The toughest of the sprint races, the 4x400m relay is by extension the most gruelling of the team events and one that requires a certain amount of tactical acumen to make the best advantage of the race moving away from individual lanes after the 500m-mark, when the first hand-over is completed. Such are the vagaries of the 4x400m that the world record for the men’s event remained untouched since 1993, when Andrew Valmon, Quincy Watts, Butch Reynolds and Michael Johnson of the USA ran a time of 2:54.29 in Stuttgart, with the women’s record of 3:15.17 run by the Soviet quartet of Tatyana Ledovskaya, Olga Nazarova, Mariya Pinigina and Olga Bryzgina at the 1988 Seoul Olympics still standing. The introduction of the mixed event has received a divided response but it adds another layer to the tactical complexities of the distance.
When is the 4x400m final?
At the World Championships in Eugene, the 4x400m finals will close the tournament as is traditional, with the heats taking place on Saturday 23 July during the evening session at Hayward Field. The heats are scheduled for 17:10 local time (women’s) and 17:40 (men’s), with the finals to take place on Sunday 24 July at 19.35 (M) and 19.50 (W).
If you’d like to watch on TV then you can find them on NBC – the exclusive rights holders – USA Network and CNBC. If you’d prefer to stream, you can find the race on Peacock and the NBC Sports website. If you’re watching in Canada then be sure to check out CBC.
Team USA big favourites for 4x400m
One of the factors that adds such excitement to the 4x400m is the chance to see multi-discipline athletes in action. The USA, for example, used 400m hurdles runners Sydney McLaughlin – who broke her own world record in Oregon – and Dalilah Muhammad as well as reigning Olympic 800m champion Athing Mu in Tokyo. Abby Steiner is in the running to make the step up from 200m after finishing fifth in the final of her favoured event and 400m specialist Tabitha Diggs could complete the team in the while US legend Allyson Felix has been called up for the preliminary rounds. The hosts go into the event as heavy favourites with the women having won seven of the past eight 4x400m relays at world championships. Wadeline Jonathas, Jaide Stepter and Kaylin Whitney are the back-ups named to the USA 4x400m relay team.
The last time the USA were beaten was by Jamaica, in 2015, and Stephenie Ann McPherson returns to lead a quartet featuring Candice McLeod and Charokee Young, and which may yet include 200m champion Shericka Jackson, who was also part of that winning team in Beijing. The Netherlands will also be one to watch with Femke Bol – who anchored the mixed 4x400m team to silver and was second behind McLaughlin in the 400m hurdles final – and Lieke Klaver in the team.
US men expected to dominate again
In the men’s event the USA, reigning Olympic champions, will also be expected to claim gold. Michael Cherry, Michael Norman, Bryce Deadmon and Rai Benjamin stormed to gold in a season-best 2:55.70 in Tokyo and while there will be challengers – Jamaica, the Netherlands, Belgium and South Africa, led by world record holder over the distance Wayde van Niekerk, among them – the strength in the US sprint teams is such that anything other than US gold is almost unthinkable. As well as Cherry, individual gold medallist Norman and Deadmon from the Olympics-winning team, the hosts can call on named 4x400m runners Vernon Norwood and Elija Godwin and Champion Allison, who finished fourth in the men’s 400m final, with Benjamin missing out through injury.
World Championships 4x400m relay: start list
Women’s 4x400m heats
1: Great Britain, USA, France, Germany, South Africa, Netherlands, Ukraine, Switzerland.
2: Norway, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Bahamas, Canada, Poland.
Men’s 4x400m heats
1: Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, Japan, USA, Netherlands, India.
2: Poland, Dominican Republic, Italy, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Botswana, France.
* First three from each heat and two fastest times qualify for final