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Innovative mixed relays to up the fun factor at Doha Worlds

Current and former track stars are looking forward to seeing the mixed relays, which will make its World Championships’ debut this time.
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Brazil’s Tiffani Silva Marinho competes in the 4x400M mixed relay finals at the 2019 IAAF World Relays in Yokohama, Japan. Photo: IAAF/Robert

When curtains go up for the 2019 IAAF World Championships at the Khalifa International Stadium on September 27, a new event will be ushered in on that stage for the first time.

The 4x400M mixed relay, featuring two men and two women athletes in the same team, is sure to add some extra drama and intrigue to the proceedings.
First included in the programme at the 2017 IAAF World Relays in Nassau, the Bahamas, the mixed relay has quickly grown in popularity. After the IAAF Worlds in Doha, it is set to debut at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Former Qatari star sprinter Samuel Francis Adelebari, who retired two years ago and now coaches women athletes in the country, welcomed the new event enthusiastically.

“It’s an exciting addition to the World Championships. While it may feel a bit strange at first, seeing male and female runners competing against one another is going to be intriguing. Since different running order combinations are possible, it’ll add a whole new level of excitement,” he told Inside Qatar.

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Infographics: Team InsideQatar

“You don’t know until the start how a team will place its runners. The race suddenly becomes hugely tactical, where every little detail counts. I’m eagerly looking forward to it,” said Samuel, who had won an Asian Championship silver medal in 2007 as part of Qatar’s 4x100M relay team.
The new event has come in for praise from other runners as well. Bahamian sprinter Steve Gardiner, who helped his national team win gold in 2017, said it opened a window of opportunity for nations with fewer elite runners.

“Most of the smaller countries don’t have full relay teams. So mixed relays will give many of those nations, like the Bahamas for example, a chance to win a medal at the Olympics,” the 21-year-old recently told the IOC website.

British runner Perri Shakes-Drayton felt the new event would inject some much-needed fun and excitement to the sport.

“It’ll be interesting and fun. I think that’s what the sport needs. Something different and exciting,” she had said.

The relay made its Asian Games debut in Jakarta last year. Bahrain won the race but they were stripped of the gold medal after one of their runners was tested positive for a banned drug and it was given to India, who had finished second.

The marathons at the Doha Worlds will also be vastly different this year, with the races, usually run in the mornings, being shifted to midnight. The race walk events too are scheduled in the night. The competitions will see the athletes traverse the Doha Corniche, which will be specially lit up for the occasion.

Indeed, the fans of track and field have plenty to look forward to, come September 27.