will take the final curtain?
Sam Walker for the IAAF
11 August 2001 -Edmonton - With two specialist bend runners and two sub-ten second 100 metres specialists Team GB is somewhat reminiscent of Ben Hur’s chariot team, each with his own job, and with a little less violence the British quartet are hopeful of gold before an International Colosseum of millions.
In the final race of the Championships Britain’s sprint team hope to make up for their individual disappointments when they take on the USA. 4x100 metres team.
There seem to be great expectations for the youthful GB sprinters - and for good reason. Mark Lewis-Francis flew onto the world scene by winning the World Junior Championships last year and this year (where he still considers himself a Junior) finishing third in the World Indoor Championships 60m and winning the European Cup 100m.
MLF is already favourite for the 2004 Olympics in Athens since his amazing 9.97 seconds run in winning his second round race in Edmonton – although lack of a correct wind reading invalidated the time statistically. This time made him the quickest junior ever, the second fastest being relay compatriot Dwain Chambers’ 10.06 seconds (Seville 1999).
Mark was however unfortunate in not making the final, the youngest ever 100m finalist record (also held by Dwain) was considered his for the taking but he was put under pressure early and narrowly failed to make the cut.
The British number one Chambers was also disappointed with his 100 metres campaign, finishing fifth in the final and after picking up a cramp in the first round of the 200 metres he never really got into that event.
The remainder of the British quartet did make the 200 metres final and Christian Malcolm showed how in form he really was by running four personal bests. Two in the 100m where he finished seventh in the final and two in the rounds of the 200m, finishing a very close fifth.
Marlon Devonish completes the team and he ran his fastest two races of the season at this Championships.
But the favourites for the relay are undoubtedly the Americans and after their clean sweep in the individual event they will be looking to add to their medal collection.
In the absence of Maurice Greene, the U.S. team will now be led by the second and fourth fastest men in the world this year Tim Montgomery and Bernard Williams. They will be out to prove that they are the best sprint team in the world even without Greene.
There was talk earlier in the week of a USA assault on the World Record for the relay but without Greene it is likely that a gold medal each will suffice for the rest of the team.
This is not merely a transatlantic battle however and the rest of the world cannot be disregarded with particular respect to the Jamaican, Brazilian and Nigerian teams, each of which has a depth of sprint talent.
It must also be remembered that getting the baton around the lap safely is the most important factor, Team GB would like to forget their two faulty changeovers in one race that denied them the opportunity of an Olympic final last year.
Two years on from their world silver medal, older and wiser the team has grown together and each improved at their individual events. The world awaits them on Sunday.