Track and field event owners should be ready for some new events. And while these will make their debut at the IAAF World Relays in May, there’s every reason to expect they’ll trickle down to lower levels, including college and high school, as well as state and association games.
According to information from the IAAF, the new events include a mixed 2x2x400m relay and mixed shuttle hurdles relay. Both will be seen for the first time at the World Relays, to be held May 11 and 12 in Yokohama.
The mixed shuttle hurdles event is a completely new addition to the World Relays program. Usually held as a single-sex race, the new event will feature two men and two women on each team.
The men will run 110m hurdles in one direction and will then hand over to the first woman on the team, who will run back up the straight to hand over to the second man, and so on. To account for the extra distance, women will run out an extra 10 meters at the end of their leg.
The mixed 2x2x400m, a form of an endurance relay event, requires both members of the team to run two 400m legs of a relay. As with the mixed 4x400m, each team can choose to start with a man or the woman. The athletes then take it in turns to run their two legs of the relay.
Inspired by a mixed relay event introduced to biathlon in recent years, the 2x2x400m replaces the 4x800m relay, which proved to have limited appeal at previous editions of the World Relays.
The reception for the new events has been uniformly positive. IAAF President Sebastian Coe was one of those who was enthused over the potential for growth.
"The IAAF World Relays is our youngest World Athletics Series event and it was designed to be fun for our athletes and fans so it's the perfect place to try new formats," said Coe. "I’ve been championing innovation in our sport since I took the reins so it’s great to see the addition of a dynamic relay that will showcase our sprint hurdlers and I’ll be fascinated to see how the mixed 2x2x400m relay unfolds as a new endurance event that has never been tried before in athletics. I’m sure that both will contribute to the youthful, energetic atmosphere of the event, which we’re confident will be a resounding success in our new host city Yokohama in May."
Something else that is new this year is the location of the World Relays. Yokohama, while a longstanding host of high-level events, has never held the World Relays. Traditionally, the event was held in Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, but in October, after the Bahamas government confirmed that it would no longer be able to offer the financial guarantee for the event, a number of destinations threw their hats into the ring. Yokohama emerged victorious.
The first three editions of the IAAF World Relays, in 2014, 2015 and 2017, were held in Nassau. There has been no definitive word as to where the event will take place next time.