British Relay Shambles
With the 2015 IAAF World Championships now at an end, the British team sits in a proud fourth place in the medal table with an impressive four golds. Overall, the summer has seen great success for the UK, capped by two bronze medals in the 4x400m relays on the final day.
However, the aftermath of the British men’s 4x100m relay team’s catastrophic mistake on Saturday has left a bitter taste in the mouth as the curtain closes on Beijing.
It was an event that saw Usain Bolt’s amazing championships crowned with a third gold medal as Just Gatlin’s US squad fell to pieces late on. Whilst still a fair stretch away from the world record, Jamaica superbly commuted the baton round the track and ensured they sealed the gold medal. Hosts China took a surprise silver medal whilst Canada grabbed third spot.
Bolt and Jamaica’s victory certainly proved iconic and a fitting way to end the short sprint calendar, yet the spot light lay firmly cast on disqualifications. The favorites, America, saw red as Tyson Gay’s exchange to Michael Rodgers on the last leg proved illegal and not within the yellow ticks.
Similarly, the British team had their eyes set on a medal. In the end though their fait proved the same as their counterparts across the pond, disqualification. Once again the culprit proved the change over from the third to fourth leg runner, James Ellington to CJ Ujah.
In a truly amateur incident, the UK quartet didn’t even bring the baton over the line. Ellington called for Ujah to start running significantly too early, seeing the latter burst nearly to the end of the changeover box without the stick. The panic that ensued saw Ujah desperately fumble for the baton unsuccessfully as the pair stumbled beyond the confines of the box.
James Ellington misjudging when to tell his team mate to start running proved the killer blow and saw the UK relinquish a promising position in the race. Such a sloppy error triggered outrage in particular from first leg runner Richard Kilty, who was apoplectic in his response to the occurrence.
The disappointment had spilt over into rage in an instance and Kilty could be seen trudging towards his teammates spitting a chain of foul comments. It was this embarrassing post-race eruption within the quartet that proved an utter shambles in an event that takes pride in its sportsmanship.
Whilst the Jamaican team danced away in a buzzing swarm of media and cameramen, the Brits were locked in a heated argument. Controversy had orbited the four even before the race with the dubious decision to substitute CJ Ujah into the squad for Harry Aikines-Aryeetey.
The switch had been made at the last minute and after Ujah became involved at the heart of Britain’s collapse, attention turned to this decision. Kilty’s post race comments have battered the British athletics management for not maintaining the quartet that had been successful in the heats.
Kilty in his interview drew on the fact that teamwork and group chemistry is vital in any athletics relay. So, whilst CJ Ujah may have superior times in the 100m, it was with Aikines-Aryeetey that the UK team had oiled the perfect execution of the relay. Adding an alien athlete into the squad could have easily thrown the other runners firmly off guard.
The events of the relay were disappointing for the viewers back home of course, but at the end of the day mistakes happen and even the mercurial Americans met the same fait. However, what was disappointing was the childish fracas that came in tandem and has seen the British athletics association as a whole come under fire.
One must appreciate this was no ordinary race but the World Championships no less and much rage can flair from such bitter disappointment. The 4x100m relay team is evidence that such tiny margins can carry huge consequences in an event that requires such immaculate execution.
Hindsight is an amazing thing and if you could change the past, Ellington would shout for his teammate to run that split second later and he would be handing the baton to Aikines-Aryeetey not Ujah. Such minor tweaks as that may have seen the Brits stepping off the plane with bronze medals round their neck.
What has happened has happened and the Brits can’t change the past, yet their reactions to the events sets a poor example to younger fans and the team should show unity in adversity. The disqualification isn’t the shambles, we should be proud that the UK team were even in the mix for a medal in such a talented field, it is the bitter aftermath that has engulfed the news that is truly shambolic.
Passion is always encouraging to witness but the sly shift of blame to others is the real disappointment that arose from Saturday.
As the particularly furious Richard Kilty nicely summed up on his Twitter account over the weekend:
‘We will learn from this as a team & come back stronger for sure. Passion + Disappointment = controversial reactions & we will be back’.
Well… there’s always Rio!
Kobe, YJA Senior Sports Correspondent
Priory Academy LSST