The action in Budapest reached a roaring climax on Sunday with the GB team producing their best overall medal haul for 30 years
Not since Stuttgart in 1993 has a British team won 10 medals at the World Championships. Back then Sally Gunnell, Colin Jackson and Linford Christie were among a golden generation who climbed on to the podium with a Union flag draped around their shoulders. Now, 30 years later, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Josh Kerr, Matt Hudson-Smith, Keely Hodgkinson, Zharnel Hughes and Ben Pattison are among a class of 2023 who have created their own magnificent slice of British athletics history.
With two golds – from Johnson-Thompson and Kerr – four silvers and three bronzes, the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team finished these 2023 championships in seventh place on the medals table behind the United States, Canada, Spain, Jamaica, Kenya and Ethiopia.
More impressively, though, the GB team finished fourth on the placings table – where points are awarded for the top eight positions – with 102 points behind the United States (277), Jamaica (139) and Kenya (112).
This is courtesy of 21 top eight places during nine days in the National Athletics Centre in the sweltering city of Budapest this month.
Two of these medals came in the final events of the championships – the 4x400m relays – on Sunday (Aug 27) with the GB quartets earning a hard-fought bronze on each occasion.
The women’s race produced one of the races of the championships as Femke Bol unleashed an inspired anchor to snatch a brilliant last-gasp victory for the Netherlands ahead of Jamaica and Britain.
Laviai Nielsen, Amber Anning and Ama Pipi ran terrific opening legs for the GB team to put the squad in medal contention as Nicole Yeargin took the baton for the final lap. Running with poise and confidence, Yeargin was in second place for much of the last circuit in pursuit of Jamaican Stacey Ann Williams.
Yet Bol was ominously not far behind and making up ground. The Dutch athlete had started the championships with a dramatic fall in the final metres of the mixed relay but then won the 400m hurdles title in style.
With 100m to go here she looked like she might pull past Yeargin for silver, but as Williams began to struggle Bol realised she could go one further and she surged into first place.
It was one of the most dramatic finishes of a week in Budapest that was full of thrilling athletics. Bol’s 48.79 split brought the Netherlands home in 3:20.72 with Jamaica second in 3:20.88 and Britain clocking their second-fastest time ever of 3:21.04.
“The first three legs went so well, I felt like I had to finish as strongly as I could,” Bol said. “I wanted to stay patient, but in the last metres I said ‘No, we have to take it’.
“My heart was pumping so hard and in the final metres the crowd was so loud. I gave it 100%,” said Yeargin. “It’s a beautiful thing to anchor. It’s a lot of pressure but it was great.”
The GB team was missing Victoria Ohuruogu, too.
Moments earlier the United States won the men’s 4x400m in 2:57.31 from France in a national record of 2:58.45 and Britain in 2:58.71. The event didn’t quite have the exciting climax of the women’s race but the US were supreme as Quincy Hall, Vernon Norwood, Justin Robinson and Rai Benjamin combined to win.
Alex Haydock-Wilson, Charlie Dobson and Lewis Davey ran great opening legs before handing to Rio Mitcham, who ran a powerful anchor to impressively hold off the individual 400m winner Antonio Watson as his Jamaican team finished fourth.
It was a superb medal for a group of one-lap specialists who have been under fire in recent years for generally poor standards and who were missing the individual 400m silver medallist Hudson-Smith in the final here.
Mitcham said: “I don’t doubt these guys one bit. When he [Watson] came up on my shoulder, I didn’t doubt myself a single, single, single, single centimetre. I just knew I had it in us.”
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