It's not too early to start speculating about one of the most exciting features of the 2012 Olympic track and field competition—the relays.
Questions are already forming in the minds of hardcore track fans.
Can anyone challenge the Jamaican men's 4x100m team?
Will Usain Bolt (or Yohan Blake) attempt to medal in the 4x400m?
As his nation's second fastest quartermiler, will South Africa allow The Bladerunner, Oscar Pistorius, to run lead-off in the 4x400m finals?
Can the US women sweep the relays as they did in the 2011 World Championships?
Can the American men break their DNF (did not finish) jinx and get the stick around the track in the 4x100m?
With general interest in the 2012 Olympic Games already beginning to rise, the IAAF (track and field's global governing body) has released an initial listing of the top 16 relay teams in the world, based on each team's two best times.
Sixteen teams will be chosen in both men's and women's 4x100 and 4x400 relays to compete in London.
A window between January 1, 2011 and July 1, 2012 exists where each team's two fastest times will be recorded. After July 1, 2012, the best cumulative times will determine the order of the final top 16 in each relay.
Each country who qualifies is allowed a six-member team per relay. This raises the possibility of individual stars such as Bolt, Blake or American sprinter Tyson Gay running in the mile relay (4x400). For example, if Gay fails to get gold in his primary races (100m, 200m, 4x100 relay), he just might get a final chance in the 4x400m.
Gay, after all, is a sub-45 second 400m runner.
The official rules and a downloadable pdf file showing the current list (subject to change) of the world's top 20 relay teams may be found here.
Top 3 (with best times)
Jamaica - 37.04
USA - 37.79
France - 38.29
USA - 2:58.62
South Africa - 2:59.21
Jamaica - 2:59.13 (Second-best time was slower than South Africa's.)
USA - 41.56
Jamaica - 41.70
Trinidad - 42.50
Russia - 3:19.36
Jamaica - 3:18.71 (Second-best time was slower than Russia's.)
USA - 3:18.09 (Second-best time was slower than Jamaica or Russia.)
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