The U.S. and Jamaica have placed first and second at the World Athletics Relays (previously IAAF World Relays) in each of the four editions of the young event, but neither country will be sending a team to the 2021 meet, which will be held in Silesia, Poland, on May 1 and 2. Thirty-seven other countries are set to send teams, including Canada, and without Jamaica or the U.S. in the mix, the event is guaranteed to see a new team at the top of the meet rankings.
In 10 days Welcome to Silesia😍💪👍10 dni pozostało do Lekkoatletycznych Mistrzostw Świata Sztafet @WorldAthletics Relays Silesia21🔥1-2.05 @StadionSlaski👏@PrasoweSlaskie @PKOL_pl @PZLANews @SPORT_GOV_PL @JakubChe @kat_gw_sport @wpkiw @KatowickiSport @Nedops @emenews pic.twitter.com/UiZC097DGp
— World Athletics Relays Silesia21 (@WASilesia21) April 20, 2021
The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) named a 39-runner team for the World Athletics Relays, but just days later, officials walked back this decision and pulled out of the event altogether. As reported by the Jamaica Observer, the JAAA cited travel restrictions and the pandemic in general as the reasons behind the sudden withdrawal from the event.
“It has become extremely challenging for the Jamaican team and officials to participate,” the JAAA said. Elaine Thompson-Herah, who won gold in the 100m and 200m in Rio in 2016 for Jamaica, was named to the Jamaican team. She took to social media after the news broke of her country’s withdrawal from the Polish meet to express her disappointment, although she acknowledged how difficult the pandemic continues to be for anyone arranging travel plans.
“The cancellations are disappointing but beyond our control,” she said. “Last year we had similar issues with travel. I remember our return flights took us to London then Barbados then back to Jamaica which was very hectic because of the pandemic.” Thompson-Herah competed at the 2017 and 2019 World Relays, helping the Jamaican team to second-place finishes on both occasions.
When it comes to the U.S. team, no official reason behind the decision to pull out of the World Relays has been published, but COVID-19 is a safe bet. The European Indoor Championships were also held in Poland just over a month ago in March, and more than 30 athletes ended up testing positive for COVID-19 after the event. With this in mind, plus the fact that the Olympics are just a few months away, the USATF may have decided that the World Relays were not worth the risk to American athletes.
Canada is set to send 24 athletes to Poland, but Andre De Grasse won’t join his fellow Canucks, as he and his partner, reigning 100m world champion and Olympic silver medallist Nia Ali, are expecting their second child in May.