T&T’s prospects for a gold medal in the women’s 4x100m relay at this weekend’s IAAF/BTC World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas, has been dented with the announcement of Kelly-Ann Baptiste’s withdrawal from the event. Off a recent 10.98 winning run at the Tom Jones Memorial Invitational in Gainesville, Florida, Baptiste was announced last week by the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) as part of the overall 23-athlete T&T contingent and six-runner women’s 4x100m pool.

However, in a media release issued on Tuesday night, Baptiste’s withdrawal was announced, along with a suggestion by the NAAA that the reason was not related to injury or her recently completed 21-month ban for droping. “Her withdrawal is not related to any prior issue and is merely to allow her to address urgent personal matters,” the release noted.

Contacted for further information yesterday, public relations officer (PRO) at the NAAA, Peter Samuel, said between the time the release was issued on Tuesday and press time last evening, there were no further details with regard to the specifics of her withdrawal, but maintained that he only understands it to be “personal”.

“I know that people are coming to all kinds of conclusions out of it, but I can guarantee that this has nothing to do with previous issues (that were made public),” Samuel said via telephone, adding that Baptiste is still very much expected to feature at next month’s National Open Championships, an event mandatory for athletes to be considered for the IAAF World Championships, in August.

The latest NAAA release, authored by Samuel, states: “Ms Baptiste has been enjoying an excellent season and her presence in the Bahamas would have significantly improved the chances of our 4x100m women’s team (claiming gold). Notwithstanding, our country is being represented by a strong team and all athletes are expected to give of their best.”

In the absence of Baptiste at the inaugural World Relays last year, T&T’s 4x100m women’s team secured bronze after clocking 42.66 seconds, behind USA (41.88) and Jamaica (42.28). Kamaria Durant, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Reyare Thomas and Kai Selvon, represented T&T in the final and have been retained for this weekend’s races. Lisa Wickham is also in the team.

Baptiste’s initial inclusion meant T&T would have had a chance, albeit slim, to provide four runners from the six-athlete pool for the women’s 4x200m relay. Nevertheless, the women’s 4x100m team will challenge the heats on Sunday—second day of competition—at 7.16 pm, approximately two hours and 15 minutes before the final. T&T will also field a men and women 4x400m team and a men 4x100m and 4x200m team.

First in action will be the men’s 4x400m heats, which will open the World Relays from 7 pm on Saturday. Lalonde Gordon, Renny Quow, Machel Cedenio and Jarrin Solomon, all of whom combined for bronze last year in a national record breaking performance at 2:58.34, are also back in Nassau, while Kyle Greaux and Jacob St Clair have joined the pool.

The T&T athletes for the men’s 4x100m 4x200m relays include Marc Burns, Keston Bledman, Rondell Sorrillo and Richard Thompson—who captured silver in 38.04 seconds last year—with support from Marcus Duncan, Emmanuel Callender and Greaux. The men’s 4x100m relay heats and final will run on Saturday at 7.49 pm and 9.52 pm, respectively.

Sunday’s races will again start at 7 pm, opening with the men’s 4x200m heats, two hours and five minutes before the final. The women’s 4x400m relays will start with heats on Saturday at 8.32 pm, a day before the final, scheduled for 8.12 pm. The quarter-miler quartet, who will be seeking to improve from the 12th place finish last year, are Janeil Bellille, Josanne Lucas, Ramona Modeste, Alena Brooks and Magnolia Howell.