The screams in the stadium were deafening and the energy was electric. I was cheering so loudly, I was sure I would be hoarse in the morning. The Bahamas was leading the final and most dramatic race of the IAAF World Relays in 2014: the 4x4 men’s relay. But the United States wasn’t far behind, neither was Trinidad. We knew it would come down to the final leg. Olympic gold medalist Michael Mathieu, who usually ran the second leg, was anchoring. He was up against Lashawn Merritt, the world champion in the 400m.
Michael powered down the home stretch, as the crowd continued to roar. But I saw what Michael couldn’t: Lashawn was closing the gap. My heart was pounding. In the final tense moments of the race, Lashawn sped past Michael and captured the gold for the Americans. The screams quieted. The race was over. That showdown between the Americans and Bahamians brought the inaugural relays to a heart stopping conclusion. It had been an amazing two days of running.
One of the visiting journalists described the IAAF World Relays as ‘Bah-Mazing’. And I wholeheartedly agree.
As a former track athlete--and when I say athlete, I mean I used to run so that I could miss school whenever there was a competition--I’ve been to quite a few meets and I’m an ardent follower of track. There’s a reason why the relays are always last. They are the most exciting races. They are the races that everyone wants to see. That’s where the drama lives.
Well, the world relays gave us two days of that sweet, intense, blood pumping drama. But it also gave us so much more. It also gave us a taste of Bahamian culture, through the Junkanoo performances. Dressed in colorful, feathered costumes while dancing to the sounds of rhythmic drums and cowbells, the Junkanoo group energized the crowd and the runners during the longer races.
Yes, this track meet was perfect.
So when I heard that The Bahamas would also be hosting the relays in 2015, I was over the moon. The meet maintained all of the elements that I loved and made several key changes that made the show (yes, I said show) even better.
My favorite change was the way the relay teams entered the stadium. Each team emerged from behind a pair of jumbo screens that displayed their team’s flag. After a few steps the team would either dance for the crowd, pose, or the boring ones would simply wave and trot to the starting line (lame, I know). One of the American women’s relay team posed as Charlie’s Angels. The crowd went wild.
Another great change was the fireworks that went off as the winning runner crossed the finish line.
The Bahamas will host the relays again in April 2017. If the Bahamians find a way to top what they did in 2015, the IAAF may have to consider making The Bahamas the permanent home for the world relays.