First off I have to say that I hope the World Championships puts this event back where it belongs on the schedule – as the closing event! Yes we got a WR out of the 4×1 in Daegu but it usually takes a WR in the shorter relay to bring the excitement that nearly every 4×4 brings each time out. The best way ever to end a track meet – and that’s how we should end our championships.
What makes the 4×4 so exciting? Well in the short relay, there’s usually one move that settles things. Typically somewhere between the second and third legs you get some separation and that is hard to make up with only one leg to go. In the long relay however, there is usually a lot more “movement” among the teams – from leg to leg! A “weak” team can make a go of it temporarily and even lead at some point – and a squad with a pair of studs can make things very interesting.
Bottom line, the 4×4 has that “Whooo” factor – the sound the crowd makes when athletes come from behind and/or get passed! “Whooo” x 4, that’s what the 4×4 brings, and why it’s one of the most fun events there is.
So how is the 4×4 going to play out in London? There is guaranteed to be a lot of “Whoo” going on, because we have a lot of very good quarter milers spread across the globe. We can start with the US as every leg will be sub45 for the open event. No other country can match that, which pretty much seals this one up before the gun goes off.
My guess is that we lead off with Bryshon Nellum (44.80) as he’s both strong, and consistent and should give us some open space to work with for the second leg, which on this team should probably be Tony McQuay (44.49). Tony should blow it open here with something in the 44.0 range. Follow up with Josh Mance (44.89) and LaShawn Merritt (43.75) and we should get a mid 44 split followed by a mid 43. That puts us at 3:56 mid and pretty much out of reach.
Who challenges? The Borlee Brothers power the Belgian squad. They are both capable of running 43 high relay splits. The problem they face is that they’re still stuck around 3:00 because they have no one else capable of much better than 46.
Grenada has Kirani James and he’s almost guaranteed to split 43 something. But he had little help outside of possibly Rondel Bartholomew who team 44.6 last year.
An interesting entrant this year could be Kenya. They ran 3:00.97 last year and could improve on that with 800 record holder David Rudisha running a leg for them. Rudisha had run 45.51 in the 400 in limited racing and the prospect of the long striding Kenyan throwing down a 44 second split could both provide some "whooo" factor to the race as well as put them in contention.
Similarly South Africa could add some spice to the race. They won silver in Daegu; ran 2:59.21 in their semi; and can make some noise with Pistorious and L.J. Van Zyl on two of those legs.
Perhaps the most dangerous however, could be the Bahamas. They always seem to contend and this year have several men running well in the open 400 in Demetrious Pinder (44.77), Ramon Miller (44.87), Michael Mathieu (45.06) and Chris Brown (45.14). A couple of low 44s from that group and they’re on the podium.
I expect a lot of action in this race, with a final outcome of:
gold – United States
silver – Bahamas
bronze – South Africa
4th – Kenya
On the women’s side things could be even more exciting. For starters the Russian championships were hot over 400, and this is traditionally an event they do well at. This time around they could be putting Antonina Krivoshapka (49.16), Yuliya Guschina (49.28), Tatiyana Firova (49.72) and Natalya Nazarova (50.00) on the track. That’s potentially 3:16/3:17 territory!
And that sets up an interesting set of head to head legs with the US squad that should be Sanya R-Ross, Allyson Felix, Francena McCorory, and DeeDee Trotter. I would also throw hurdlers Lashinda Demus and Georgeanna Moline into the mix.
Somewhere in there I see a couple of 48 second splits in a very hotly contested race. Especially if we can get a litte added Oomph from someone like Jamaica, who could get in the mix if they can get someone to step up and give Novlene Williams Mills (49.78) some help. Last year’s squad set a NR 3:18.71 in Daegu to finish behind the United States and ahead of Russia – but Rosemarie Whyte and Shericka Williams were running much better than they have so far this year.
Outside of this trio, I’m not sure anyone else has the horses. Great Britain will have Christine Ohuruogu who will close like a train. But they will need someone like Lee McConnell, or Perri Shakes Drayton to step up big time if they hope to get in the mix – at home no less. I would also toss out there that the Czech Republic could make some noise with hurdlers Zuzana Hejnova and Denisa Roslova.
At the end of the day, however this looks like an old school Cold War showdown that goes:
gold – United States
silver – Russia
bronze – Jamaica
4th – Great Britain
So much for our limited assortment of relay events. Now over the next couple of weeks I need ot try and figure out the individual events! A few will be easy, but this could be one of the closest Olympics in recent memory in terms of depth and finishes. This is going to be fun.