by RENALDO DORSETT
In 2014, Usain Bolt was the major storyline wen he opted out of the World Relays and Jamaica was still the prohibitive favourite. So imagine how heavy the weight of expectations became for the sprint capital of the world when Bolt announced that he was on board for 2015.
The defending gold medalists, who won in 37.77s were led by Yohan Blake and included Nesta Carter, Nickel Ashmeade and Julian Forte.
This year its Blake who is on the mend as Bolt steps in.
Despite the sudden withdrawals of Forte and Kemarley Brown, Bolt will be supported by a relay pool that includes Carter, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Andrew Fisher.
Their biggest challenge will come from a star studded field from the United States as the latest chapter in the heated rivalry continues.
The American team features three of the four silver medallists from the 2012 Olympics – Ryan Bailey, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay.
The team has been completely overhauled since the fiasco of last year when they were disqualified in the heats after a failed baton exchange.
Trinidad and Tobago will also contend for a spot on the medal podium once again after their silver medal finish last year.
T and T will be led by Keston Bledman, who has posted a world leading time of 10.01s in the century and Richard Thompson, the former Olympic and World Championship silver medalist who is tied for third on the IAAF top list in 10.03s.
Great Britain returns two members of its 2014 bronze medal winning team, Richard Kilty and James Ellington.
Team Bahamas’ will be without Shavez Hart who has posted the no.9 time this year, but its interesting roster includes ‘Golden Knight’ Demetrius Pinder, coming down from his signature event to compete in the 4x100m.
The relay pool also includes Blake Bartlett, Deneko Brown, Alfred Higgs, Shane Jones and recent CARIFTA medalist Javan Martin.
The Jamaicans set a new world record in 2014 and again that team will swap out Blake for Bolt as its anchor.
Blake was joined by Nickel Ashmeade, Jermaine Brown and reigning 200m World Championships silver medallist and Olympic bronze medallist, Warren Weir to run 1:18.63.
The Ashmeade, Brown, Weir trio will be joined by Bolt, Rasheed Dwyer and Jason Livermore in the relay pool.
Again, the biggest challenge will come from the United States and just like the 4x100m team, they come into the meet looking for redemption after a faulty baton exchange left them disqualified in 2014.
The American team will feature Gatlin and Bailey looking for the double, teaming up with veteran half-lapper Wallace Spearmon.
The remainder of the relay pool includes Curtis Mitchell, Joseph Morris and Justin Walker.
St. Kitts and Nevis took full advantage of last year’s foul-up by the USA and finished in second place.
They return the same quartet of Antoine Adams, Lestrod Roland, Brijesh Lawrence and Allistar Clarke, who finished in a national record time of 1:20.51s.
France, the bronze medallists, will return two members of last year’s team, Christophe Lemaitre and Ben Bassaw, who set an area record in 1:20.56s.
Trinidad and Tobago opted not to compete in the event last year, but has a team that should contend for a spot on the medal podium.
T and T’s pool will include Bledman, Thompson, Emmanuel Callender and Rondel Sorrillo.
The Bahamas will be led by Pinder, Bartlett, Brown, Higgs Trevorvano Mackey and Andretti Bain.
Favourite: UNITED STATES
Even at full strength, it’s always a back and forth battle between the USA and the Bahamas, but that task will be even more difficult for the home team without Pinder in the lineup for the Golden Knights.
Last year the Golden Knights were without Ramon Miller for the final, but Latoy Williams did an incredible job filling in as the team finished second in 2:57.99s.
The Americans took first place in 2:57.25s as LaShawn Merritt outlasted Michael Mathieu down the homestretch.
Chris Brown, Williams, Miller and Mathieu will be joined by Moore’s Island sensation Steven Gardiner and Florida State’s Alonzo Russell.
Brown has posted the No.5 fastest time in the individual event this year with a time of 44.76s while Gardiner posted the second fastest time of any Bahamian quarter miler in 45.24s.
Mathieu is ranked at No.19 at 45.33s.
Last year Merrit was joined by David Verburg, Tony McQuay and Christian Taylor.
Merrit, McQuay and Verburg will return this year, joined by Brycen Spratling and the re-emergence of 2004 400m Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner.
Trinidad and Tobago finished with the bronze last year with the team of Lalonde Gordon, Renny Quow, Machel Cedenio and Jarrin Solomon ran a national record of 2:58.34s.
Belgium will field the trio of Borlee brothers, well known twins Johnathan and Kevin alongside younger brother Dylan who took the 400m silver medal at the European Indoor Championships in March.
Team Kenya will be led by 800m Olympic bronze medallist Timothy Kitum and 800m World Junior Champion Alfred Kipketer.
Kipketer is the only remaining member from a team that just narrowly outlasted Poland when he finished just ahead of Adam Kszczot at the line.
Kitum and Kipketer will be joined by Bernard Kipyegon, Jeremiah Mutai, and Nicholas Kiplangat Kipkoech.
A rich history in the event, Kenya currently holds the world record in a time of 7:02.43s, set in Brussels in 2006.
The turnover may just be the edge Poland needs to win the gold medal this time around led by Kszczot, the European 800m champion and running mate Marcin Lewandowski who took the European 800m indoor title.
Team Poland will also include Karol Konieczny, a member of last year’s silver medal winners along with Kamil Gurdak and Mateus Demczyszak,
The USA will also contend with three members from last years bronze medal team set to return – Duane Solomon, Brandon Johnson and Robby Andrews.
The field will be chasing the mark set by Kenya in 2006 in a world record time of 9:15.56s.
Team Kenya will be led by two-time 1,500m world champion Asbel Kiprop, who is likely to bring the baton home in the race which includes 1,200m, 400m, 800m and 1,600m legs in that order.
The remainder of the squad includes Ferguson Rotich who won 4x800m gold at the World Relays last year, Timothy Cheruiyot, Joseph Loshangar, and Abednego Miti.
Poland will once again challenge with Kszczot and Lewandowski leading the team while Australia will field a team that includes world leader in the 1500m, Ryan Gregson.
Favourite: UNITED STATES
The American women dominated the sprints and despite fielding a little known team, they easily finished the the gold medal in 2014.
Tianna Bartoletta, Alexandria Anderson, Jeneba Tarmoh and LaKeisha Lawson finished in 41.88s.
Bartoletta and Tarmoh will be joined by two of the biggest names in track and field, four-time Olympic gold medallists Allyson Felix and three-time Olympic medalist Carmelita Jeter.
The squad now includes three of the four members of the world record women’s 4x100m team from the 2012 Olympics.
This will be the first time the trio has run the event together since the record setting London 2012 race.
Jamaica’s gold medal chances took a major hit in the 11th hour with the withdrawal of nine members of its team.
Perhaps the squad to be most effected by that news was the women’s 4x100m team.
The team lost current 100m world leader Elaine Thompson and Commonwealth Games bronze medal winner Janieve Russell.
Jamaica will be led by seven time Oylmpic medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown.
The remainder of the relay pool includes Kerron Stewart, Simone Facey, Natasha Morrison and Christina Williams.
Morrison has posted the No.14 time in the world at 11.17s while Williams is ranked at No.17 in 11.18s.
Stewart is the only member in the field to compete at last year’s world relays.
Trinidad and Tobago should also emerge as a top challenger for a medal as they return all from members from the team that won bronze in 2014.
They will be the only team to field two members that have broken the sub 11s mark this season in
Michelle-Lee Ahye (10.97s) and Kelly-Ann Baptiste (10.98s).
Great Britain are the European champions and twice broke the national record in 2014, ending the year as the third-fastest team in the world. All but one of the athletes who featured on those teams will be in Nassau, looking to improve on their fifth-place finish from last year.
Team Bahamas’ team will include three time Olympic and five time World Championship medallist Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, V’Alonee Robinson, Krystal Bodie, Adanca Brown and Tayla Carter alongside junior athlete Brianne Bethel.
Favourite: UNITED STATES
When you return three quarters of the team that took gold at last year’s world relays then you have to come in as the prohibitive favourite to repeat.
Shalonda Solomon, Tawanna Meadows and Kimberlyn Duncan will all be back to defend their title on a team that took gold in 1:29.45s.
While Bianca Knight is not in the lineup, they will be joined by world junior 200m champion Kaylin Whitney, No.3 in the world Candyce McGrone (22.56 – SB) and No.9 ChaRonda Williams (22.76s – SB).
Jamaica bolstered their hopes to snatch the gold from the United States with the addition of Campbell-Brown, only the second woman in history to win back-to-back 200m Olympic gold medals.
She will partner with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who anchored last year’s team to a bronze medal and new Jamaican national record in 1:30.04s.
A complete overhaul to last year’s roster, “Pocket Rocket” will be the only returning member from last year’s team to run in the final.
The remainder of the team Jamaica pool includes Schillnie Calvert, Samantha Henry-Robinson, Sherone Simpson and Shericka Williams.
This race also presents perhaps the best opportunity for the Bahamas to medal outside of the men’s 4x400m relay.
The Bahamas will be led by Shaunae Miller and Anthonique Strachan, both former world junior champions who have posted two of the top 15 times in the 200m this season.
Miller will be making her debut in the event after sitting out with an injury last year, and comes in with the second fastest time on the top list at 22.50s.
Strachan, an Olympian in her signature event, has run 22.89s this season, tied at No.14 on the top list.
They will be joined by Sheniqua Ferguson, Lanece Clarke, Adanca Brown and Brianne Bethel.
In 2014, the team of Ferguson, Strachan, Nivea Smith and Cache Armbrister ran a national record of 1:31.31 for fourth place
Favourite: UNITED STATES
A team filled with champions will be led once again by reigning Olympic gold medalist, Sanya Richards-Ross.
The United States will return three of the four athletes which cruised to a gold medal at last year’s meet in 3:21.73s.
The American relay pool will also include world indoor champion Francena McCorory, who posted a world leading time of 50.13s in the 400m this season.
Richards-Ross has posted the No.4 time in 51.09s and Natasha Hastings comes in at No.8 in a time of 51.25s, giving the team three of the top ten 400m times in the world this season.
With Shericka jackson’s withdrawal, Jamaica will definitely not be able to field its strongest unit, which could leave the door open for Nigeria to step up and challenge the United States.
Jamaica will still have veteran quarter miler Novlene Williams-Mills and Anastasia Le-Roy who were apart of the silver medal winners last year.
Janieve Russell has also posted the No.15 time on the IAAF top list this season.
Nigeria finished third last year, led by No.16 Regina George, who ran the fastest split during the 4x400m final last year.
Team Bahamas will be led by Christine Amertil, Lanece Clarke and a host of junior athletes including recent CARIFTA medallist Shaquania Dorsett, Brianca Farrington, D’Nia Freeman and Katrina Seymour.
Glaring omissions from the 2015 team include heroes from last year, Brenda Martinez and Ajee Wilson, but the Americans remain the most talented group in the field.
While Wilson is the world leader (2:00.03s) and Martinez is second (2:00.51s) the United States will still bring in four of the top 10 times at 800m this season.
Chanelle Price is the only carry over from 2014 and comes in with the third fastest time in the world at 2:00.62s.
Maggie Vessey will make her world relays debut with the No.5 time on the top list at 2:01.58s and will be joined by Molly Beckwith-Ludlow (2:01.72s – No.8) and Alysia Johnson Montano (2:01.78s – No.9).
Poland will feature world indoor silver medallist Angelika Cichoka, European junior silver medallist Sofia Ennaoui and 2013 European indoor 1500m bronze medallist Katarzyna Broniatowska.
Kenya, silver medal winners last year will field a completely new squad featuring Annet Mwanzi, Sheila Chesang, Eglay Nalianya, Sylvia Cherop and Purity Cherotich.
Favourite: UNITED STATES
The Americans will feature 800m world leader and US champion Ajee Wilson, 2009 world bronze medallist Shannon Rowbury, 2014 US indoor 3000m champion Gabriele Grunewald and multiple US 1500m champion Treniere Moser.
Poland will field virtually the same team from the 4x800m while Kenya’s team will feature This year’s medley team will include Selah Jepleting, Sylvia Chesebe, Virginia Nyambura and Joyce Zachary