will return to the track on Sunday for another shot at a Paris spot, along with teams such as heat one third-place finishers Nigeria, Jamaica and Ecuador, who ran a national record of 43.67 for fifth in their heat .

Jess Whittington for World Athletics

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