Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s men’s 4x100m relay quartet delivered yet another World Athletics Championships medal to make it five in as many days for the team with an impressive bronze on the penultimate night of action in Oregon.
A brand new quartet of Jona Efoloko (coach: Clarence Callender; Sale Harriers Manchester), Zharnel Hughes (Glen Mills; Shaftesbury Barnet), Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Ryan Freckleton; Newham & Essex Beagles) and Reece Prescod (Marvin Rowe; Enfield & Haringey) came together perfectly as their fine record at the worlds, dating back to 2017, was maintained.
Efoloko defied the fact he was running in a major championship for the very first time with a storming first leg, Hughes and British team captain Mitchell-Blake provided the experience on two and three before Prescod, in only his second outing for the team, took it home for bronze in 37.83 seconds.
The British women’s 4x100m relay team agonisingly missed out on keeping their own World Championship medal streak going as they finished sixth, impressive given the circumstances of an injury scare which impeded Dina Asher-Smith’s (John Blackie; Blackheath & Bromley) third leg, while in the other final action on the night Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall; Dundee Hawkhill) was 11th in the women’s 5000m final and Jessica Judd (Mick Judd; Blackburn Harriers) 13th.
Elsewhere the British women’s 4x400m relay team of Ama Pipi (Marco Airale; Enfield & Haringey), Laviai Nielsen (Philipp Unfried; Enfield & Haringey), Victoria Ohuruogu (Christine Ohuruogu; Newham & Essex Beagles) and Nicole Yeargin (Boogie Johnson; Pitreavie) impressively advanced to the final in the only qualifying action on the penultimate evening as they seek to get back on the podium after missing out in Doha in 2019.
There was a sense of not knowing what might happen for the British quartet in the men’s 4x100m relay final with Efoloko coming in fresh for the team on the opening leg. However he produced the leg of his life on his first taste of a major championships, handing over to Hughes, arguably the best back-straight relay runner in the world, to set up Mitchell-Blake on the third leg.
Mitchell-Blake powered around the bend and completed a fine exchange with Prescod who would not relinquish third place and a bronze medal on the anchor as they clocked 37.83, just 0.35 behind winners Canada and 0.28 behind the USA.
Efoloko said: “I was very nervous but Nethaneel our team captain told us that pressure is a privilege. I just kept that in the back of my head. All I was thinking about was getting out and giving the team a good lead and I was just happy that I did that.”
Hughes said: “I remember speaking to Jona before the race started. I said ‘Jona, just keep coming. As long as I get the baton, I’m going to do damage’. I got the baton from Jona and turned on all the turbos I could possiblly turn on and ran to Nethaneel as fast as I possibly could. I am very proud of the guys.”
Team captain Mitchell-Blake said: “We have shown that we are serial medallists in this relay. Every champs that we have come to we have been fortunate enough to medal. That is testament to our individual skills and the collective effort of everybody behind.
“It is a team effort, not just us here. There is a relay pool so credit to the coaching staff and everybody back home that has been continuing to support us. Ultimately the aim is to come away from the next world champs with a gold and go onto Paris.”
Prescod: “For me it was just about concentrating and focussing on the task at hand. Nethaneel made me feel very confident and the rest of the boys made me feel very confident. It is nice to finally be part of this team and, in my first champs, get a medal with the boys and we can build for the future and go from there.”
The British women’s 4x100m relay quartet looked well on course for yet another World Championship medal, if not gold, at Hayward Field prior to the penultimate leg. Asha Philip (Amy Deem; Newham & Essex Beagles) put in her usual blistering start and handed over to Imani-Lara Lansiquot (Stuart McMillan; Sutton & District) who put Asher-Smith into a position where it looked like she would pass to Daryll Neita on the anchor leg in first place.
Asher-Smith clearly felt something wasn’t right – valiantly battling on to make the final exchange. Neita, an extremely strong anchor leg runner, powered down the home straight to ensure the team finished sixth clocking the fastest split of the entire race.
Asher-Smith, immediately after the race, said: “I’m a bit shocked. I don’t know. I will have to go and have a check with my physio and everything but I just feel a bit confused because I felt fine coming in, went around the bend and my legs just stopped corresponding with me.
“I hope it’s nothing serious because I have got a lot more races to do this year. I feel awful. I felt good, we were running well.”
The entire team threw their support behind Asher-Smith. Lansiquot said: “We are a team, we win together, we lose together. Our immediate thought collectively was ‘is Dina OK?’. I can’t believe she exchanged the baton, that shows the commitment we have as a team. The priority is making sure she’s good. We’re a team.”
Neita said: “We just want to make sure Dina is OK. It wasn’t nice to see her face, she obviously wasn’t very comfortable and in my head I was like ‘please just stop’ but she kept going.
“She is a fighter and it is incredible to have her as part of the team. We didn’t come last, I don’t know how. We’re a team, this is just a stepping stone to the future. We will be good and she will be great.”
Philip said: “As much as it’s an individual sport, we do come out here as a relay team. We work really hard together. We are one team, it is us against the world.
“These things happen, you win some you lose some. We are still going to walk off with our heads held high. We’re in really good shape. We ran well in the heats, it just shows what more we have to come.”
Earlier, in the women’s 5000m final McColgan was part of a large leading group, towards the back of it with seven laps to go, before being dropped three later. She ended 11th in 15:03.03 minutes.
Heading into that final, McColgan had finished tenth four times in her World Championship career, including the 10,000m final in Oregon over a week ago, and she said: “I wish I was tenth this time!
“I found that tough, I really did. We ran slower in overall time than we did in the heat but the heat was far easier than that was. I suppose it was just the injection of pace but I knew that would be the case and I wanted to try something a little bit different anyway.
“I’m proud of myself for the way I covered it, I was probably more involved there than in the 10k, which I thought would be the other way round. I’m a little bit disappointed I didn’t close as well as I would like, but with a 1k to go I was thinking ‘will I make it?’ as opposed to ‘I feel strong’. It is what it is, I’m here, two major finals and my hamstring is still attached.”
McColgan was joined in the women’s 5000m final by British teammate Judd, who tried valiantly to not be put off by the pace set by the front runners in her first World Championship final over the distance.
Judd was 11th herself in the 10,000m in Oregon and would finish 13th in the 5000m in 15:19.88. She said: “I don’t really remember much of it, it just felt so hard. It was slow at the start, then picked up. I probably went a lap too early. The lap times went down to 69 seconds from 78s, so it’s just next level and not something I’m used to.
“I’ve never been in a 5000m world final. It has been an amazing championships for me. I would really have liked a PB in the 5000m but how I ran it was not the way to do it. I think there is more there so maybe I’ll do it at one of the championships to come.
“You always get greedy and want more, but you have to remember where you started. If you had said I would finish 13th in a world final a few years ago, I’d have thought that was great, but it is just one of those where people are ahead and you always want to beat them.”
The British women’s 4x400m relay quartet were extremely impressive in the heats as they kept on the tail of the dominant Americans throughout. Pipi, in lane one, didn’t let the stagger put her off and a smooth hand over to Nielsen put them second after the first 400 metres.
They wouldn’t relinquish that position, Nielsen and Ohuruogu avoiding any trouble caused by the Dutch dropping their baton on the second exchange, with Yeargin almost catching American Jaide Stepter Baynes on the final leg.
They clocked 3:23.92 for second in that first heat and an impressive second overall as they go in pursuit of a first world medal in the event since 2017 and Yeargin said: “It felt really good, we were in the mix so I love when we are in front it makes my job a whole lot easier. I thought I was going to get it [first] but it’s OK.”
Pipi said: “Obviously being in lane one it can be quite mentally nerve-wracking because lane eight is like all the way down there. But I just tried to pace myself, which I’ve been working on all year, and I think I did a really good job.
“I worked hard in the last 100m to give the baton to Laviai in the best possible position, so she had a good chance. I’m really happy with the 52.00 split. If I can get under 52 tomorrow and in first place, we’ll definitely be in there for a medal.”
Nielsen, part of the last British women’s 4x400m quartet to win a world medal in 2017, said: “I’ve been itching to go all week. I was a little rusty because I haven’t raced for over a week. I haven’t had too many opportunities to run against Allyson Felix so I was just watching the back of her, trying to keep up with her, and I’m so, so honoured to be able to do that.
“We have got such strength in the UK. I think we have eight girls under 52 seconds, so we have come and are representing our strongest team. I’m really proud to be a part of this team. We are a confident team, a strong team, we will be going for a medal.”
And Ohuruogu, who set a personal best individually in the semi-finals of the women’s 400m, said: “I saw we handed off in second so I thought our job was just to safely qualify – I just thought my job was to keep us in second. I didn’t have to do anything crazy or try to overtake on the last bend, I thought as long as we’ve safely qualified then we’ve done it.
“I was looking at Laviai [during the Dutch baton drop and collision] so I didn’t see anything and there was a gap. And as soon as I got the baton I went and I didn’t see anything else so I had no idea what had gone on behind.”
Great Britain and Northern Ireland Medal tally: (5)
Gold: Jake Wightman – 1500m
Bronze: Laura Muir – 1500m
Bronze: Dina Asher-Smith – 200m
Bronze: Matt Hudson-Smith – 400m
Bronze: Men – 4x100m relay