The three leading nations in running shared victories on the first night of the debut of the IAAF World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas, on Saturday.
Three-time Olympic medalist Yohan Blake anchored Jamaica to victory in the 4x200m relay, breaking the world record held by a U.S. quartet that included Carl Lewis. The Jamaicans, without Usain Bolt, clocked 1 minute, 18.63 seconds, .05 better than the 20-year-old mark.
The U.S. botched its second baton exchange, anchor Wallace Spearmon crossed the finish line third, and the Americans were then disqualified, surely for that second exchange being out of the zone.
The U.S. got its only win in the night’s finale, the women’s 4x100m. A team of Tianna Madison, Alexandria Anderson, Jeneba Tarmoh and Lekeisha Lawson clocked 41.88 seconds, .4 of a second ahead of Jamaica.
Tarmoh, who tied for third in the 100m at the 2012 Olympic Trials and pulled out of a potential runoff, gave the U.S. a lead going into the final leg. That lead became insurmountable when Jamaica had a poor final handoff. The Jamaicans did not use Olympic and world 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the relay. Fraser-Pryce pulled out of a meet in Shanghai on Sunday with a shin injury, according to Agence France-Presse.
Kenya won the meet’s first two finals, the men’s 4x800m and the women’s 4x1500m, the latter shattering the world record by 32 seconds.
The men prevailed despite being without Olympic gold medalist David Rudisha, the Olympic bronze medalist and its fastest 800m runner this year. The Kenyans clocked 7:08.40, nearly six seconds off the world record (set by Kenya in 2006).
Poland passed U.S. anchor Duane Solomon (fourth at the Olympics) for second place. Kenya held nearly a five-second lead going into the final leg. Poland and the U.S. almost erased it all, finishing within six tenths of the champions. The U.S. was missing world bronze medalist Nick Symmonds, who will also sit out next week’s Pre Classic with a knee injury.
The Kenyan women smashed the 4x1500m world record, set by Kenya in April, clocking 16:33.58 with world 1500m bronze medalist Hellen Obiri on anchor. The U.S. took second in 16:55.33, also better than the previous world record. The Americans lost any hope of challenging Kenya with a fall on the first baton exchange.
The U.S. advanced into both 4x400m finals Sunday. Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross and triple jump champion Christian Taylor led the quartets in preliminary heats Saturday.
The women’s top competition will be Jamaica and Great Britain since Russia, which won the 2013 World Championship, did not start Saturday. The U.S. men, which could add Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt for the final, figure to be challenged by the Olympic 4x400m champion Bahamas on Sunday.
The World Relays conclude with the men’s and women’s 4x400m, men’s 4x1500m, women’s 4x800m, women’s 4x200m and men’s 4x100m finals on Sunday.