Italy won two golds on the concluding day of the World Athletics Relays Silesia21 held in a chilly Silesian Stadium as the other titles were spread between South Africa, The Netherlands, Cuba, Germany and the hosts.
After an opening day of heats that saw teams securing Tokyo 2020 places by reaching their respective finals in the men’s and women’s 4x100 and 4x400m events, and the mixed 4x400m event, today was all about glory - and prize money of $40,000 (£29,000/€33,000) for the winners which graded all the way down to eighth place.
In addition, the top 10 teams in the men’s and women’s 4x100m and 4x400m, and the top 12 teams in the mixed 4x400m, have qualified for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
When your country's flag shows up first on the board 🇿🇦— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) May 2, 2021
Raw emotions from @AkaniSimbine and @clarence_munyai as South Africa wins the men's 4x100m #WorldRelays crown in 38.71! pic.twitter.com/iSl9g8S6Iy
Akani Simbine brought South Africa home in fine style to take the men’s 4x100m gold in 38.71sec from Italy in second in 39.21, with Japan third in 39.42.
Brazil’s defence of their title came to grief as they were disqualified, as were Ghana, with Germany and The Netherlands failing to finish.
Italy won the women’s 4x100m title in 43.79 ahead of the hosts, who clocked 44.10 holding off a Dutch team powered by double world 200m champion Dafne Schippers by thousandths of a second, whose lead was lost in the final changeover.
Ecuador, ranked 40th in the world, who had qualified for their first Olympic appearance in this event by reaching the final, finished an honourable fifth behind Japan in 44.43.
Cuba were exhilarating and exuberant winners of the women’s 4x400 metres title as their final leg runner Roxana Gomes prevailed to take them to the line in 3min 28.41sec ahead of the hosts, with Britain’s Jessie Knight holding on to the bronze medal as the expected challenge of the tall Dutch runner Lieke Klaver fell away over the final 50 metres.
After European Athletics individual champion Femke Bol had brought the Dutch back into contention on the third leg with the fastest split of the day of 50.58, it seemed they would add another medal to the gold they won at the European Indoors, but they fell just short.
The Dutch men set off seeking to make amends in the concluding 4x400m as the fastest qualifiers, and after a hugely competitive race in which they switched in and out of the lead with South Africa they finished in front as Tony Van Diepen timed his final surge to perfection to bring the baton home in 3:03.46.
Japan, qualified for Tokyo 2020 after taking world bronze two years ago, fielded an experimental quartet that rose to the challenge to finish second, exactly a second behind the Dutch, with South Africa settling for bronze ahead of Botswana.
There was disappointment for the favoured Belgian quartet however, as they finished eighth and last with final leg runner Kevin Borlee looking out of sorts.
Italy won the mixed 4x400m relay - which is due to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo after being introduced at the Doha 2019 World Championships - in 3:16.60 from Brazil, who clocked 3:17.54, and the Dominican Republic in 3:17.58.
The hosts struck gold in the women’s 4x200m relay in a national record of 1:34.98, with Ireland taking silver in a national record of 1:35.93 and Ecuador claiming bronze in 1:36.86.
The men’s 4x200m title went to Germany in 1:22.43 ahead of Kenya in 1:24.26 and Portugal who set a national record of 1:24.53.
The first eight places in each relay for Tokyo were awarded to the top eight teams at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019.
In cases where those teams have also qualified in the top eight in Silesia, the remaining quota places for Tokyo - 16 per event - will be allocated according to the World Athletics top performance lists as at June 29 2021.