With no outdoor World Championships or Olympics this year, the IAAF will introduce a new international event, the World Relays, this weekend.
The world’s greatest track nations — from sprinting to middle-distance running — convene in Nassau, Bahamas for events Saturday and Sunday. The World Relays are scheduled to remain in the Bahamas in 2015 and likely to go on a two-year cycle after that, according to Reuters.
The U.S. and Jamaica will be the anticipated head-to-head matchups in sprints. The Bahamas, Russia, Kenya and Ethiopia enter the mix as the distances rise to 4x1500m relays.
Universal Sports will have live TV coverage at 6:30 each night and online coverage at 6:15.
Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):
5:30 p.m. — Men’s 4x200m heats
5:49 — Women’s 4x100m heats
6:15 — Men’s 4x800m FINAL
6:40 — Women’s 4x400m heats
7:12 — Men’s 4x400m heats
7:45 — Women’s 4x1500m FINAL
8:16 — Men’s 4x200m FINAL
8:42 — Women’s 4x100m FINAL
5:30 p.m. — Women’s 4x200m heats
5:49 — Men’s 4x100m heats
6:26 — Women’s 4x400m FINAL
6:48 — Men’s 4x1500m FINAL
7:19 — Women’s 4X800m FINAL
7:52 — Men’s 4x400m FINAL
8:11 — Women’s 4x200m FINAL
8:37 — Men’s 4x100m FINAL
Here’s a look at each event:
Jamaica is the clear favorite here with a team that includes the reigning Olympic and world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and 2008 Olympic 100m silver medalist Kerron Stewart. In fact, it could field the same quartet that won the 2013 World Championship in a meet-record time.
The U.S. holds the world record in the 4x100m from the 2012 Olympics, but only Tianna Bartoletta returns from that team. Olympic sprint medalists Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter are among the Americans not in Nassau.
Likewise, Jamaica is a favorite in the men’s 4x100m, even without Usain Bolt, since the U.S. is missing its top sprinters from last year’s World Championships and Olympics. The Jamaicans boast three-quarters of their world-record team from the 2012 Olympics — Yohan Blake, Nesta Carter and Michael Frater.
The U.S. is without Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey, who went three-four-five in the 2012 Olympic 100m final. However, they return the fourth man from the Olympic 4x100m final silver-medal team, Trell Kimmons, and three-quarters of the 2013 World Championships final team that won silver — Mike Rodgers, Mookie Salaam and Charles Silmon. There’s also the rising Marvin Bracy, who won 60m silver at the World Indoor Championships in March.
Fraser-Pryce is also eligible for the 4x200m relay, and she says she’s focusing more on the half-lap distance this year after winning Olympic silver and World Championships gold the last two seasons. But the rest of the Jamaican 4x200m pool is not near her league (maybe nobody else in the world is, actually), giving the U.S. a chance.
Five different U.S. women made the Olympic and World Championships 200m finals over the last two years, but none of them are in the World Relays 4x200m pool. Still, the Americans boast reigning national champion Kimberlyn Duncan, proven veterans Bianca Knight and Shalonda Solomon and Tori Bowie, whose 22.57 this year is faster than any member of Jamaica’s pool who doesn’t have two hyphens in her name.
Jamaica must prove its depth here to beat the U.S., since Bolt is out and Blake is only in the 4x100m pool. That leaves Olympic bronze medalist and world silver medalist Warren Weir to carry the load, along with Nickel Ashmeade (fourth at worlds) and Jason Livermore (worlds semifinalist).
The U.S. put one man in the 200m final at each of the last three major outdoor championships. All of them are in the pool to challenge Jamaica — 2011 world silver medalist Walter Dix, 2012 Olympic fourth-place finisher Wallace Spearmon and 2013 world bronze medalist Curtis Mitchell.
This event has seen some close finishes between the U.S. and Russia over the last several years, but it shouldn’t be that way in Nassau.
The field is headlined by Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross, who is working her way back from injury. The U.S. pool also includes Olympic 400m bronze medalist DeeDee Trotter and Natasha Hastings and Jessica Beard from last year’s World Championships silver-medal team.
Russia brings back zero members of its 2013 World Championships gold-medal-winning team. That opens the door for Great Britain, with reigning world 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, and Jamaica.
This is the marquee event for the host nation, given the Bahamas won the Olympic 4x400m in London. Its entire team from London is back for this meet.
The U.S., a usual favorite in the 4x400m, boasts a group that includes reigning world 400m champion LaShawn Merritt and three-quarters of the team that won the 2013 World Championships final (which the Bahamas did not qualify for) and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor.
This is another event Russia is deep in, but the top Russians over the last few years are not entered. The U.S. put three women in the 2013 World Championships 800m final, and two of them are in Nassau — bronze medalist Brenda Martinez and sixth-place Ajee’ Wilson — as well as World Indoor 800m champion Chanelle Price.
The U.S.’ top competition could come from Kenya, which is better in longer distances but fields reigning world 800m champion Eunice Sum and 2012 Olympic finalist Janeth Jepkosgei.
None of the reigning Olympic or world 800m medalists are in Nassau, opening up the field a little bit. The U.S. is led by Duane Solomon, who was fourth in the epic London Olympic final and sixth at the World Championships.
Kenya, with Ferguson Cheruiyot, challenges the U.S. in overall depth, but it is missing world-record holder David Rudisha. Ethiopia is home to the reigning world champion, but it does not have a 4x800m team entered in Nassau.
The U.S. pool includes Morgan Uceny, who fell in the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympic 1500m finals, as well as the world 800m bronze medalist Martinez. It is missing 2011 world champion Jenny Simpson and the precocious Mary Cain.
Kenya looks like the favorite, with reigning world 1500m bronze medalist Hellen Obiri and the second fastest woman in the world last year, Faith Kipyegon.
Kenya is loaded here with three men who made both the Olympic and World Championships 1500m finals the last two years, including world champion Asbel Kiprop. Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat were the world’s two fastest men over 1500m in 2012 and are again so far this year.
Ethiopia has long been Kenya’s distance rival, and this is the only relay distance it is contesting. The U.S. team includes Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano but not world silver medalist Matthew Centrowitz.