Five days of action for the British team at the European Championships came to an end in Helsinki last night when Richard Buck crossed the line to secure second place for the men's 4 x 400m relay team. It was a silver lining, one of two on the final day, that took the GB medal haul to seven but after yet another Great British sprint relay disaster it was doubtful that the buck would stop there.
After the women's 4x100m relay quartet were disqualified from their semi-final on Saturday, and more importantly failed to qualify for the London Olympics, the men's 4 x 100m team got in on the slapstick act, being unable to get the baton round in their final yesterday. In fact, they could not get it past first base, Christian Malcolm failing to get the stick into the hands of second leg runner and fellow seasoned speed merchant Dwain Chambers.
"I'll take responsibility," Malcolm said. "It was my job to get the baton to Dwain and I couldn't quite do it. I'm gutted."
Chambers, back in the GB squad at a major championship for the first time since the 2006 European Championships, said: "We've just got to learn from our mistakes. We've got to sit back and review."
It was all just a little bit of history repeating – a third cock-up in four major championships for the British men's 4x100m squad, following the fumbled exchanges, dropped batons and other errors that added up to abject failures at the 2008 Olympics, 2010 European Championships and 2011 World Championships.
At least the British men's 4x100m have a place at the London Olympics. The women lost theirs when they dropped out of the top 16 in the rankings after Saturday's disqualification."It was an accident waiting to happen," said the GB head coach, Charles van Commenee, who dropped the women's 4x100m relay team from funding after their failure at the last European Championships in Barcelona two years ago. "We've been underperforming in that area for 10 years."
Minus Christine Ohuruogu and Perri Shakes-Drayton, the GB women's 4 x 400m team (Shana Cox, Nicola Sanders, Lee McConnell and Elidh Child) finished out of the medals in fourth place in their final yesterday. The men's quartet – Nigel Levine, Conrad Williams, Rob Tobin and Buck – took silver behind Belgium in 3min 01.56sec.
There was also a silver for 38-year-old Jo Pavey as the British team – at considerably less than full strength a month away from the Olympics – finished sixth in the medal table. The veteran Exeter Harrier was runner-up to Dulce Felix of Portugal in the 10,000m, clocking 31min 49.03sec. "It's a nice surprise to feel I can still do it at this age," she said.
JJ Jegede almost emerged with a surprise medal in the long jump after a wind-assisted second round jump of 8.10m. The 26-year-old East Ender was knocked down to fourth place, however, and will miss out on Olympic selection, having failed to achieve the 'A' standard qualifying distance of 8.20m.