Mon | May 20, 2019

Relay hint from the maestro

Published:Thursday | August 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Hubert Lawrence
Glen Mills
Racers Track Club's Usain Bolt (right) running the final leg in the men's 4x100 metres during the Diamond League athletics meet at the Olympic Stadium in London on Sunday. Racers won the event in 37.75 seconds. France (left) were second in 38.45. - AP
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Sometimes, hints are subtle and require a little thinking to decipher. Other hints are direct and are one step away from being a clear instruction.

Last Saturday, at the London Diamond League meet, there was a hint about what Jamaica's men's 4x100 relay team could look like at the World Championships in Moscow.

To sweeten the deal, this hint comes directly from relay maestro Glen Mills.

In London, Mills' Racers Track Club - Mario Forsythe, Kemar Bailey-Cole, Warren Weir and the incomparable Usain Bolt - ran the sprint relay in 37.75 seconds.

Many countries use races like that one to test-drive their sprint relay combinations before big championships.

Already, the USA have run fast in warm-up races, with their men and women logging times of 37.58 and 41.75 seconds, respectively. Jamaica take another approach and do all their relay preparation at pre-championship camps and at convenient breaks at the championships themselves.

Practice races would help any team, but the Jamaican approach has worked in recent years. Since a loss to the US in the 2007 World Championships, Jamaica won two Olympic gold medals and two World Championships gold medals, with three world records to boot.

This year is different. The stable unit that did all that damage has broken up. Michael Frater, who marshals the second leg, is out with injury, and Yohan Blake, third leg in 2011 and 2012, has the same problem. Asafa Powell, de facto anchorman from 2002 to 2009, is famously unavailable too.

Last Saturday's hint was clear. Nesta (Carter) started the world record teams from 2008, 2011 and 2012 and could well be deployed to run the first leg in Moscow. That would give the coaching staff just one new exchange to build from scratch at camp and at the Championships. That's important, because Bolt and Nickel Ashmeade are running both the 100m and 200m there, and will probably be afforded some rest when the 100m is finished. That makes it well nigh impossible to do hours of full- speed baton-passing practice on location once the action begins.

Heats selection

Moreover, the heats and finals fall within hours of each other on the last day of the meet. Even if head coach Michael Clarke decides on the Carter-Bailey-Cole, Weir-Bolt unit for the final, picking the team for the heats won't be easy.

Carter and Bailey-Cole will have had about a week of rest after the 100m, but there could be four Jamaicans in the 200m final, which ends the day before the relay. They are the doublers Bolt and Ashmeade, Weir and newcomer Jason Livermore.

Weir runs only the 200m and might have to run the heats. The same might apply to Livermore, who was fifth in the National 100m. His Akan Track Club teammate, 2010 national champion Oshane Bailey, was sixth.

So the team in the heats might have debutant Livermore or Bailey, or hurdler Dwight Thomas, a gold-medal relay veteran.

These are important considerations. At the 2009 World Championships, Veronica Campbell-Brown ran the 100/200m double and was rested from the 4x100m heats. With the final up less than two hours later and pre-race at a premium, the Jamaica quartet that won in the heats won the final ... without VCB. The resulting reshuffle left a sour taste.

Outcome

We won't know until August 18 if the Mills sprint relay hint will be taken. It's good advice on a complex choice from a man who has been there and done that. Even if the suggestion for the team for the final is accepted, the Moscow racing schedules of our sprinters affects who will run in the heats.

Armchair strategists can natter away from the safety of their keyboards, but coach Clarke will have to make shrewd decisions. Though he is head coach at this level for the first time, he has a wealth of experience and is a long-serving member of Jamaica's staff at major championships.

With him is technical leader Maurice Wilson, who was head coach after Mills stepped away from national duties in 2009. With Clarke and Wilson on duty in Moscow, this critical choice is in safe hands.

Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.