GB sprinters’ golden finale amid late flurry of medals can’t hide World Championship failings of British team

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FINISHING fourth in the Premier League these days is hailed a major achievement — especially if your name is Arsene Wenger.

But when athletes do that on the global stage in track and field it is simply not enough. Medals are what matter.

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Britain bowed out with a superb gold in the 100m at the World Championships in London but it was not enough to paper over the cracks in the earlier events

Mo Farah was the only individual gold winner for Britain despite the World Championships being in London

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Mo Farah was the only individual gold winner for Britain despite the World Championships being held in London

The London 2017 target for British Athletics performance director Neil Black was six to eight medals — a number achieved at the previous FIVE World Championships.

They scraped to the line on the final weekend with gongs in all four relay events — a gold in the men’s 4×100 metres, silver in the women’s 4x100m and 4x400m and bronze in the men’s 4x400m.

But only one individual from a bloated British team of 89, the biggest ever at the Worlds, won medals.

That was Mo Farah, who is now retiring from the track after winning gold and silver.

As decathlon legend Daley Thompson said: “I hope we don’t allow the magnificent relays to paper over the cracks.”

The five fourth places were gained by Callum Hawkins (marathon), Laura Muir (1500m), Kyle Langford (800m), Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (200m) and Dina Asher-Smith (200m). They all went agonisingly close but the writing had been on the wall for some time.

The joke on the opening night was that we might collect more retrospective medals — awarded from previous championships because of drug cheats — than at the actual event itself.


Helsinki 2005 is judged to be Britain’s rock bottom, winning just three medals on the final weekend at an event where Justin Gatlin took world 100m gold and it chucked it down most of the week. Remind you of anywhere?

That was the year after Britain won three Olympic golds at Athens 2004, including two from Kelly Holmes.

Britain won an excellent silver in the womens 100m relay on the final day

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Britain won an excellent silver in the women’s 100m relay on the final day

Mo Farah had to settle for silver in his last big event, the World Championships in London

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Mo Farah won 5,000m silver in his last big event, the World Championships

Complacency and lack of attention to detail had crept into much of the next generation, so when Holmes retired before the 2005 Worlds, there were few left to step up. For the last two years Farah, Jess Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford, the stars of Super Saturday at London 2012, have similarly covered the flaws on the global stage as their track and field careers draw to a close.

Charles van Commenee, the outspoken Dutch coach brought in to sort out the mess in 2008, gave those who needed it a kick up the backside and took tough decisions with results rapidly improving.

He told me he left four promising world-class athletes when he quit in 2012 in heptathlete Kat Johnson-Thompson, pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw, hurdler Andy Pozzi and sprinter Adam Gemili.

Mo Farah finished with a gold and a silver at London 2017 after an incredible career

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Mo Farah finished with a gold and a silver at London 2017 after an amazing career

Worryingly I believe the sport is going backwards again under his successor Black, a former physio, as have the careers of KJT, despite her army of coaches, and Bradshaw.

Pozzi has admittedly had injuries in recent seasons but he was fit this year and failed to make the final. As for Gemili, his experience this summer sums up the lack of leadership at the top. Told to run at the world trials even though he was recovering from injury he was then overlooked for the 200m despite assuring Black he would be fit by the selection deadline and missing out on Olympic bronze last summer by three thousandths of a second.

True to his word he was fit enough to help win GOLD in the 4x100m final but forced to watch on from the team hotel as the 200m title was won in the slowest time since 2003. Zharnel Hughes, chosen ahead of him, only just got through the heats and then blamed an injury from BEFORE Rio.

Five let-downs

1. Kat Johnson-Thompson: Fifth in the heptathlon after a high jump nightmare. She then leapt a season’s best of 1.95m in the individual high jump a week later – a mark that would have got her gold had she cleared that mark in the multi-events.

2. Andy Pozzi: He will be the first to admit he should have got to the 110mh final with bronze being won by Hungarian Balazs Baji in 13.28secs. Pozzi had set a personal best of 13.14 in Paris last month.

3. Holly Bleasdale: Two Olympics and two world championships – and still without a global outdoor medal to her name having failed to build much on her sixth place at London 2012 as a raw talent, finishing sixth in the same stadium five years on.

4. Lorraine Ugen: The long jumper knew she had to leap around 7m to get on the podium – insisting she was doing the distance at the holding camp – and cut out her fouls. She suffered four in the final with a best mark of 6.75m and failed to transfer her World Indoor silver success outdoors.

5. James Dasaolu: Fast becoming the forgotten man of British sprinting despite having the second quickest time in history and winning European 2014 gold. He went out in the 100m semi-finals with a mark of 10.22secs. He has run faster eight times this year including coming second at the world trials. Did not even make the relay line-up.

Similarly 100m hurdles specialist Tiffany Porter claimed she had struggled all season. Which begged the question . . . why was she even at London 2017?

Five athletes finished fourth in their events but others trooped off making excuses.

Langford, an 800m star, looks to have real promise for the future, with championship performers Asher-Smith and Muir rare examples who refused to blame serious injury problems for missing out on the podium.

As for coaches, men like Toni Minichiello, who led Ennis-Hill to greatness, are being abandoned with no proper regime in place for others to rise through the ranks.

Charles van Commenee was given the job of getting British athletics back in shape

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Charles van Commenee was given the job of getting British athletics back in shape

Black, who has three years left on his contract until Tokyo 2020, yesterday insisted: “We genuinely believe we have multiple individual medallists to come and we are going to nail the relays in global competition after competition. They are certainly not cheap medals.

“I’m aware people will be chatting s**t everywhere and saying all sorts of things.

Kyle Langford looks an outstanding prospect after bagging fourth place in the 800m at London 2017

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Kyle Langford looks an outstanding prospect after bagging fourth in the 800m

Zharnel Hughes flopped after his controversial selection ahead of Adam Gemili

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Zharnel Hughes flopped after his controversial selection ahead of Adam Gemili

Tiffany Porter was chosen despite admitting she had struggled for form all season

Rex Features

Tiffany Porter was chosen despite admitting she had struggled for form all season

“That’s cool. Say what you want. We’ll carry on performing and that’s where the motivation comes from.”

But while British Athletics were busy off the track organising a home World Championships — which should have given them an advantage — it seems they took their eye off what was happening on it.

Mo Farah and the gold medal 100m relay team defend Farah’s legacy amid doping allegations

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