11th May 2019


History will be made at the IAAF World Relays in Yokohama this weekend as Great Britain & Northern Ireland compete in not just the men’s and women’s 4x100m and 4x400m but the mixed 4x400m for the first time ever internationally.

Introduced to the IAAF World Championships schedule for Doha later this year for the first time and also the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, British athletes will break new ground in lining up in the mixed 4x400m at the Nissan Stadium.

The British quartet has been drawn in the second of three heats at 21:31 Japan / 13:31 UK time with China and Kazakhstan with the first two in each heat and the next two fastest losers set to qualify for the eight-strong final on Sunday.

The 14 athletes selected across the men’s and women’s 4x400m are the athletes from which the team for the mixed 4x400m will be selected. Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey; Christine Bowmaker) is one of them and, of the mixed 4x400m relay, she said: “It’s refreshing. We’re so used to the usual 4x400m, I’ve run so many I can’t even count how many I have done. It’s nice to mix it up, spice up the World Relays and I think it will be really interesting.”

The IAAF World Relays hold added importance in acting as a qualifying route for teams for the IAAF World Championships in Doha. The top 12 in the mixed 4x400m will be guaranteed a run in Qatar while the top ten in the men’s and women’s 4x100m and 4x400m will earn a place.

In total 26 athletes have been selected onto the British team with 72 major international outdoor medals between them across Olympic, world and European level. This includes six Olympic, 16 World Championship and 20 European Championship medallists.

The British men’s 4x100m team have been drawn in heat one at 21:00 Japan / 13:00 UK time and consist of world champions Adam Gemili (Blackheath & Bromley; Rana Reider), Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Newham & Essex Beagles; Lance Brauman) and CJ Ujah (Enfield & Haringey; Jonas Dodoo).

They’re joined by fellow European champion from 2018 Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Sutton & District; Benke Blomkvist), two-time world indoor champion Richard Kilty (Middlesbrough Mandale; Blomkvist) and Sam Gordon (Cardiff; Matt Elias), who competed at the Athletics World Cup last summer.

Gemili said: “It feels the same as when I was 18-years-old and I made my first team, it is so special, to go out there and get the opportunity to run, I can’t wait. I love team sports, I come from football, which was many moons ago, but I love that team atmosphere and we are going to come together and hopefully do well.”

In both 4x100m events, the top two from each of the three heats and the next two fastest losers will proceed to the final. The British women’s 4x100m team will go off in heat two of three at 20:21 Japan / 12:21 UK time and are stacked with success.

Olympic bronze medallists from 2016 and world silver medallists from 2017 Desiree Henry (Enfield & Haringey; Brauman), Daryll Neita (Shaftesbury Barnet; Dodoo) and Asha Philip (Newham & Essex Beagles; Steve Fudge) are joined by European champion from 2018 Bianca Williams (Enfield & Haringey; Lloyd Cowan), European champion from 2014 Ashleigh Nelson (City of Stoke; Michael Afilaka) and double world junior bronze medallist Kristal Awuah (Herne Hill; Matthew Thomas).

Henry said: “There’s been a consistency throughout the years. At every major championship we have come away with a medal. It is seen that Great Britain & Northern Ireland are contenders, it is a great feeling. We are confident among ourselves as a team. The average age of the team is 22-23, which some people maty think is quite young but when a female athlete can retire by the age of 30, it is like ‘why waste any time?’  let’s just go for it now”

The British women’s 4x400m team will have the honour of being the first Brits to compete in Yokohama when they go in the first of three heats at 19:05 Japan / 11:05 UK time, the top two from each and the next two fastest losers again advancing.

Emily Diamond (Bristol & West; Blomkvist) and Anyika Onuora (Liverpool; Blomkvist) both have Olympic bronze medals from 2016 and earn selection alongside Finette Agyapong (Newham & Essex Beagles; Coral Nourrice), Amy Allcock (Aldershot Farnham & District; Glyn Hawkes), Zoey Clark (Thames Valley; Eddie McKenna), Nielsen and Perri Shakes Drayton (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets), the latter replacing Eilidh Doyle (Pitreavie; Brian Doyle) who withdrew as a precaution with a minor leg injury.

Clark, Nielsen and Shakes-Drayton won world silver with Diamond 2017 while Agyapong and Allcock won their first international relay medals with European bronze last year. Allcock said: “For me World Relays was always a big one. I wanted to come out here, experience Japan before potentially next year, get used to long-haul travel because I haven’t had to do that and have fun with the relays and see where I’m at.”

The British men’s 4x400m follow swiftly on from the women at 19:40 Japan / 11:40 UK time, again in the first heat with the same qualifying requirements. Martyn Rooney (Croydon) – the most decorated relay athlete on the team with seven major outdoor relay medals – is joined by fellow world bronze medallists from 2017 Dwayne Cowan (Hercules Wimbledon; Cowan) and Rabah Yousif (Newham & Essex Beagles; Carol Williams).

Cameron Chalmers (Guernsey; James Hillier), Alex Haydock-Wilson (Michael Baker; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow), Jamal Rhoden-Stevens (Shaftesbury Barnet; Donovan Reid) and Lee Thompson, who replaced the injured Owen Smith (Cardiff; Elias), complete the team.

Rooney said: “We are looking to make sure we go out and compete and get qualification for the World Championships but then show what kind of level we’re at. Representing Great Britain & Northern Ireland is an honour that doesn’t get tired, doesn’t get old and these are exciting championships to be part of. Bahamas always did a great job but I think Japan will be the next level. What I am here to do as much as possible is to support the next generation of young athletes coming through and set an example of what level they need to reach. I still think I can go out and drop some quick splits and I hope I can inspire them to run faster.”

You can follow the IAAF World Relays on Saturday and Sunday via the BBC’s live coverage on the Red Button, iPlayer, Connected TV and online. A one-hour highlights package will be shown on BBC Two at 17:00 on Sunday.