Sharlene Mawdsley talks up Olympic relay qualification with Rhasidat Adeleke also on track

Next weekend’s World Relays in the Bahamas present two relay opportunities

It’s tough sometimes chasing Olympic qualification. Against the blue sky and palm tree background of the zoom call from the IMG Academy in Florida, Sharlene Mawdsley is talking about the benefits of the 10-day training camp, before flying down to the Bahamas for a two-day carnival of sprint relays.

The task at hand however is as daunting as it may appear pleasurable, Mawdsley is hoping to help both the Irish women’s 4x400m and mixed 4x400m relay teams secure their Paris qualification when 893 athletes, from 54 countries, descend on Nassau for the World Athletics Relays on May 4th-5th.

The top 14 teams in each event will earn their Olympic berth (plus two more decided later on ranking quotas), and the Irish chances will unquestionably be boosted by the presence of Rhasidat Adeleke, who will fly straight to Nassau from her Texas training base next Wednesday.

For Mawdsley, who last August helped Ireland qualify for both those relay finals at the World Championships in Budapest, there is further motivation; although she was part of the mixed relay quartet that secured Tokyo Olympic qualification, she wasn’t selected to travel.


“Maybe at the time it was a bit raw”, says Mawdsley, the 25-year-old who was also part of the women’s team that finished fifth at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March. “But I’m in good shape and I want to do the best I can for the team. That says a lot about how much I love the relays.

“It’s difficult having to prep for such an early championships, but things have been going really well so I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do when we come together next week. And for me the plan is to run both on day one anyway and then see how day one goes before we decide what to do on day two.”

In Nassau, there are 27 teams entered for the women’s 4x400m and 30 in the mixed 4x400m, which includes reigning Olympic 400 metre champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo featuring on the host nation squad.

I think we just need to go into day one with that aim of qualifying both the women’s and the mixed, and after that see where we’re sitting, challenge for a medal, hopefully, that would be amazing

On the first day, the top two teams in each heat will advance to the final on day two, while also securing their qualification for Paris. All other teams will compete on day two in the additional repechage round, where the top two teams in each heat will also qualify for the Paris.

Adeleke had her first individual race of the outdoor season at the Mt Sac Relays in California last weekend, finishing second in a high-quality international 200 metres in 22.61 seconds.

“A huge addition,” Mawdsley says of Adeleke. “I think we just need to go into day one with that aim of qualifying both the women’s and the mixed, and after that see where we’re sitting, challenge for a medal, hopefully, that would be amazing.

“I think all we’ve kind of spoken about so far is just getting that qualification but, I think when it comes to Paris, lane draws and things like that are done from this, like where you come in this. And it will be difficult because I think the rounds are only 35 minutes apart on day two so hopefully it’s not something we have to think about but it is at the back of your head as well.

“But it’s not a case of, ‘hopefully we can get into a final’, we’re going in being like, we need to get into this final challenging for medals, not just sitting at the back of the field. Having Rhasidat for that is a great bonus and it will be great to see what we can do now that we have her here as well.”

After that hectic week in Budapest last August, running six races including two relay finals, Mawdsley improved her 400 metre best to 51.09 in Zagreb in September, just shy of the 50.95 automatic qualifier for Paris. Even without that, she’s ranked 27th of the 48-athlete quota in the event, and looks certain to join Adeleke, already qualified on time.

Thomas Barr has also set aside his hurdles ambitions to help the qualification cause, as he did for Tokyo. Cillin Greene, Jack Raftery and Christopher O’Donnell complete the men’s squad, Phil Healy, Sophie Becker, Roisin Harrison, Lauren Cadden and Rachal McCann also on the women’s squad.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics