World Athletics Championships: Britain draw blank in pursuit of gold

Britain's 400 metres relay team, the last hope of achieving a gold medal at these world championships, found the task too much last night as an American team missing the individual champion, Michael Johnson, proved too strong for them.

The announcement of Johnson's withdrawal from the relay offered Britain's quartet of Iwan Thomas, Roger Black, Jamie Baulch and Mark Richardson the prospect of improving on the silver medal they had won behind the Americans at last year's Olympics. But, for all their obvious efforts, there was to be no repeat of the 1991 World championship victory, when the Brits - to employ Black's phrase at the time - kicked US butt.

The butt was on the other foot last night. Thomas, running against the man who finished fourth in the individual final, Jerome Young, gave Britain the kind of strong start which they had been expecting of him.

Black, running the second leg, still had work to do against Antonio Pettigrew, the man who had beaten him to the world title six years earlier. Pettigrew, whose split time for the semi-final was 43.6 sec, indicated his form again as he made ground in the final straight.

Baulch brought Britain through from third to first place with a huge burst of speed on the back straight. His efforts told on him in the final 100 metres and Chris Jones, the United States' third-leg runner, came past him again to hand over a two-metre lead to the individual bronze medallist, Tyree Washington.

It was a big task for Richardson to take on. He did his best, pulling out into the second lane as the two men entered the final straight. But in the last 80 metres the Briton, grimacing with the effort, was unable to narrow the lead and the United States won in 2min 56.47sec. Britain finished in 2:56.65, ahead of Jamaica, whose time was 2:56.75.

That brought Britain's total of silver medals at these championships to five after the efforts of Denise Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, Steve Backley and Colin Jackson.

But Britain's afternoon had begun with an unexpected bonus as their sprint relay team, with 22-year-old Julian Golding running an inspired final leg, took the bronze medal.

The gold went, as expected, to the Canadians. Profiting from the absence of the American quartet which, after much boasting about how they were going to break the world record, had failed to transfer the baton between their first and second runners in Saturday's semi-final, Donovan Bailey anchored the Canadians home ahead of Nigeria in 37.86sec.

When Golding accepted the baton from Doug Walker, the 200 metres semi- finalist whose talents were well used on the bend, he had half a metre to make up on the third-placed Cuban runner, Perez Rionda. Ten metres from the line, Golding, the 200 metres gold medallist at last month's European Under-23 championships, still had work to do, but he drew level and took third place with a final dip. Britain were home in 38.14sec, 0.01sec ahead of the Cubans.

It took some time for the news to reach the British foursome - the replay on the big screen was not definitive. Darren Braithwaite, who had run the opening leg before passing on to Darren Campbell, was the first to learn the result, racing back down the track to give Walker the good news.

It was good news, too, for Britain because the average age of the team is 24, and had they included Dwain Chambers, the world junior record holder, who was reported to have shin splints, that figure would have been 21.

Daniel Komen won the 5,000 metres title with fluent ease, breaking the field with a sustained burst of speed after 3,000 metres to finish in 13min 07.38sec, ahead of Khalid Boulami of Morocco, who clocked 13:09.34. As he came through the finishing line, the Kenyan, who last month became the first man to run two sub-four-minute miles back to back, pointed straight ahead of him with his left hand. Perhaps he was pointing the way to Wednesday's Zurich Grand Prix, where he will bring his talents to a far faster track.

Komen now has two days of rest before facing the world record holder, Haile Gebreselassie, in that race. "I am still working on a plan to be able to beat him," Komen said. "But this meeting is very different, and much harder, than the grand prix. There are lots of tactics, and anyone can win." Given his performance, it did not appear that way.

Early in the day, the men's marathon title was won by Abel Anton, who beat his fellow Spaniard Martin Fiz, the defending champion, with a burst of speed when the pair were in sight of the finishing point of the race, which followed the traditional course from Marathon to Athens.

FINAL MEDALS TABLE

Gold Silver Bronze

United States 7 3 8

Germany 5 1 4

Cuba 4 1 1

Kenya 3 2 2

Ukraine 2 4 1

Morocco 2 1 1

Czech Republic 2 0 0

Norway 2 0 0

Russia 1 4 3

Spain 1 3 1

Portugal 1 2 1

Australia 1 1 2

Italy 1 1 1

Romania 1 1 1

Canada 1 1 0

Poland 1 1 0

South Africa 1 1 0

France 1 0 1

Japan 1 0 1

Mexico 1 0 1

Denmark 1 0 0

Ethiopia 1 0 0

New Zealand 1 0 0

Sweden 1 0 0

Trinidad 1 0 0

Great Britain 0 5 1

Jamaica 0 3 4

Belarus 0 2 2

Greece 0 1 1

Lithuania 0 1 1

Bulgaria 0 1 0

Finland 0 1 0

Namibia 0 1 0

Nigeria 0 1 0

Sri Lanka 0 1 0

Uganda 0 1 0

Bahamas 0 0 1

Brazil 0 0 1

Mozambique 0 0 1

Slovakia 0 0 1

Switzerland 0 0 1

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