Britain has grown accustomed to the relays ending in disaster with batons sprayed and tempers frayed but the time and money spent on improving the handover discipline paid off with three golds and a bronze at the European Championships in Zurich.
Both sprint relay teams won with European leading times while the men’s 4x400m line-up was also victorious. Only the women quarter-milers came up short, denied silver by a mere seven hundredths of a second in the narrowest of finishes.
The golds for the 4x100m teams were particularly pleasing. Coach Rana Reider has opted for a no-nonsense policy with selection, only picking those who have turned up for the relay-specific sessions in training. It meant Britain’s 100m gold medallist James Dasaolu, as expected, was omitted, the Londoner unable to commit to relay training as he nursed his way back from a hamstring injury to compete at the Europeans.
They did not need him as the quartet of James Ellington, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Richard Kilty and Adam Gemili won gold just two tenths of a second outside the 15-year-old British record. It was the first time at a major championships since the Worlds in Berlin in 2009 that the British men’s team had not fluffed their lines and lanes.
Germany’s Lucas Jakubczyk went into the final leg neck and neck with Gemili but the Briton powered well clear for the win. “It’s fantastic to be part of this and hopefully we can use this relay victory as a platform to compete with the Americans and the Jamaicans,” Gemili said.
The women’s quartet of Asha Philip, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry were also triumphant, as others lost their heads: Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji dropped the baton out of the blocks and Madiea Ghafoor failed to make the handover to Dafne Schippers, the Dutchwoman bidding for her third medal of the championships.
It was also a British record, highlighting the current strength of British sprinting. Williams said: “Everyone has been talking about how British sprinting has come on in the last year and I think we’ve proved that in the relays with the medals we’ve got.”
Martyn Rooney had bemoaned the fact that he had never won anything before but he now has three gold medals in the space of two days after adding 4x400m gold to his European title in the individual event. He produced a superb final leg to ensure victory for team-mates Conrad Williams, Matt Hudson-Smith and Michael Bingham. The event favourites were run closer than they might have liked by Russia, Rooney needing to overhaul Vladimir Krasnov in the home straight.
It capped a remarkable run for Hudson-Smith, last season a 200m specialist, who was switched to the longer distance by coach Tony Hadley.
“I can’t believe what’s happened,” said Hudson-Smith, who anchored the England team to gold at the Commonwealth Games. “It’s been a hell of a journey. I’m enjoying it and it’s fun.”
Williams likened the double gold to London buses: “You wait for ages for one and then two come along at once.”
World champion Christine Ohuruogu was absent from the 4x400m relay and Margaret Adeoye could not edge Floria Guei, of France, on the line nor silver medallists Ukraine, anchored home by Olha Zemlyak.
It was a second medal for Eilidh Child, who showed little ill effect from winning 400m hurdle gold on Saturday night. She led the event after the first leg and said: “We set our sights high and ideally we wanted the gold medal.”Reuse content