1st May 2021
WOMEN’S AND MIXED 4X400M RELAY TEAMS ADVANCE TO FINALS AT 2021 WORLD ATHLETICS RELAYS
The 2021 World Athletics Relays got underway with the British team qualifying for the women’s and mixed 4x400m relay finals.
The women’s quartet kicked off the programme at the Silesian Stadium in Chorzow, Poland, with the British team going in heat three. Knowing the first two in each of the three heats would qualify automatically for the final as well as the next two fastest qualifiers, they knew what was required to progress into Sunday final, and they achieved it with ease by winning their heat in 3:28.83 from Germany.
Ama Pipi (Linford Christie; Enfield and Haringey) opened with an impressive first leg, her split 52.40, to hand over to Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna; Thames Valley) in the lead ahead of the Germans.
The Thames Valley athlete showed all her experience as she maintained the gap to reach the break in first place. Building upon her teammate’s opening lap, Clark showed composure to hand over to Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong; Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) with the leading margin intact.
Knight commanded the third leg and demonstrated her strong front running credentials to keep the British team in pole position, setting up Jessica Turner (Nick Dakin; Amber Valley and Erewash) to bring the baton home. Despite a fast-finishing German quartet making some inroads into their healthy lead, Turner ran a solid leg to seal the team’s progression into tomorrow’s final at 19:26 BST.
They advance as the fifth fastest qualifiers with Cuba progressing as the fastest quartet in a time of 3:27.90.
After the race, Pipi said: “I think it was quite solid, I just really wanted to get the rest of the girls into a good position and get us off to a good start and I think I achieved that.
“I just really wanted to go for it today. I was just thinking to myself ‘go, go, go’ from the very start, so I’m happy with my performance.”
Knight added: “It was really good as the girls gave me a big lead. I was trying to keep that lead but also trying to gain a bit as Jess had a few tough runners on her leg.
“It’s really hard front running especially with no spectators because I was running around just trying to concentrate on all the tactics like hit the bend, turnover – I couldn’t really feel anyone around me. But it was good to get a technical run in and hopefully tomorrow will be a bit more competitive.”
The mixed relay team were involved in a real tussle in one of the most competitive races of the evening, ultimately qualifying for the final after finishing as one of the two fastest non-automatic qualifiers.
Starting from lane eight the team captain Rabah Yousif Bhkeit (Carol Williams; Newham and Essex Beagles) led by example, getting the team in contention at the front before handing over to Laviai Nielsen (Christine Harrison-Bloomfield; Enfield and Haringey).
Still running from the outside lane, Nielsen worked hard for the position at the break, moving into second place after a huge effort down the back straight. The strong finishing Brazilian, Tiffani Silva Marinho, moved passed her into second place in the final 50 metres so Emily Diamond (Benke Blomkvist; Bristol & West) took the reins in third place.
With four of the six teams in a real battle heading into this leg, Olympic medallist Emily Diamond showed all her experience on a tough penultimate lap. Dominican Republic’s Marileady Paulino ran a superb leg to push the Brits into fourth, however, in her second race of the season, Diamond ran an impressive split of 51.83 to pass the baton to Lee Thompson (John Henson; Sheffield and Dearne) in a tantalising position.
A smooth handover followed, and Thompson was now chasing down the teams from Ireland, Brazil and Dominican Republic. The Sheffield and Dearne athlete tracked the moves by the group but could not make up the position, however, it was not required in the end. The British team qualified in a time of 3:17.27 and will return for the final at 18:20 (BST) on Sunday.
Nielsen said, “It was very busy (on my leg) and running out in lane eight is always going to be difficult because you don’t know whereabouts you are and the other teams are. I got the baton, and I could hear a lot of traffic inside me, so I knew I needed to break close to the front. I got clipped towards the end, so it was a tougher heat than we expected but we are so happy to have qualified for the final.
“It is still early season, so it is good to test these orders out. The mixed relay is looking like it will be a tough event for the Olympic Games, but we have to have belief that we can medal and get close to them.”
Also, Diamond commented, “We’ve been working really hard on our changeovers with Tim Benjamin coming in. The aim was to get the baton clean from Laviai and drive out hard and I felt like that was good. Down the back straight I tried to be patient, but then the Dominican girl came flying passed me which I wasn’t expecting at that sort of speed. I felt good at 200m and tried to kick on the bend.
“I felt like mine and Lee’s change was really smooth, so we were pleased with how that went. Lee was gone and ran a storming run to bring it home for us.”
The men’s 4x400m relay faced a stern test in their heat and after a faulty changeover from leg two to leg three, the team did not advance to Sunday’s final.
European Indoor Championships relay bronze medallist Joe Brier (Matt Elias; Swansea) got the team underway on leg one and after a solid run handed over to James Williams (self-coached; Liverpool) in fifth position.
With Botswana opening a comfortable lead after a 46.06 from Isaac Makwala on the opening lap, this left the rest of the closely matched field fighting for position on the second leg. As James Williams headed around the bend in fifth, he was engaged in a battle with the teams from Germany, Poland and Italy in the home straight, but a late move to the outside to pass the baton to Kevin Metzger (Stephen Ball; Sale Harriers Manchester) saw Williams fall to the track. He remained composed to pass the baton to Metzger, who on his senior debut, showed resilience as the gap had opened up on the rest of the field.
Despite his and Dwayne Cowan’s (Hercules Wimbledon) best efforts on the final two legs, the team could not reel in the other nations and ultimately finished in fifth position and outside the qualification positions. The team clocked 3:10.63 with Botswana and Italy advancing to the final from their heat.
Williams said afterwards, “I thought I had a decent leg. I was coming through in last through 200m so Kevin was the fifth person along so I should have made my move sooner to get to the outside. The first thing I said to the guys was ‘sorry’, but they wouldn’t let me because we are a team. The lads showed resilience to keep going and they battled on.”
Cowan added, “Joe got out really well on the first leg. Then it was hustle and bustle from the start of the second leg. Things happen in athletics and the 4x400m but we just have to move onto the next race.”
The World Athletics Relays continues on the BBC Red Button / BBC iPlayer / Online from 18:10 on Sunday 2 May.