LaShawn Merritt of United States runs the final leg ahead of Leford Green of Jamaica in the men's 4x400 metres relay heats during day six (Getty Images) © Copyright
All six members of the American 4x400m squad have broken 45 seconds for 400m this year. They are led by world leader LaShawn Merritt and the team also includes 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner.
Merritt and Wariner were both on the gold medal-winning relay team from Beijing, setting an Olympic record of 2:55.39 – the second-fastest performance in history. USA will be hard-pressed to better that this year, but they will still be expected to dip well below three minutes.
Behind the USA, the battle for silver and bronze is expected to be close. In terms of depth, Jamaica, Bahamas and Great Britain are all closely matched on times this year.
Jamaica’s team will feature national record-holder Jermaine Gonzales and national champion and sub-45 man Dane Hyatt. They will be keen to at least match their bronze medal from last year’s World Championships.
Defending Olympic silver medallists Bahamas, meanwhile, will be as competitive as ever with three of their squad having posted sub-45 clockings this year. One of those is Chris Brown, who is set to make a record fourth appearance in an Olympic 4x400m final.
Great Britain’s team features Beijing Olympic finalist Martyn Rooney. He ran the anchor leg four years ago for the British team that clocked 2:58.81 – the fastest ever non-medal-winning time in any athletics championships in history. The host nation, roared on by the home crowd, will be hoping not to suffer the same misfortune again.
Twin brothers Kevin and Jonathan Borlee will form one half of a formidable Belgian team. They were fifth at the 2011 World Championships and the last Olympics, but recently won the European title in Helsinki.
South Africa were the surprise silver medallists at last year’s World Championships. Although their squad this year does not look as strong as their team from Daegu, they certainly cannot be written off.
Although lacking in individual stars, Cuba managed to post the fastest time in the world this year by a non-American team. Should they be able to reproduce their 3:00.43, they will be in contention in the final.
The same applies for Trinidad & Tobago, who have this year clocked 3:00.45 to tank third in the world. Other potential finalists include Australia and Japan.
Also keep a look out for the Dominican Republic. They may not have the same depth as the USA or the Bahamas, but their team includes World junior champion Luguelin Santos and former World 400m Hurdles Champion Felix Sanchez.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF