The British 4x100m relay team had to relinquish their world title to a flying all-star team from the United States featuring Christian Coleman, Justin Gatlin and Noah Lyles but the reigning champions still ran faster than the European record time they set to win the gold medal in London two years ago.
In fact, the silver medal-winning time of 37.36 at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha would have been a world record as recently as 2009 and was more than half-a-second faster than their gold medal-winning time of 38.07 to win the Olympic title in 2004. The standard of the 4x100m relay in Doha was such that the Canadians’ time of 37.91 in the heats wasn’t even fast enough to reach the final.
With two individual champions and a former world champion named on the team, the Americans began as the title favourites, assuming they sharpened up some of the suspect baton changes which meant they only qualified for the final with the eighth slowest time from the heats. The changes were much improved for the final and world 200m champion Noah Lyles anchored the former winners to the title once again in 37.10 - just 0.06 shy of the championship record held by the Jamaicans.
The British team set a world lead of 37.56 in the heats and an unchanged quartet of Adam Gemili, Zharnel Hughes, Richard Kilty and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake ran almost two-tenths faster in the final to win silver in 37.36 ahead of an improving Japanese team, with an average age of 22.2, who set an Asian record of 37.42.
The time and the performance from the British quartet was made all the more impressive as Hughes, who was running the second leg, was hampered by a pulled hamstring but still passed on the baton to Kilty in medal contention. “The leg bothers me right now but I am going to get some treatment and I will be OK for Monday. I recovered quickly,” said Hughes.
That silver medal came just a few minutes after a British team anchored by Daryll Neita and strengthened by the inclusion of reigning world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith sprinted to silver in the women’s 4x100m relay in 41.86 behind a Jamaican team which featured four-time world 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and world 400m champion Shericka Jackson.
Since the British team’s well-documented failure to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games on home soil in London, the British team has won medals at four of the last five major championships: bronze in 2013 and at the 2016 Olympics and silver at the 2017 World Championships. The Brits also finished fourth at the 2015 World Championships and won gold at the 2014 and 2018 European Championships.
There will also be keen European interest in both 4x400m finals. Great Britain (3:24.99), Poland (3:25.78) and Ukraine (3:26.57) all qualified automatically with Belgium (3:26.58) and the Netherlands (3:27.40) joining them on time.
The Belgian women’s 4x400m team - who are affectionately known as the Belgian Cheetahs - set a national record to reach the women’s 4x400m relay final and their male counterparts - the Belgian Tornadoes - kept their hopes alive for their first global outdoor medal, qualifying as the third fastest time for the final with 3:00.87. By contrast the British team failed to reach this final for the first time since the 1999 World Championships.
Twelve Europeans qualified for tomorrow night’s 100m hurdles semifinals including European indoor champion Nadine Visser from the Netherlands (12.75), former European indoor and outdoor champion Cindy Roleder from Germany (12.76) and current European outdoor champion Elvira Herman from Belarus (12.84).