USA's Natasha Hastings, pictured in August 2016, has four 4x400m world outdoor titles, three indoor championship golds, and two Olympic golds among her 17 relay medalsUSA's Natasha Hastings, pictured in August 2016, has four 4x400m world outdoor titles, three indoor championship golds, and two Olympic golds among her 17 relay medals (AFP Photo/OLIVIER MORIN)
Nassau (Bahamas) (AFP) - Bringing a touch of glamour to the track should never be something to be frowned upon, according to American Natasha Hastings, the undisputed queen of the relays who insists athletics remains an individual sport.
Hastings, 30, has long been a pioneer in adding some sparkle to her appearance and will take to the track for the IAAF World Relays in Nassau sporting a mop of dyed blonde locks.
Her attention to looking good does not in any way deflect for what has been a particularly rich career when it comes to the 4x400m relay.
"Once upon a time I'd be ashamed of that but now I'm proud to be the relay queen," she said.
"My mom recently told me that I have 17 (relay) medals, 16 of them gold."
Amongst that haul are four 4x400m world outdoor titles, three indoor championship golds, two Olympic golds and two more podium-topping performances with the US team at the first two editions of the World Relays.
But Hastings insists that that success was secondary.
"While most of my success has come from relays and I'm grateful for that, I am still very focused on the individual and the team medals have come as a bonus," she said, with an indoor 400m bronze in Istanbul in 2012 her sole senior podium.
"For my entire life I've been taught it's an individual sport, but it's exciting and it's fun to come together as a team and it makes winning those medals as a team a little bit more special."
When asked why she took to the track looking 'model-esque', Hastings replied: "There are actually several things that go into that!
"Firstly, this is my job and I feel that whether I was working in corporate America or on the track you would never show up to your job not looking the part.
"I'm going to be on TV, I'm entertainment, I'm going to look cute.
"The other thing is that as much vanity as it is, it is actually something that's a part of my routine. Before going out to perform you're nervous and me putting my make-up on gives me something to do with my hands and take my mind away from about what I'm about to do.
"It's not pure vanity, but having fun and we are entertainment."
Make-up to one side, gender equality will receive a boost at the weekend's third edition of the World Relays, with a mixed 4x400m relay introduced to the programme, each team including two men and two women.
"We have to be a sport that innovates, that moves with the times," IAAF president Sebastian Coe said.
"This is probably the highest level that we've showcased the mixed relay and it'll be a great opportunity to test reaction, to see what athletes and spectators think about it.
"It's not jettisoning our philosophy or history, but it's recognising that we need to captivate young people and that's why this event will be a welcome addition."
Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who will race the mixed relay for the Bahamas, said the team were "excited about it, to get the guys to compete in it".
"It's something the crowd will love to see," she said, with the team captains able to delay designating who runs which leg until the very last moment, guaranteeing an element of gamesmanship.