The GB relay program (or Why GB wins relay medals)
UK Athletics invests significantly in its relay program. Of the athletes on central funding, 17 are specifically funded for the relay program, in addition to another seven on funding of different categories.
In Doha 2019, an American sprinter told me that she had received the baton from the athlete before her in the world championship team twice or thrice. I wonder how many times Imani Lansiquot has received a baton from Asha Philip in competition or in practice – 500, perhaps? This evening, Dina Asher-Smith did not run – no problem, Bianca Williams could step in to replace her, having been part of the real squad herself for years.
Medalists, World Champs, Men’s 4x400m, photo by Christian Petersen, Getty Images/World Athletics
It is a good start if your relay squad includes the sheer speed of Christian Coleman, Fred Kerley, and Noah Lyles. Compare the GB squad. Jeremiah Azu and Adam Gemili were not selected for individual sprints as neither had achieved the World Athletics qualifying standard. So how can a GB squad of Jeremiah Azu, Zharnel Hughes, Adam Gemili, and the fastest accountant in the world, Eugene Amo-Dadzie, challenge for a medal? By working on their technique, by practicing the baton changes by having athletes whose sole focus in these championships is the relay. Was the relay Noah Lyles’ main focus this week? Hardly. Was the relay Asha Philip, Jeremiah Azu, and Adam Gemili’s focus? Totally! The result is that the who is greater than the sum of the parts.
Women’s 4x400m relay medal ceremony, Budapest 2023, photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images/World Athletics
Darren Campbell, who was in charge of sprint relays, is reported to have left his position recently. Inconvenient, perhaps, but not a serious problem as the program is not dependent on one man. I understand that Richard Kilty has been working with the team this week. Richard told me earlier this year that he estimated that he had run relays for Britain with at least 30 different athletes! He probably knows a bit about relays.
Reading some of the comments simply confirms the special chemistry that exists within the British relay program.
Bianca Williams: “I love relays, especially doing it with these girls; it is so much fun.”
Asha Philip: “We knew if I set us up with a good start, we’d come home with another medal. I’m glad that I was able to put the team in a great position, and Imani charged down that back straight and did her thing”.
Imani-Lara Lansiquot: “This is honestly the most inspiring era of British female sprinting; I can’t portray that enough. Being around these girls, warming up together inspires me with so much belief”.
Daryll Neita: “I’m really proud of the girls today. we got a medal, and it’s a really inspiring team to be part of.”
At the time of writing, the GB relay program has delivered a medal in the mixed relay, a medal in the women’s sprint relay, and 4th place in the men’s sprint relay. And places in both 4 by 400 relay finals. The GB relay program is alive, well, and delivering.