World Championships 2013: UK Athletics performance director Neil Black takes the positives after GB hit medals target
Emergence of new faces delights UK director as team bag six medals in tough, transitional year
Monday 19 August 2013
The UK Athletics performance director, Neil Black, believes Britain has every reason to feel positive after achieving the medal target of six set by UK Sport at the World Championships in Moscow.
It looked as though Great Britain would end up just one shy with five medals only for the result of the women's 4x100m relay to be overturned ensuring a third bronze medal for the team in addition to three earlier golds.
"I really feel inherently positive and I'm not just saying that," said Black. "The athletes, the attitude, the sense of team-ness, the positive environment, the communication, all that leaves a positive feel."
The big disappointment on the final day had been the disqualification of the men's relay team for a botched handover after initially being awarded the bronze medal. The relay aside, the other disappointments came in the 400m hurdles where Dai Greene had come to Moscow as defending champion but had been injured, while Perri Shakes-Drayton, a contender for gold in the women's event, damaged her left knee and, as a result, limped across the line in her final, way outside the medals.
In addition, Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz lacked the same form and fluency of last year, while Jessica Ennis-Hill, usually a banker for a medal, was back at home nursing her injured Achilles.
With those injuries in mind and some new faces emerging, Black fired a positive note: "The Jessica Judds, Chris O'Hare's [who ran in the 800m and 1500m respectively], the young people, I think that all helps. It's about looking forward with the positive momentum, which we feel is there.
"It's a transition year, lots of change we've been through, that I think we've managed well and which we're coming out the other end of. We can see where the medals are going to come from in the future."
The total of six medals was marginally down on Daegu two years ago when the team ended up with seven in all, although the haul of three golds was Britain's best ever at a Worlds, matching the heroics of Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell and Colin Jackson 20 years ago in Stuttgart.
Black, though, knows he still faces some potentially tough questioning in a results-driven business in a post-Olympic year with expectations ever higher. He added: "I'm a realist, it's been a tough year and this is the World Championships, we've got to remember that. I think what we've got to do is look at really converting those medals. Jess, I know, is going to come back with a vengeance, and Mo [Farah] and Chrissy [Ohuruogu] are showing signs of still being ongoing. I'm not concerned."
Of all the prospects for the future, Adam Gemili is probably the most exciting. He became only the second British man in history to duck under the 20-second barrier in the semi-finals of the 200m and missed out on a medal in the final by just 0.04 seconds. Black described him as "one of the people who has huge potential". He added: "How far he can go, we don't know at this stage. But we are incredibly optimistic."
Despite the promise of Gemili and James Dasaolu, Britain's most recent sub-10-second runner, it proved a medal-less championship for the home-grown sprinters – mainly because of the relay error – but Black insisted that money and resources would still be thrown at the team events. He said: "We'll look at things and review the process but whatever happens we'll be investing in relays going forward. We believe in the relays. We're going to be investing in them."
He came, he saw, he conquered, seeing off the opposition twice over, as he had done at London 2012. The Fly Mo's five global (World Championship and Olympic) titles make him the most successful British athlete of all time, by a margin of two golds. The challenge of the marathon awaits.
A week on, as she packs her 400m gold medal in her bag, the Great Britain captain is probably still wondering how she did it. The women's one-lap final was the race of these championships.
A brilliant performance to take bronze behind Brianna Rollins and Sally Pearson in the 100m hurdles. The former US junior international has endured a testing time since switching allegiance to the land of her father (and mother) but this was the best of British.
It was stunning enough that he got to the Olympic 100m semis as an 18-year-old. A 19.98sec 200m semi-final run and fifth-placed finish in the final confirmed the Dartford flyer as a global sprint force to be reckoned with.
... and losers
Last year she registered the best mark in long jump qualifying at London 2012 only to finish ninth in the final. In Moscow she again led the qualifying field but finished sixth. Her qualifying round jump, 6.85m, would have won bronze.
There was never any great hope of the off-colour Welshman successfully defending the 400m hurdles title he had claimed with his grandstand finish in Daegu two years ago.
A big hope for silver in the 400m hurdles but bashed a knee at the first hurdle, trailing home seventh – another poor reflection of her true global standing after she tweaked a hamstring and failed to reach last year's Olympic final.
It was always going to be a wing and a prayer mission for the Olympic long jump champion after the hamstring tear he suffered in Paris last month. His qualifying round exit came as a disappointment but no great surprise.
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