Great Britain seal 4x100m relay gold as Usain Bolt bows out with injury

• Great Britain win gold in 37.47sec, a British record
• Bolt injured running last leg for Jamaica

The cheers have surely not been louder all world championships. But, dramatically and unexpectedly, this time they were not for Usain Bolt, who ended the final race of his career face down on the track and with his hamstring blown. Instead they rang loud and true for the young British athlete Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, who held off the American Christian Coleman to take the home nation’s second gold medal of the championships in a dramatic men’s 4x100m relay final.

It was a sensational performance that was reflected on the clock. The British team’s time was 37.47 – a national record and the fastest time in the world this year. The United States were second in 37.52, with Japan third in 38.04. Britain has not had the greatest of world championships but suddenly the crowd were off their feet, jumping and hugging and applauding.

But, inevitably, there was sorrow for Bolt too. The Jamaican team were in third place when the greatest sprinter and showman the sport has ever known took the baton. He is older, slower, and greyer now – but he is still a man who can turn the ignition key to his own legs quicker than any other sprinter on the planet.

Understandably he was desperate to win yet another world title in his last race – especially following the tragic death of his close friend Germaine Mason, the Olympic silver medal winning high jumper, in a road accident in April. But as he opened his stride and began to accelerate he suddenly began to hop before collapsing on the track in agony.

This has been a world championships where many of the sport’s biggest stars have been knocked off their perch. Bolt. Mo Farah. Kendra Harrison. Wayde van Niekerk. All have felt the jolting sting of a rare defeat. Yet no one expected this. The Jamaican men’s 4x100m relay team knew they were one of sport’s great bankers, having not lost a global relay on the track since Osaka in 2007. Not this time.

Afterwards CJ Ujah, who made a sensational start and put Britain ahead out of the blocks said: “I just wanted to run a good race and a night like this is fantastic.”

Adam Gemili, who proved his fitness beyond doubt after being controversially left out of the 200m, called it “the best feeling in the world”.

Meanwhile Danny Talbot admitted a hidden truth: “This is what we wanted to do. Everyone knew we wanted to win a medal – but deep down we wanted gold.”

Bolt, meanwhile, hobbled to the line, helped by his team-mates. This is not how he would have wanted it to end. It is over 15 years since athletics insiders started speaking in hushed awe about a young lank Jamaican who had won the 2002 world junior championships in 20.61sec. That time alone, set as a 15-year-old, would have beaten two of athletes in Thursday’s 200m final.

Usain Bolt pulls up injured.
Usain Bolt pulls up injured. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

The British team of Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita also lit up the track by claiming a deserved silver in the 4x100m relay behind the United States. Their time of 42.12 wasn’t the quickest – in fact it was nearly two tenths slower than in their morning heat. But no one was complaining.

It helped they were against a Jamaican team stripped of its biggest names. Not only were they without Elaine Thompson, the fastest 100m women in the world this year, but those veteran stalwarts Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce. Still their team of Jura Levy, Natasha Morrison, Simone Facey and Sashalee Forbes were able to claim bronze in 42.19sec, with Germany fourth in 42.36.

In truth it wasn’t smoothest set of baton changes ever seen by a British team. Henry was at full stretch when she handed over to Henry, while Asher-Smith had to check her stride to get the baton on the third leg. But with the Americans’ handovers also ragged, particularly their final exchange to Tori Bowie, the world 100m champion, it meant that Neita was in the hunt for gold with 80 metres to go.

There was a shock in the women’s 100m hurdles as the Australian Sally Pearson, who came close to quitting after serious injuries, blasted clear of world record holder Kendra Harrison to win gold.

Pearson has fond memories of this track, having won Olympic gold at London 2012. But two years ago in Rome she suffered a wrist injury so serious she feared she would need her lower arm amputated. To make matters worse, she also missed the Olympics with a hamstring injury.

Yet she was back close to her best here, leading from the gun to win in 12.59sec. It was her second world title – six years after her first in Daegu in 2011. No wonder she shouted: “Oh my God!” repeatedly after she crossed the line. She was barely any more coherent afterwards, “That was bloody hard,‚“ said Pearson. “It’s been a long journey back from injury, but to get this moment and go and celebrate in front of my family is unreal.

“My husband is in the crowd there somewhere, I’ll try and find him and give him a hug soon. This is just so incredible to be a world champion again.”

The American Dawn Harper-Nielsen took silver in 12.63, while the Germany Pamela Dutkiewicz grabbed a surprise bronze 0.09sec further back. Incredibly, Harrison – who set the world record of 12.22sec on this track last year – could only run 12.74, a time she could normally do in her sleep.

Contributor

Sean Ingle at the London Stadium

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Usain Bolt’s furious team-mates blame organisers for 4x100m injury
Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team have said the ‘crazy’ decision to keep everybody in a freezing call room for more than 40 minutes led to Usain Bolt’s injury in his final race

Sean Ingle at the London Stadium

13, Aug, 2017 @8:08 AM

Article image
Usain Bolt steers Jamaica into 4x100m final as GB go close to record pace
Usain Bolt’s Jamaica team made it safely through to the 4x100m final as did Britain’s men and women

Martha Kelner at the London Stadium

12, Aug, 2017 @10:16 AM

Article image
Greatness of Usain Bolt burnished even with bittersweet final appearance | Andy Bull
Usain Bolt, who has captivated our attention for nine years, hobbled over the finish line with a pulled hamstring in the 4x100m and won’t thank the IAAF

Andy Bull at the London Stadium

13, Aug, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Usain Bolt says he is still one of the greats after Justin Gatlin beats him in 100m
Usain Bolt insisted that he was still the greatest athlete in history despite his shock defeat to Justin Gatlin in the world 100m final at the World Athletics Championships

Sean Ingle at the London Stadium

06, Aug, 2017 @8:38 AM

Article image
Justin Gatlin gatecrashes Usain Bolt's London 2017 farewell party in 100m
Justin Gatlin silenced and shocked the London Stadium when he claimed the 100m world championship title with Usain Bolt in third

Sean Ingle at the London Stadium

06, Aug, 2017 @7:11 AM

Article image
Britain grab relay bronze as Bolt takes third gold medal
Britain's 4x100m relay team won a bronze medal as Usain Bolt collected his third gold

Anna Kessell in Berlin

22, Aug, 2009 @9:36 PM

Article image
Usain Bolt seals gold for Jamaica in London 2012 4x100m relay final

Usain Bolt ran the final leg as Jamaica broke the world record to win the gold medal in the 4x100m relay final

Andy Bull at the Olympic Stadium

11, Aug, 2012 @9:03 PM

Article image
Coleman and Stefanidi offer hope to athletics – a sport in need of new names | Sean Ingle
The departure of Usain Bolt, track and field’s greatest weapon, means athletics needs to unearth new names to appeal to the next generation

Sean Ingle at the London Stadium

13, Aug, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
World Athletics Championships 2017: Justin Gatlin beats Usain Bolt to 100m gold – as it happened
Justin Gatlin powered to a shock 100m gold world title leaving Christian Coleman and Usain Bolt to settle for silver and bronze respectively

Lawrence Ostlere

05, Aug, 2017 @9:04 PM

Article image
Usain Bolt expected to provide fireworks at World Athletics Championships
Dazzling array of pyrotechnics will herald the opening night in London, with Mo Farah, Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya among the supporting cast

Sean Ingle

03, Aug, 2017 @11:38 AM