Traditionally, the 4x400m relays indoors tend to provide intense drama, especially in the qualification rounds and here in Doha, it was no exception.
Following the expected automatic qualification of the United States and Jamaica in heat one, the second race proved much more entertaining as six nations were battling it out for only two automatic qualifying spots, and what a line-up it was with traditionally strong nations such as Bahamas, Poland, Russia, France and Belgium. Botswana, the outsiders, provided the drama.
Piotr Klimczak held a short-lived lead for Poland after one lap with Jonathan Borlée and Maksim Dyldin gradually closing the gap. The Florida-based Belgian sprinter was the fastest finisher taking the lead at 400m in 46.99 with the Russians still in third producing the swiftest exchange and moving towards the front.
Isaac Makwala put Botswana in the mix as he made a brief appearance at the front moving from fifth to second only to be pushed back down to fifth as the second exchange approached. Meanwhile up front Bahamas La’Sean Pickstock headed the field at 800m with Belgium just holding on for second from Russia who tried to go through from the inside and Poland attacking from the outside.
The third leg proved the eventful one as Vladimir Antmanis’ elbow accidentally clipped that of Marcin Marciniszyn on the backstretch. The Polish sprinter carried on unfazed while this incident proved crucial for the Russian who not only dropped the baton to the floor but as the baton kept rolling forward and he bent to pick it up he was unbalanced by Thapelo Ketlogetswe who was moving Botswana up a couple of positions.
The lead changed once again at the final exchange this time in favour of the Polish quartet who had little to spare over Bahamas and Belgium in this order. Andretti Bain (BAH) decided to make his move at the bell with twin brother Kévin Borlée closing and taking a lead he would not relinquish 100 metres from the line.
While Belgium finished in 3:08.84, unchallenged for the lead, Sakaria Kamberuka produced what looked like the most impressive leg to move Botswana back into contention. Kamberuka held on and outsprinted Bain (BAH) on the line 3:09.60 to 3:09.68.
Dmitry Buryak who ran two rounds of the individual 400 metres yesterday but missed out on a place in tonight’s final ran a commanding leg taking Russia to a 3:09.86 fourth place finish with Poland clocking the same in fifth.
Botswana’s celebrations for a new national and African record didn’t last long as the team was disqualified following the judges review that the second runner stepped beyond the exhange zone line while waiting for the baton.
As all nations moved up one spot, Bahamas grabbed the second automatic qualifier along with Belgium.
The first heat was a less chaotic but much quicker affair and eventually the top four in that heat will line-up for tomorrow’s final with the Dominican Republic and Great Britain also advancing in third and fourth respectively.
Interestingly, tomorrow’s final will have winners of the last five World 400m Hurdles Championships titles with Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic and Bershawn Jackson and Kerron Clement of USA.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF