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Should World Athletics introduce a mixed 4x100m relay?

They have the mixed 4x400m relay, so why not a mixed 4x100m?

mixed 4x400 relay Photo by: Kevin Morris

World Athletics is consistently seeking ways to enhance the appeal of track and field events. Since its inception, the men’s and women’s 100m races have annually captivated audiences worldwide, showcasing the pinnacle of speed at every major track and field competition. However, in the excitement of individual races, I think there’s an opportunity to introduce a thrilling team event that could determine the world’s fastest country: the mixed 4x100m relay.

While the current World Championship and Olympic programs feature a mixed 4x400m relay, the absence of a 4x100m relay raises the potential for even more excitement, watching the fastest male and female sprinters compete together.

Photo: Kevin Morris

The 4x100m relay is known for its chaos and the fine margins determining a team’s chances for a medal. Over the years, both the men’s and women’s relay events have provided thrilling conclusions to the Olympics and World Championships, adding to the allure and drama of the Games.

World Athletics introduced the mixed 4x400m relay five years ago to inject new excitement into the one-lap event. Initially, the format allowed for a random order, featuring top male and female runners in varying sequences. However, in 2022, World Athletics had to adjust the format to ensure fairness, with teams now required to follow a specific order of man-woman-man-woman.

Building on the success of the mixed 4x400m relay, World Athletics could explore introducing a mixed 4x100m relay, also with a carefully crafted order. Aaron Brown, 11-time Canadian sprint champion and two-time Olympian, believes that a 4x100m mixed relay could be an entertaining addition to track and field. “It has the potential for chaos, but I think it could work, if it’s done in the order of woman-woman-man-man,” says Brown.

Team Netherlands celebrates their 4x400m silver medal win at the 2022 World Athletics Championships. Photo: Kevin Morris

While the hand-offs in any relay are notoriously challenging, mixed-gender teams could add an extra layer of intrigue to the sprint schedule. This event has the potential to be a highlight, crowning the fastest sprint nation in the world, which in my opinion, is captivating. The mixed 4x100m relay also aligns with World Athletics and the IOC’s efforts to promote gender equality and expand the sport’s popularity.

And like its longer counterpart, introducing the mixed 4x100m relay would require careful consideration and testing. Conducting trials at events like the World Relays before finalizing its inclusion in major championships could help assess its impact on scheduling, athlete participation and overall interest. Most of the world’s top sprinters, like Noah Lyles, Sha’Carri Richardson, Shericka Jackson and Andre De Grasse will compete in the sprint double and also have the 4x100m relay on their agenda. Adding a mixed event could lower the quality or interest in the other relay events or create scheduling conflicts for athletes.

Despite the possible logistical challenges, the dynamic nature of sports and the ever-evolving interests of fans and athletes suggest that opportunities may arise for innovative events like the mixed 4x100m relay to become a permanent fixture in major track and field competitions. I think the mixed 4x100m relay is an event with a lot of marketing and entertainment potential, as demonstrated by the excitement of the mixed 4x400m relay events at the 2024 World Indoor Championships in Glasgow, which felt wild and reminiscent of a roller derby. As Brown mentioned, I believe the 4x100m event would generate similar chaotic interest, giving more opportunities for athletes to win medals and compete at a world championship level.

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