GB relay performance put in context.

UK Athletics receives significant government funding. Retaining the funding is dependent on achieving medal targets at the Olympics, etc. Relays are always very important in achieving medal targets.

2023 Worlds – 4 relay medals

2022 Worlds – 2

2021 Olympics – 1 (2 gained but one removed for doping offence)

2019 Worlds – 2

2017 Worlds – 4

2016 Olympics -2

The British currently fund 22 athletes for relays, an investment of over $500,000, which indicates the importance of relays.

After 4 medals and a fourth place in Budapest, Britain should have gone to Rome with high hopes.  What happened was embarrassing.

Mixed relay – fifth

Men’s 4 by 400 – seventh

Women’s 4 by 400 – no team entered

Men’s 4 by 100 – eighth in semi-final

Women’s 4 by 100 – gold medal

Of course, Britain did not have its strongest team in the relays, but equally, they faced European countries—not the USA and Jamaica. Besides the superb women sprinters, nothing in Rome would have given you any confidence that the team could challenge for five medals in Paris as in Budapest.

It started with fifth in the mixed.  I thought this was a disappointing result, and the quotes from the 4 athletes raised concerns for me:

“It’s really positive (depth of 400m athletes). It stands us in good stead for the year… there are a few things I wish I’d done better, but we’re a new team, and we’re still learning and trying not to be harsh on ourselves. It’s the first time we’ve come together as a team, I think it’s disappointing because we want to win every time. I just don’t think it was to be. We could have been a bit sharper on the changeovers…we’ve got an amazing relay team, so I think it’s exciting that we’ve got good prospects”.

British Men’s 4x400m was, well, less than spectacular, photo by European Athletics via Getty Images

Fifth in Europe—and it was a straight–to–final event—is not amazing or exciting, nor does it stand GB in good stead for the future. It shows how far short the required standard is for the team.

The men’s 4 by 400 was never in the contest. They made the final but were slower than in the heat. There were not many positives there, either.

Then, the men’s 4 by 100 was eighth in their heat/semi. At least Richard Kilty fronted up, saying, “It was horrendous. I don’t know what happened. We should never have been running that slow.”

The women’s 4 by 100 won the heat and the final.  Amy Hunt has been added to the squad.  She will be a real asset – a good athlete and a positive person.  Great to see Desiree Henry back in the team after years in the wilderness struggling with injuries. Good to see innovation, moving Dina Asher-Smith from her usual third or fourth leg to starter. That meant there was no place in the final for Asha Philip.  I don’t want to write premature obituaries, but what a relay career Asha has had with five global relay medals.

Finally, a 4 by 400 women’s team was absent. UKA funds 7 women for 400-meter relays; why could we not find 4/5 to run a relay? I heard that athletes were not keen to run in Rome, but surely, if you were funding them to run relays, management should have told them they were running.  How can it have helped GB’s chances of a women’s relay medal in Paris not to take the opportunity of a competitive run-out in Rome?

It may seem too simplistic to say that the relay performances are connected to the decision to dispense with the services of Technical director Stephen Maguire, a relay expert. But sometimes, the simplest answer is the right one!