Dutch shock French as Britain drop the baton
|The Dutch 4x100m relay team celebrates after winning a surprise
gold medal in Helsinki on Sunday.
As Chambers ripped off his number in frustration on the back straight, the race moved on relentlessly and concluded with the Netherlands, whose team featured the 200m champion of the previous night, Churandy Martina, taking gold in a national record of 38.34sec which heads this year's European rankings.
"Both gold medals are really important," Martina commented. "I'm very happy with the Championships."
Silver went to Germany, whose anchor leg runner Lukas Jakubczyk strained every sinew to get over the line before France's last-leg runner Emmanuel Biron, two lanes inside him. Germany clocked 38.44, while the 2010 champions – who did not have the individual silver medallist Jimmy Vicaut in their team - had to settle for third place in 38.46, 0.21sec ahead of the Russian quartet.
"Awesome!" was the reaction of Germany's Thomas Unger. "We changed our positions before the race, and Lucas ran very fast at the end. Everything went so well, although the bend was a bit difficult. I guess if we'd been in an outer lane the time would have been better – but we're really happy."
Lemaitre was in less exuberant form afterwards. "We are not totally satisfied with the bronze, because we had been fighting hard for the victory," he commented.
For the British it was an embarrassing repeat of the previous day's debacle when their women's sprint relay team had been disqualified from their semi-final for running out of a lane, a result which effectively put them out of the London Olympics as they now have no chance of meeting the qualification criteria.
The men's sprint relay team are in no such danger – but with four major upsets in the last five years, confidence in their performance is in jeopardy.
There had been no hint of flakiness in the British quartet the previous day as, despite having to bring in Mark Lewis-Francis for Harry Aikines-Aryeetey – who had injured a hamstring in finishing fourth in the individual final – they had been the fastest qualifiers in 38.93sec.
Malcolm had passed safely on to Chambers, originally selected for the individual 100m but then left out in a move which signalled to observers that he did not need to do anything more to secure an individual place at the Olympics having won the trials in a time outside the Olympic 'A' qualifying mark; James Ellington and Lewis-Francis had then finished the job.
But in the final the latter two were left as bemused observers as Chambers and Malcolm came to grief. Malcolm took responsibility afterwards, claiming he had "lost momentum" as he approached his old friend.
The Netherlands had only finished third in the semi-final in 39.34 – but unlike Britain they showed they were ready to produce on the big day.