The third edition of the IAAF/BTC World Relays did not disappoint, delivering two days of baton-bashing brilliance.
Here are some of the highlights from an incredible weekend in the Tommy Robbo.
Don’t drop the baton
It doesn’t matter how fast you are if you can’t get that baton round in one piece. Sometimes it’s not possible to get close enough to your teammate to even attempt to pass the damn thing.
The highest of high-profile casualties this weekend was USA in the women’s 4x100m. Lead runner Tianna Bartoletta got a mouthful of wet Mondo (it had been raining) before she made it to Jenna Prandini, dumping the Olympic champs out of the running and paving the way for a surprise German win.
Elsewhere, the Brits, Jamaicans, Dutch and Canadians all reminded us of the difficulty of executing a high-speed pass – and the enjoyment to be had for those watching when it all goes wrong.
That slip from Bartoletta meant the door to gold in the women’s 4x100m was left wide open. In waltzed Team Germany.
Rebekka Haase’s surname translates into English as rabbit (apparently). Running anchor, no one could chase her down as she held form to ensure her nation climbed to the top of the World Relays podium for the first time in history. None in the stadium were more surprised than the Germans themselves.
Three Golden Batons
That race was just a blip. The Americans dominated the weekend, winning a total of five golds, two silvers and a bronze.
It meant Team USA collected the Golden Baton for the third straight year. After picking up their prize the whole team partied into the sunset in the wake of the Junkanoo band.
Other nations will hope they party hard and wind up with a two-year hangover – that way they might have a chance of challenging in 2019.
More than a race
The men’s 4x800m featured an Athlete Refugee Team made up of Gai Nyang, Wiyual Puok, Dominic Lokinyomo and Paulo Amotun.
In training ahead of their race they were given a baton by the Belgians so they could practice exchanges, while other teams chipped in with warm-up and stretching advice.
During the race they received incredible support, everyone on their feet as Lokinyomo brought the baton home to provide a timely reminder that sometimes, taking part genuinely is what counts.
Wiyual’s words post-race say it all: “It was so amazing, and we are really happy about that. Thank you.”
Four by phenomenal
The closing event gave us something new: a mixed 4x400m relay. With teams free to choose the order of their runners, we saw the lead change hands between Team Bahamas and Team USA as male athletes came up against females. It was dizzying stuff.
All the madness came to a head on the last leg. USA’s Claudia Francis received the baton with a couple of seconds on home athlete Michael Mathieu, who duly charged her down and powered on to take the win.
The noise from the stands was incredible; rhythmic BOOMS from the crowd bellowed in time to the carnival beat of the Junkanoo band. A bonkers close that had everyone – this correspondent included – on their feet and BOOMing along with the locals.
Evolution of relay
Love it or hate it, #StrikeARelayPose is now a thing. This was evident ahead of the competition, where we spied teams practicing their entrances down at the beach.
Top marks to the Italian women’s 4x400m team. Their Relay Evolution pose started an evolution, soon mimicked by Team Poland and by Team SPIKES.
But the best of the weekend? Definitely Bahamas’ mixed 4x400m team, who paid homage to Shaunae Miller-Uibo’s iconic dive for Olympic 400m gold at Rio last year. The perfect balance of tongue and cheek.
Over to you, London.