'Beast' ready to anchor Jamaica to more glory at World Relays
NASSAU, Bahamas (AFP) — Yohan Blake is back after a season blighted by a troublesome hamstring, and announced yesterday he was ready to anchor Jamaica to more team success at the inaugural IAAF World Relays on the weekend.
Jamaica, led by sprint legend Usain Bolt, has recently dominated the 4x100m relays at World and Olympic level.
The Caribbean island has won the past three World titles, the past two Olympic titles, and also holds the world record of 36.84 seconds.
Bolt, however, is missing from the Bahamas as he rehabilitates from injury, and with ex-world record holder Asafa Powell also absent as he serves an 18-month doping ban, a resurgent Blake is seen as the go-to man.
"The team's been successful over the years, breaking world records and we want to keep that trend going and keep focused," said Blake, who won 2011 world 100m gold in Daegu after Bolt false-started.
"He sends his regards," Blake added of Bolt, both athletes training under the eye of Glen Mills, adding that it was no worry for the relay squads not to feature Bolt or Powell.
"We're always looking for the younger generation. It's good for someone to step up and see if they can make it to the big time."
Blake, the second fastest man in 100m history behind Bolt, arrives in Nassau in good form having won the 150m in Manchester, England, and is likely to also run the rarely staged 4x200m relay.
"It'll be my first," he said. "If I can manage 19.26sec off a start, imagine how I can do."
The world record of 1min 18.68sec was set by a US quartet in 1994, and could be under threat here, as Blake teams ups with Warren Weir and Nickel Ashmeade to challenge that time.
Also in the running will be a US team featuring Walter Dix, the two-time world silver medallist (100, 200m) in 2011 who also claimed two Olympic bronzes in 2008.
"We're from the US and we never race for second!" Dix warned Blake, adding: "We have a lot of young guys.
"For a lot of them it'll be their first time taking part in a major championship and representing their country, so we're going to have a lot of guys stepping up and making big performances.
"The one good thing is when you're young and new to the sport, you don't know your limitations... and they'll probably run better than they expected themselves.
"We're going to have to clean sticks, almost flawless," he said in reference to the tricky business of baton changeovers, something regularly practised in the Olympic disciplines of 4x100 and 4x400m relays but rarely done so for lesser-run events.
The inaugural two-day World Relays, launched by world athletics' governing body, the IAAF, to increase the appeal of track events to a younger audience, features 4x100, 4x200, 4x400, 4x800 and 4x1500m relays.
And both Blake and Dix said it was a great concept.
"It feels really good," Blake said of being in the Bahamas. "I love relays and I think it's going to be fun.
"We'll compete and hopefully you'll see the best of us."
Dix added: "As an athlete, I just want to say thank you because this is the first time this has been done.
"It's not often you get to run with teammates, and here you're representing yourself and your team, there's a lot of camaraderie built, a lot of old and young mixed together."