As was the case at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, the women’s 4x400m in Rio looks set to be another classic battle between USA and Jamaica.
On paper, USA has the fastest quartet based on individual season’s bests, but that was also the case heading into Beijing last year, only for Jamaica to pull off one of the big surprises of the championship to take gold.
The USA will not want lightning to strike twice, though.
Three of the women in this year’s squad have run faster than 50 seconds for 400m this summer, including world champion and world leader Allyson Felix, who clocked a staggering 47.72 split in the Chinese capital last year.
NCAA champion Courtney Okolo, US Championships runner-up Phyllis Francis and the vastly experienced Natasha Hastings are the most likely US athletes to compose what looks set to be a formidable team in the 4x400m final.
Formidable, but not unbeatable. At least, that’s what the Jamaican team will be thinking.
The four Jamaican women who teamed up to win the world title in 2015 – Christine Day, Shericka Jackson, Stephenie-Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills – have collectively shown better form this year than they did ahead of last year’s World Championships.
The same four women will likely line up in the 4x400m final in Rio as they aim to win Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medal in the event.
Great Britain appears to be some way behind the top two teams but comfortably ahead of the rest of the challengers, just as they were in Beijing. Their victory at last month's European Championships will have also given them confidence, especially as that team did not include two-time world champion Christine Ohuruogu.
France took silver behind Great Britain in Amsterdam and they will look to make it on to the Olympic podium for the first time in this event.
But there are several other nations who, on paper at least, look to have teams that are as strong as France, if not stronger.
Canada made the 4x400m final at last year’s World Championships but their depth in both the 400m flat and 400m hurdles is even better this year.
The Bahamas’ depth isn’t quite as good, but they are able to draw upon world silver medallist Shaunae Miller, who would be capable of passing several athletes on the anchor leg.
Ukraine, Poland and Italy can also be expected to figure in the final, as could hosts Brazil, whose team looks good enough to challenge their national record of 3:26.82.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF