Featured image by World Athletics (Liberia men’s team qualify at 2024 World Relays)

It was an exciting two days for Liberia’s National Track Team.

From Saturday 4 May to Sunday 5 May, senior athletes from around the globe competed at the 2024 World Athletics Relays in Nassau, Bahamas. The event gave the top two relay teams in each heat an automatic ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympics.

At the end of the event, 14 teams from each category secured their spot — 70 teams overall. Liberia’s men’s 4×100 team was in that number. The guys set a new national record and ended a streak that kept Liberia from sending a relay team to the last five Olympic Games.

“This win means a lot to me because Liberia has not been represented at the Olympic Games in the 4×100 relay, since 2000 which is 24 years ago,” Liberia’s head athletics coach Sayon Cooper told Go Team Liberia.

Interestingly enough, Cooper was a part of that 2000 relay team.

Although the women’s 4×100 team showed a strong national-record setting performance on day one, they were not able to lock in a ticket to Paris on day two. Here are Liberia’s history-making highlights from the World Relays.

Day one of World Relays: Liberia falls short, but women set a new record

On 4 May, The World Relays began and Liberia’s women gave an impressive run finishing third in their heat with a time of 43.15 — and setting a new national record. Ebony Morrison started things off as the first leg. Destiny Smith-Barnett, Maia McCoy, and Symone Darius followed.

Since the women’s team did not clinch the top two spots in their heat, they prepared for another shot at Paris, on day two. The women went into day two with the 13th fastest time from Saturday’s race.

Liberia women's 4x100 team posing at 2024 World Relays.
Photo credit: The Paulite Network (l-r: Maia McCoy, Symone Darius, Ebony Morrison, Destiny Smith-Barnett).
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Akeem Sirleaf, Emmanuel Matadi, Jabez Reeves, and Joseph Fahnbulleh took to the track to represent Liberia in the men’s 4×100 on day one. They finished fourth in their heat with a time of 39.07.

Day two: Women miss out on Paris ticket

The women went into day two with high expectations, but weren’t able to repeat their performance from the previous day. They finished 5th in their heat, running a 44.31. Jamaica placed first running a 42.74 season’s best, followed by Trinidad & Tobago’s 43.54.

“We were very happy to set a national record in the prelim; Very unfortunate that we were not able to make it happen in the final” Morrison, who also represented Liberia in the women’s 100mH at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, told Go Team Liberia. “I am devastated, to say the least.”

The women’s loss was disappointing, but that disappointment was quickly turned around by the men’s shocking performance later that day.

Men set a new record and earn an Olympic spot

On day two, Liberia’s men’s team gave one of the most exciting performances of the evening. At the time of this reporting, World Athletics has yet to publish how fast each leg ran. But anyone who watched knows Liberia’s anchor Fahnbulleh, who also made the 200m men’s finals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, gave an unbelievably remarkable finish.

Liberia was trailing by the last leg, but they were still close enough for Fahnbulleh to walk down three countries and cross the finish line in second place. Narrowly beating out Switzerland by thousandths of a second, and securing Liberia’s spot in the 2024 Olympics.

“We have four great guys here,” Fahnbulleh told Citius Mag in a post-race interview. ” With that being said, it means the world just having LIB on a big stage with more than me and Matadi. We have Akeem Sirleaf and then we have Reeves.”

Liberia celebrating relay finish
Photo credit: World Athletics (l-r: Joseph Fahnbulleh, Akeem Sirleaf, Emmanuel Matadi, Jabez Reeves).

Coach Cooper emphasized the team’s efforts. “They did what they had to do. Joe came through and put on a show and he couldn’t have done it without the three of them.” The guys set a new national record with a time of 38.65. The only thing better than the finish was the celebration. The team rushed to embrace each other, as the crowd cheered on. That moment was the talk of the internet.

“This moment means a lot to me, it being my first team ever for this country,” Reeves, one of the newer members of the team who also runs for Minnesota State University, told GTL. “Being allowed to represent Liberia has been an honor.”

What’s next?

All is not lost for the women’s 4×100 relay team. They still have a chance to earn one of the last two spots for the Paris Games. They will need to continue competing and be among the top two fastest remaining times by the Paris 2024 entry deadline, 30 June.

Besides relay teams, the individual athletes are still working hard to compete and qualify for their individual events.

“Now we’ll continue to focus on our individual events and to get as many of us over to Paris as possible so we can continue to represent, first God, and then second Liberia,” Morrison said. “Thank you to the Liberian people for the continued support and thank you Go Team Liberia for the continued updates and for sharing our story.”

The team’s next big meet is the African Senior Championships in Douala, Cameroon starting Wednesday 21 June.