The 4x400 mixed relay is making its debut at this Games - yes, two male and female runners will come together as a team for each of the eight participating nations in the field, including India, and what's more, they'll be free to line up in whichever order they choose. So a male or female member can start or anchor the race, and the absence of a set running order only adds a delightful dimension to the contest.
Tested earlier at the Nitro Athletics and IAAF World Relays, the event which is part of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) push for gender parity is also poised to make its debut at the Olympic Games in 2020.
For India, 400m silver medalist Muhammad Anas is expected to start the race, with both the female team members MR Poovamma and Hima Das thrown in the middle and Arokia Rajiv anchoring it to the finish. "It's exciting, we've been training as a team for the past four months. But since it's the first time so we don't know what to expect," Anas tells ESPN.
In the 4x400 relay, the first runner is usually someone with a good block clearance and accelerated start while the second is expected to cut-in traffic and be both smart and aggressive. The third runner is often the one with the least relay experience in the quartet and the fourth and final runner is usually the best and toughest of the lot who can stay calm even in pressure situations and make up for any lag.
The handoff, or baton exchange, is a key area of focus and their sessions together, Anas says, have been focused on it. "Yes, that has been something we have been working on so that minimum time is lost in exchange and the transfer is smooth and error-free. We've also trained to get the rhythm right and avoid any glitches in exchange that may come with height differences."
India is evenly-matched in strength of both it's male and female runners which will act as an added bonus. India are in with a fairly decent prospect of a medal, and a gold would only make this debut sweeter.