Ath­let­ics: is Team GB good enough?

The Week Middle East - - News -

For too long, Bri­tain was a na­tion of “in­cor­ri­gi­ble ba­ton-drop­pers”, said Oliver Brown in The Sun­day Tele­graph. But at the World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships last Satur­day, the men’s 4x100m re­lay team “re­stored na­tional pride”, gate­crash­ing Usain Bolt’s fi­nal com­pet­i­tive race to win gold. It was hardly a “show­piece send-off” for the Ja­maican, who tum­bled to the floor with cramp. But even if he had been with­out in­jury, it is un­likely his team could have caught up with Team GB: their time of 37.47 sec­onds was the fastest in the world this year. To cap “an un­for­get­table evening for re­lays”, the women’s 4x100m team took an “un­likely sil­ver”. Then on Sun­day, in the 4x400m, the women’s team took sil­ver, and the men bronze. Since 2012, Bri­tish Ath­let­ics has in­vested heav­ily in re­lays, on the grounds that they are less com­pet­i­tive than in­di­vid­ual races. Last week­end, that strat­egy more than paid off. Team GB didn’t fare as well in the solo events, how­ever, said An­drew Long­more in The Sun­day Times. The only in­di­vid­ual medals went to Mo Farah: he won the 10,000m, but fin­ished sec­ond in the 5,000m last Satur­day. Rac­ing for the fi­nal time be­fore he swaps dis­tance run­ning for marathons, it was not the “last hur­rah” Farah had hoped for: at 34, he couldn’t find the speed that had turned his “ev­ery race at the World Cham­pi­onships or the Olympics for six years into thrilling vic­tory”. And to Farah’s great frustration, he is bow­ing out amid “sus­pi­cion” over his suc­cesses, said Andy Bull in The Guardian. There are ques­tions over the two drug tests that he missed in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. More trou­bling still is his re­la­tion­ship with his coach, Al­berto Salazar, who is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the US Anti-Dop­ing Agency. When Farah was in his mid-20s – the age at which dis­tance run­ners tend to peak – he was a mid­dling ath­lete; it was only after he started work­ing with Salazar that he achieved his best times, at the un­usu­ally late age of 28. “Hard as this is for Farah’s many fans to hear, his ca­reer in­vites scru­tiny.” Still, Team GB can ill af­ford to lose another of its stars, said Rick Broad­bent in The Times. Just four peo­ple – Farah, Jes­sica En­nis-Hill, Greg Ruther­ford and Chris­tine Ohu­ruogu – have pro­duced 19 of Bri­tain’s last 22 gold medals at global cham­pi­onships. But En­nisHill and Farah have now re­tired from the track, with Ohu­ruogu soon to fol­low, while Ruther­ford is in­jured. Mean­while, no young tal­ents are ready to take their places – and the likes of Laura Muir, who came fourth in the 1,500m, and Kata­rina John­sonThomp­son, who fin­ished fifth in the hep­tathlon, are fail­ing to ful­fil their po­ten­tial. Bri­tish ath­letes will need to “get bet­ter”.

Bri­tain’s 4x100m win­ners

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