A Commonwealth Games gold relay repeat? | The game

As the Commonwealth Games open in Australia’s Gold Coast, can Trinidad & Tobago’s 4×400 relay team, the reigning world champions, repeat their victory? Kwame Laurence reports

  • Jarrin Solomon, Lalonde Gordon, Machel Cedenio, and Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago’s men’s 4x400 metres relay team celebrate after winning gold at the 2017 IAAF World Athletics 
Championships. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images Sp

Trinidad and Tobago’s best-ever Commonwealth Games outing came in 1966 in Kingston, Jamaica. Lennox Yearwood, Kent Bernard, Edwin Roberts, and 440-yard champion Wendell Mottley capped off an excellent showing with victory in the final track event, the men’s 4×440 yards relay. There was the huge bonus, too, of establishing a world record in the race: the run of three minutes, 2.8 seconds put an exclamation mark on T&T’s terrific overall performance of five gold, two silver, and two bronze medals.

For the Jamaican athletes back in 1966, the mile relay was the last chance to earn Commonwealth Games gold at home. “Jamaicans were there to see Jamaicans win,” recalls Mottley, “and we were there to disappoint them. We did so on such a regular basis that by the end of the games they were looking for salvation.

“With George Kerr running in the Jamaican team, there were high expectations, especially since Edwin Skinner was injured and we had Yearwood as a substitute,” Mottley explains. “They felt they would end the games on a high note, with a gold for Jamaica. We had other plans. We had trained and worked out that baton pass to a finesse.”

Yearwood ran the leadoff leg for T&T, handing off to Bernard. “And then we started to drive the pressure,” Mottley recalls. “Kent caught up, and then Ed Roberts ran the third leg, overhauling the field. When he gave me that baton, there was no jumble. I had a dream handover from Ed, and Trinidad and Tobago had already gone clear.

“My job was to secure that victory, and I ran the leg of a lifetime. I remember coming down that stretch, and the crowd was virtually silent except for the few Trinis who had made it there. My colleagues joined me for a victory lap around the Kingston Stadium. And then, flashing up on the lights, ‘World Record’!”

At that point the pro-Jamaican sentiment in the stadium transformed into regional pride. “The whole crowd warmed to the reality of the moment,” Mottley says, “that Trinidad and Tobago had broken a world record. Their Caribbean enthusiasm overflowed. It was one of the most joyous occasions of my life. I cannot tell you how often I relive that moment. The individual event brings you success, but there’s nothing like teamwork and winning a relay.”

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Fifty-one years after Mottley anchored his team to that famous victory in the Jamaican capital, another T&T quartet enjoyed the sweet taste of team success. This time, the triumph came in London, as Jarrin Solomon, Jereem “The Dream” Richards, Machel Cedenio, and Lalonde Gordon struck 2017 IAAF World Championship 4×400 metres gold in a national record time of 2 minutes, 58.12 seconds. Renny Quow also shared in the win, running the first leg for T&T in the qualifying round.

This same quintet could feature at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, running from 4 to 15 April in Australia’s Gold Coast region. With such a formidable group to choose from, the Red, White, and Black will be tough to beat Down Under. Add to the mix a fit Deon Lendore, and the chances of T&T leaving Australia with 4×4 gold are greatly enhanced.

Jamaica, however, may want to return the 1966 compliment, and spoil the party for Team T&T. The northern Caribbean nation certainly has the firepower to challenge the world champions. Nathon Allen was the sixth-fastest quartermiler in the world last year, at 44.19 seconds. And two other Jamaicans were in the top twenty as well: Demish Gaye at fourteenth, with a 44.55 run, while Akeem Bloomfield clocked 44.74 for the seventeenth spot.

Meanwhile, reigning Commonwealth Games champions England are keen to return to the top of the podium. Botswana, with Isaac Makwala in their lineup, will also be a threat. Makwala was ranked third in the world in 2017 at 43.84 seconds, while his countryman Baboloki Thebe produced a 44.02 run to end the year fifth. The Bahamas have hopes too, which will largely depend on 2017 world number-four Steven Gardiner (43.89).

No individual Trinidad and Tobago quartermiler made the 2017 top twenty. As a team, though, T&T proved to be the best, and will bid to underline that status on 13 April in the Gold Coast 2018 men’s 4x400m championship race.

On your mark!