A new era of Australian sprinting has emerged in time for the Paris Olympics, as the Women’s 4x100m team rise to fifth in the world while the Men’s 4x100m secured Olympic qualification on the final night of action at the World Athletics Relay Championships in the Bahamas.

Following their record-breaking performance on Day One which qualified the quartet for Paris, the Women’s 4x100m team comprising of Ebony Lane (VIC, Christopher Dale), Bree Masters (QLD, Ryan Hoffman), Ella Connolly (NSW, Andrew Murphy) and Torrie Lewis (QLD, Andrew Iselin) laid it all on the track in their first global final, to finish fifth in 43.02.

Smooth changes around the track allowed Australia’s fastest women to excel to their third best time as a team, with each run around the track strengthening their confidence as they prepare for their maiden Olympic Games.

Rising from 11th in the world to now genuine medal contenders in Paris, Masters said how proud she was of the team but knows there is more to come before the Olympic Games.

“Fifth in the world is incredible. (Coach) Cathy Walsh told me that it was the highest placing that we’ve ever had as a Women’s 4x100m team at these Championships, and that is just so exciting given there’s so much more we can do together as a group,” Masters said.

“I think we’re a definite medal chance in Paris. There’s a lot that we can do to improve upon that race so that we can be one percent better, so we are really confident in July. We’ll all be looking to stay healthy and work hard at home with our personal coaches and work hard as a team to make our exchanges and flight speed as fast as possible.”

The race was won by Tokyo silver medallists USA with a Championship record of 41.85, with France in silver (42.75) and Great Britain (42.80) with bronze. Germany placed fourth ahead of Australia in 42.93.

Under the bright lights and electric atmosphere of the Bahamas, Australia’s 4x100m men kept their cool to punch their ticket to Paris, executing a moment years in the making to book their Olympic berth with second place finish in Heat 3 with a time of 38.46.

After missing out on an Olympic ticket via photo finish on Day One of competition, the rising quartet of Sebastian Sultana (NSW, Greg Smith), Jacob Despard (TAS, Rolf Ohman), Calab Law (QLD, Andrew Iselin) and Josh Azzopardi (NSW, Rob Marks) left nothing to chance on Day Two, finishing behind South Africa (38.08) but well ahead of Colombia (39.04) in third as the top-two countries advanced to Paris.

“The race went to plan, we had the goal of coming to the Bahamas to qualify for Paris and we have done that! We’ve been working together for a long period of time and to have finally put together a good race is absolutely awesome,” Azzopardi said.

“On a personal note it’s a dream come true, I’m sure I can speak on behalf of the other boys as well! The Olympics is the pinnacle of sport, and to go up against the best in the world in such a strong event is something dreams are made of.”

The elation spread throughout the team well before anchor Azzopardi crossed the finish line.

“As soon as Josh was clear of the chasing pack I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I couldn’t be prouder to qualify with this group of men. We’re all really committed to relay and have a great connection as a team,” Despard said.

As two teams celebrated their triumphs, Australia’s 4x400m relay squads bowed out in style with gutsy performances.

Placed in a tough repechage heat, the Women’s 4x400m team consisting of Bendere Oboya (VIC, Craig Mottram), Ellie Beer (QLD, Brett Robinson), Mikaela Selaidinakos (VIC, Steve Gaffney) and Alanah Yukich (WA, Rose Monday) left it all out on the track when clocking 3:28.05 to finish fourth in their heat, while the Men’s 4x400m team finished sixth in 3:04.68.

The Men’s 4x400m saw Luke van Ratingen (NSW, Ben Liddy), Alex Beck (QLD, Mark Ladbrook), Harrison Hunt (SA, Dylan Hicks) come together again, with national champion Cooper Sherman (VIC, Neville Down) back in action for the repechage after experiencing illness earlier in the week.

The Parisian dreams of the Men’s and Women’s 4x400m relay teams remain alive with two more spots up for grabs at the end of the qualifying period. The Women’s 4x400m team is currently ranked at 19th, while the Men’s team is ranked 32nd in the world.

The World Athletics Relay Championships conclude today, with replays available to watch via the World Athletics Inside Track Platform. Sign up here for free access.

Sascha Ryner, Athletics Australia

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