Battle lines have been drawn ahead of the inaugural IAAF World Relays, in Nassau, Bahamas.
The two-day meet will be staged this weekend at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium, and some of the biggest names in global athletics will be on show.
Jamaican track star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is among the headline acts. The two-time Olympic women’s 100 metres champion has been eagerly anticipating the first edition of the World Relays.
“I’m looking forward to going to World Relays. Relays are so exciting...I can’t help but love them. I would love to be there to see what unfolds.
“I’m very excited to see the atmosphere. I’ve been to Trinidad, been to Tobago, but I’ve never been there (Bahamas), so I’m looking forward to enjoying the championships.”
Fraser-Pryce, a triple gold medallist at the 2013 IAAF World Championships, was chosen for national duty, and though troubled by a leg injury, is expected to compete in both the 4x100m and 4x200m events.
The Jamaicans will square off against United States at the World Relays meet.
“One of those very competitive rivalries,” Fraser-Pryce explains, “but also friendly in some aspects. When we are going to compete, me and Carmelita (Jeter) would pass each other, not saying anything. But once we have finished competing we can stop and have a conversation. It’s a healthy rivalry.”
Jeter is not among the sprinters who will represent the Stars and Stripes in Nassau. For Fraser-Pryce, though, it matters not who wears the US uniform.
“We like running against USA. For years they were, quote unquote, the dominant sprinting nation. But I’m very sorry, we are here and we have many more to come,” Fraser-Pryce declares.
With Usain Bolt not on the Jamaica team for the World Relays, Yohan Blake is the main man on the country’s men’s 4x100m squad.
“We’re going to go and represent,” says the 2011 100m world champion. “I think it’s going to be fun, and I’m going to love it because relays are my thing.”
Bolt, Blake and Warren Weir finished one-two-three for Jamaica in the 200m at the 2012 London Olympics. The three sprinters are teammates at Racers Track Club.
Weir is hoping to lead Jamaica to victory in the 4x200m at the World Relays. He is also eyeing the one minute, 18.68 seconds world record.
“I’m most definitely looking forward to going to Bahamas, running some fast relay times, and putting Jamaica where it belongs. My (Racers) teammates are multiple record holders. I’m saying ‘guys, I need one too’. So we’ll be seeing if we can dominate, and can come back with a world record.”
Veteran quartermiler Chris Brown was part of the Bahamas quartet that struck gold in the men’s 4x400m at the London Olympics. The Americans earned silver, while bronze was bagged by Trinidad and Tobago.
“We have a lot of weight on our shoulders,” says Brown, “because we’re at home and everybody’s going to be looking for us to do what we did in London.
“My job is to win my leg, and my teammates’ job is to win their legs. I told them already that once we’re all on the same page of winning our legs, we could defeat any giant that comes next to us.”
The Bahamians have a history of success in the 4x4, and Brown is determined to uphold that tradition at this weekend’s World Relays.
“You don’t want somebody to walk in your door and embarrass you in front of your family in your own house, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to do my part.”
• SPORTS EDITOR’S NOTE: Trinidad Express writer Kwame Laurence is among a select group of sports journalists chosen to be part of the latest IAAF Day in the Life series, a project featuring some of the Caribbean’s best athletes as well as other major players in the sport of track and field.
Next Friday, get to know Warren Weir.