Photo: Roger Sedres – Copyright
The United States kicked off the IAAF World Relays Yokohama 2019 with a bang on Saturday (11), producing convincing victories in the competition’s two newest events.
Competing before an appreciative crowd of more than 15,000 at Yokohama International Stadium, the US duo of Donavan Brazier and Ce’Aira Brown took the 2x2x400m relay midway through the programme before a quartet from the country’s rich stable of hurdlers took the mixed shuttle hurdles relay in performances that were as different as the events they came in.
BRAZIER THE CLASS OF THE FIELD
The 2x2x400m relay was something akin to an unsparing training session, with two runners running two laps apiece in a mixed format, their recovery dependent entirely on how fast their teammates would run. Of the eight teams, only Kenya and Papua New Guinea ran women on the first leg, with Collin Kipruto giving the East African powerhouse a significant advantage after the first lap over Papua New Guinea and the USA’s Brown, who was running more than seven seconds behind the leader when handing off to Brazier.
Brazier made up most of that ground on the second leg, handing back to Brown just 0.40 behind Kenyan Eglay Nafuna Nalyanya. Brown fared well for more than half of the penultimate lap, but later paid for that eagerness. Stiffening up dramatically down the final straight, she was passed by Australian Catriona Bisset to reach the line the third to hand Brazier a gap of 7.8 seconds.
The national indoor 800m record holder got straight to work. After passing Australian Joshua Ralph early on, he set his sights on Nalyanya. Brazier took command for good off of the final bend en route to a convincing 3:36.92 victory.
“I love this event,” said Brazier, who’ll split a US$25,000 winner’s check with Brown. “Technically this was a world record.”
Well, technically it isn’t, but it does set the bar as the fastest performance of its kind.
Australia was second in 3:37.61, with 17-year-old Allon Tatsunami Clay passing the fading Kenyan about fifty metres from the finish line to bring Japan home third in 3:38.36.
The unheralded Kenyan duo, who controlled much of the race, was later disqualified for a kerb violation.
HURDLING HEROICS BY NELVIS
Conversely, the US was dominant in the evening-capping mixed shuttles hurdles relay, in what turned out to be just a two-team final. Injuries to Andrew Riley and Norman Pittersgill kept Jamaica from the start line and a false start by lead off Brianna Beahan left Australia out of the running before they even began.
That left only the US and Japan to vie for the inaugural title, with Asian champion Ayako Kimura lining up against world indoor silver medallist Christina Clemons. Energised by the vocal crowd, Kimura got Japan off to a solid start, beating Clemons, who was running with red chopsticks in her hair, to the first exchange by about two metres.
Running back towards the finish, Shunya Takayama extended the host’s lead, but that would-be challenge came to an abrupt end midway through leg three when Sharika Nelvis powered by Masumi Aoki with anchor Devon Allen patiently looking on. The Rio Olympic finalist then took command, extending the lead en route to a 54.96 performance to secure the US$50,000 first place prize for his team, more than half a second ahead of Japan, who collected $30,000.