When considering the contenders for the men’s 4x400m title at any global championships, it’s always hard to look past the USA.
The IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 is certainly no different, and not just because the US team has emerged victorious on 10 of the past 14 occasions on which the event has featured on the programme.
Indeed, no other nation has taken the title since Jamaica struck gold in Budapest in 2004 and the USA will again be expecting to prevail, with all six members of its current squad having broken the 46-second barrier in individual races this season.
Such is their strength in depth, Fred Kerley, who won over two laps at the final IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting in Glasgow in February and who boasts a best of 45.18 this year, didn’t qualify for an individual team spot. Those places instead went to Michael Cherry and Aldrich Bailey and those two – plus Marqueze Washington, Paul Dedewo and Vernon Norwood, part of the quartet who won in Portland two years ago – make up the USA’s selection.
On the last occasion on which they were beaten at these championships, it was a mistimed baton exchange that cost the USA a medal and it may take a similar situation for another team to take gold 14 years later.
Back then in Budapest, Ireland made it on the podium for a surprise bronze and such is the unpredictable nature of indoor 400m running that any of the 10 teams lining up in the English midlands may ultimately pick up a medal.
However, the most likely challengers will surely come from those nations with a record of success at indoor relay running.
Trinidad and Tobago took bronze in both 2012 and 2016 and will hope to feature in the mix. Their squad includes four of the five men who earned gold in the 4x400m at last year’s World Championships.
Poland are the European indoor champions, having beaten both Belgium and the Czech Republic in 2017. All three will contest the heats in Birmingham.
Jamaica are previous title winners and picked up bronze in Sopot four years ago where Great Britain and Northern Ireland were the silver medallists. This year’s home nation, with a team spearheaded by newcomer Lee Thompson, will look to end the championships on a high with a top-three finish.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF