by RENALDO DORSETT
The final entry lists are in and just over a week remains before the biggest names in track and field descend on the Bahamas for the IAAF/BTC World Relays.
With each country fielding their top athletes to compete at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium May 2-3, the Local Organising Committee said it speaks volumes about the growth in prestige and magnitude of the event in just its second edition.
Jamaica’s contingent will be led by the world’s fastest man and record holder in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, Usain Bolt, whose official announcement to participate was followed by a spike in ticket sales.
The defending champions, United States, includes two of Bolts’ closest rivals, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay.
Yesterday, USA track and field announced a squad featuring 25 athletes who have won medals at global senior championships, including three of the four members of the world record women’s 4x100m team.
Others scheduled to compete at the the World Relays includes four-time Olympic gold medallists Allyson Felix and three-time Olympic medallist Carmelita Jeter.
Last year, the Americans reached the podium in seven of the 10 events, finished with five gold medals and was awarded the Golden Baton for the highest point total.
BAAAs President, CEO and Vice Chairman of the LOC, Mike Sands, said the field of the world’s best is a testament to the high regard the event holds in the global athletics community.
“Last year, the competition on the track was an integral part of the ‘Bahamazing experience’ that thrilled local spectators and left the international community in awe. It shows the magnitude and significance of the event. The eight finalists automatically qualify for the World Championship in Beijing in a few months time and also for the Olympic Games. At the end of the day, countries are recognising the importance of it and they have come to war with their armies and the best they have to offer,” he said, “Jamaica’s ‘A’ team is confirmed. Someone said to me ‘We hope you have some more money for some more world records,’ because they broke the world record in the 4×200 and that was without Usain Bolt. The top names from the United States will be here. Trinidad and Tobago actually pulled out of the Penn Relays this weekend, the grandaddy of all relays and the oldest relay meet in the world, they opted out to focus on their team performing well here next weekend.”
Team Kenya will be led by two-time 1,500m world champion Asbel Kiprop, 800m Olympic bronze medallist Timothy Kitum and 800m World Junior Champion Alfred Kipketer.
With the 4×1,500m relay replaced by the distance medley, it created some shift on the women’s side with no members of last year’s squad making the trip this time around.
In 2014, Team Kenya walked away from the two-day competition with a pair of new world records and wins in three of the four middle distance relays contested.
Not to be outdone, the Bahamas will put its best foot forward as hosts featuring some of the country’s most well known local athletes.
“There are a few names that are absent, but we are very pleased to say that the base of the men’s 4x400m, Chris Brown will be supported by the other Golden Knights and we are happy to say that on the women’s side, Shaunae Miller will lead team Bahamas after last year when an injury negated her participation,” Sands said, “Sometimes we as a country do not recognise the significant role we play in any event. hopefully this will incentive the Bahamian public to support because we all as a people should be proud of what we are producing as a world event.”
Last year, the top eight countries in both the men and women 4 x 100 and 4 x 400m relays qualified for this year’s World Championships in Beijing, China in August. Jamaica, Great Britain and Brazil were the only countries to qualify in all four relays.
The USA made it in three after the men’s 4 x 100m team got disqualified in the preliminaries. The Bahamas qualified in just the men’s 4 x 400m after taking second place behind the USA.
This year’s IAAF World Relays will serve as a qualifying competition for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Tickets for the event are on sale at the box office at the stadium. The gold tickets are priced at $65, silver at $45 and the bronze are $35. The general admission is $12 for adult and $7 for children under the age of 12. The event will be begin at 7pm each day.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Dr. Danny Johnson, said another successful hosting of the event is a win for the Bahamas both on and off the track.
“We are really making a bid to make the Bahamas the home for the World Relays. It means that everybody has to get involved now. We are trying to show the rest of the world how good we are at being the number one host in the world,” he said, “We have put our ‘Sports in Paradise” brand on the world stage and now all of us have to show people why it is better in the Bahamas. We are going to win in many ways. We will win from the airport, to the hotel, to the people they encounter, to the culture they will see, to the music on display and ultimately they will walk away and say ‘they were right, it is better in the Bahamas.”