Britain's golden sprint generation finally comes good in 4x100m relay

Left to right, Adam Gemili, Chijindu Ujah, Daniel Talbot and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake celebrate their remarkable victory in the 4x100-meter relay, claiming Britain's second gold medal of its home World Championships. Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

LONDON -- There seemed to be no stopping the British men's 4x100-meter relay team as they celebrated wildly after winning World Championships gold in the fastest time of the year.

Theirs is a redemption story after years of disqualifications, disunity and disappointment, and they was going to enjoy every moment of it.

It was Britain's first world gold in the event, but it wasn't a surprising result. The team of CJ Ujah, Adam Gemili, Daniel Talbot and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake had looked good in the heats and has long had the potential to take pride of place on the podium; it's just that, with them, no-one ever knew what they were going to get.

"I think the public have probably heard enough about us being the best generation of sprinting, with no results," said Talbot. "So it's nice we came here in front of our home crowd and did exactly what we thought we could.

"A lot of people would have looked at Jamaica and the U.S., Canada and think those are the guys who usually get all the medals and Great Britain usually mess up.

"But we had so much self-belief, we didn't come here just to get on the podium, we came to win and that's what we did. The time was a bonus."

Britain won this event at the 2004 Olympics in Athens but have had a torrid time since. They had managed to get the baton round in only one global championships since 2008 before Saturday, and relief must have helped fuel their celebrations. The last time they had contested a major championships on home soil, at the London 2012 Olympics, Gemili and Talbot's final changeover in the heats saw the team disqualified.

"London 2012, especially for Danny and I, went really horribly," said Gemili. "To come out here five years later -- redemption -- and be world champions in front of a home crowd, it's something you dream of.

"It was a great field, a very loaded race, but we believed in ourselves. We should have done this years ago, but it's a very special team, and everyone here has been challenging the world's best. We came together and did a job."

Mitchell-Blake, who finished fourth in the individual 200 meters and beat 100-meter runner-up Christian Coleman on the final relay leg to clinch gold, produced the wildest of all the team's celebrations. Even his team-mates couldn't get near him.

"I didn't know what to do with myself," he said. "You premeditate a celebration, you think all this fancy stuff, but it actually happened. It's uncontrollable energy. I was exhausted after about 20 seconds. It's an amazing feeling and a testament to all the effort we've put in.

"When you think about the names in that race: [Justin] Gatlin, Usain Bolt, [Yohan] Blake -- those are some of the fastest guys ever to run in the sport, and for us four to come together and get the gold is a great feeling.

"I truly believed we'd come out with a victory and anything less would have been unsatisfactory. I'm glad to put the gold medal on in a home stadium."

However, the wide smiles contracted temporarily when they considered the fate of Bolt in his last race.

The Jamaican had pulled up with a hamstring injury as the British team powered to victory in 37.47 seconds -- a European record -- followed home by the U.S. and Japan.

"I was right next to him [Bolt]," said Talbot, who ran the third leg and was halfway down the home straight when Bolt injured himself. "I passed over the baton and followed Nethaneel, screaming, 'We are going to win this,' and out of nowhere [Bolt] started hobbling. It's sad to see, but this season is about the fans for him, it's not going to affect his legacy. He's the greatest of all time.

"It's an honour just to be on the track with the guy. We all grew up watching him. Beijing 2008 -- you'll probably never see anything like that again. The guy put his hands down with 30 meters to go and was still running away from people. To be there on his last night [in major competition] is amazing."

As the team observed, the British crowd had been "buzzing" about Bolt. Indeed, the whole country had seemed excited about London hosting his last race. It had become the antidote to Team GB's struggle for medals, with only Mo Farah's gold in the 10,000 meters on the opening night to show for their efforts.

But with Farah adding 5,000-meter silver on Saturday, the pressure began to lift. Soon after, the British women's 4x100-meter relay team of Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita took silver behind the U.S. in 42.12 seconds, and then the men's team went one better. At last.