Doha 2019: Great Britain suffer relay heartbreak as America strike double 4x400m gold

Chaos reigned over the 4×400-metre relay at the 2019 World Athletics Championships as Great Britain were given a bronze medal for less than an hour.

It looked as though the quartet of Zoey Clark, Jodie Williams, Emily Diamond and Laviai Nielsen had narrowly missed out on a medal, originally crossing the line in fourth place behind strong American, Polish and Jamaican teams.

But it was dramatically revealed after the final that the Brits had been upgraded to a bronze medal, profiting from a Jamaican disqualification for an incorrect changeover arrangement.

Or so we thought. It was explained approximately 55 minutes later that Jamaica had appealed the decision and were successfully reinstated with the ribbon.

Such was the degree of confusion that the third step of the podium lay vacant during the medal ceremony, dumping both the Jamaican and British teams in an embarrassing no man’s land.

Great Britain retrospectively claim bronze, then lose it

The IAAF released the following statement: “An Appeal was lodged by Team Great Britain against reinstatement of Team Jamaica, who had initially been disqualified under Rule 170.20, as they had lined up incorrectly in the second changeover.

“Jury of Appeal supported the Referee decision to reinstate Team Jamaica as the athletes were not placed in the proper order under the direction of the responsible official as per Rules 170.3 and 170.20.

“The GBR Appeal is therefore dismissed and Team Jamaica is reinstated.”

In other words, the official – as opposed to the Jamaican team – was responsible for the incorrect order… or so it seems, anyway. We’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions from an anarchic hour.

Impressive running from Jodie Williams

Controversy aside, Williams had looked particularly impressive on the second leg, romping home to a 49.6-second split that only Phyllis Francis and Dalilah Muhammad could better in the victorious US team.

Even without the incomparably-medalled Allyson Felix in the final team, there was simply no stopping the Americans to tee up their male counterparts for the double.

But that couldn’t derail Williams’ positivity who, even before hearing about the medal drama, was feeling positive about a relay leg that tees her up perfectly for the quarter-mile next year.

Williams reflected: “My legs are burning. I am so proud of these girls – we all had a job to do and every single one of them showed up. I’m super happy to be part of this great team.

“It was great. It was obviously a new experience for me, but running with these girls was amazing. We ran a really great time and I’m proud of them.

“We’ll see about the 400m, we’ll see. The plan was always to do both next year, but that’s definitely given me some thinking to do.”

Bungled changeover for British men

And sadly, there was also disappointment for the men’s team.

The baton never got to Rabah Yousif in their relay final as Toby Harries, visibly exhausted down the home straight, came crashing to the ground just millimetres short of his compatriot’s hand.

A bungled changeover was not the way Britain had intended to draw the curtain, but the incident – an occupational hazard of relays – was a mere scratch on a finely-polished 10 days.

“Coming from a 200m background, my finish isn’t too strong,” Harries explained to British Athletics. “I lost a little bit of the lift with the baton and I didn’t quite place it correctly in his hand.”

Amidst the rubble of the error, it was America who accepted the gold medal. They didn’t even need world-leader Michel Norman in their successful revenge mission on Trinidad and Tobago.

Malaika Mihambo romps to long jump gold

It was almost as though Mihambo was slowly gathering energy, charging up her legs, swooping under the radar – and then, bam, 7.30 metres.

The German made a surprisingly slow start to the long jump final, only to demolish all her rivals in one fell swoop with a massive personal best and a distance bettered by just 11 women in history.

Sadly, 2015 medallist Shara Proctor was eliminated from the final after three jumps, but there was still plenty for Britain to cheer about with Abigail Irozuru placing in seventh.

Timothy Cheruiyot obliterates 1,500m field

The most impressive individual display undoubtedly goes to Timothy Cheruiyot, who blew away the 1,500m competition with a scintillating final two laps at the Khalifa International Stadium.

World-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj could sit comfortably in his seat, but a winning time of 3:29.26 was more than enough to whip the Kenyan fans into a frenzy.

There was no place on the podium for wonderkid Jakob Ingebrigsten who – despite expressing hopes of double gold in Tokyo – was remarkably harsh on himself in the mixed zone.

“I’m really disappointed,” the Norwegian sighed. “It’s terrible for me and I’m just really disappointed with how it turned out. It was just a terrible race for me and a terrible championship.

“At this point, I’m not seeing anything positive about these championships, but maybe there’s something positive going into next season. For now, it’s just hopeless.”

Britain were the most represented nation in the final and the Scottish trio of Jake Wightman, Josh Kerr and Neil Gourley can feel proud after finishing fifth, sixth and eleventh respectively. 

Yet another World medal for a Supermum

Nia Ali was the latest Supermum to collect a gold medal at the championships, putting her compatriot and world-record holder Kendra Harrison to the sword in the 100m hurdles final.

The mother of two romped home to a personal best of 12.34 seconds, elevating her to ninth on the all-time list and following in the footsteps of fellow parents Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

And considering her boyfriend Andre De Grasse also collected a silver and bronze medal in Doha, their daughter Yuri will have plenty of accolades to draw inspiration from when they return.

Rounding off the gold medals

Anderson Peters was the popular victor in the men’s javelin final, launching a superb 86.89-metre throw to depose 2017 champion Johannes Vetter who was forced to settle for the bronze.

Meanwhile, there was a thrilling duel between Joshua Cheptegei and Yomif Kejelcha during the 10,000m final climax and both Africans were cheered on by their continent’s partisan fans.

In the end, it was the Ugandan who snatched the gold medal in a world-leading time of 26:48.36, perfectly rounding off a year that also reaped two World Cross Country titles.

British delight across 10 days in Doha

So, there was no fairytale ending for Great Britain, but Sunday night’s relay chaos and amendments prove a mere footnote on what remains a ‘happily ever after.’

We can safely call Dina Asher-Smith the uncrowned queen of England after her trio of medals, becoming the first British athlete in history to claim such a World Championship haul.

Throw in Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s triumphant heptathlon gold, two silver medals from the brilliant 4x100m quartets, and you have yourself a British collection of five global ribbons. 

Through the trials, tribulations, stumbles and stutters of Doha 2019, world-class British displays have never been far from the spotlight.

And with the public attention now shifting to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, you can guarantee that the British team will return faster, higher and stronger.

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