The British men’s sprint relay squad showed its versatility and strength in depth when a new quartet of Jona Efoloko, Zharnel Hughes, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and Reece Prescod earned bronze medals behind the United States and winners Canada on the penultimate day [July 23] of the World Championships in Eugene.
A newcomer to the team Efoloko, 22, won the world junior 200m title in 2018 and he combined with the more experienced Mitchell-Blake and Hughes before Prescod – who has not usually been part of relay set-ups in the GB camp – anchored the team home in 37.83 as Andre De Grasse brought Canada home first in 37.48 ahead of Marvin Bracy of the United States with 37.55.
“Not being clean cost us the race. No excuses. We let y’all down my apologies,” said Bracy to his home fans.
It was the first time Canada had won the title since 1997 when their squad included Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey. “It’s not on home soil, but it felt like it,” De Grasse said, referring to the Canadian support for himself and his team-mates Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney.
The US squad consisted of Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles, Elijah Hall and Bracy but their changeovers were not as slick as they finished a frustrated second. De Grasse has not been at his best this month due to illness and injury but the Americans were also missing individual 100m winner Fred Kerley due to injury.
As for the Brits, they said they felt like brothers and thanked their coaching team that included 2004 Olympic 4x100m gold medallist Darren Campbell plus Christian Malcolm and Benke Blomkvist.
“I was very nervous but Nethaneel, our team captain, told us that pressure is a privilege,” said Efoloko, who was making his senior championship debut and stepped in for Adam Gemili, after Gemili had run in the heats. “I just kept that in the back of my head.”
Prescod, meanwhile, has not run the relay since his teenage years but said he was asked to do a job for the team and was happy to step in and rise to the challenge.
Hughes said: “I remember speaking to Jona before the race started. I said ‘Jona, just keep coming. As long as I get the baton, I’m going to do damage’. I got the baton from Jona and turned on all the turbos I could possibly turn on and ran to Nethaneel as fast as I possibly could. I am very proud of the guys.”
After the disappointment of Tokyo last year when the team was disqualified due to CJ Ujah’s drugs positive, the class of 2022 might feel they had a point to prove. They were keen to emphasise, though, that Tokyo was in the past and that they were only concerned with writing a new chapter in the sport’s history.
Mitchell-Blake added: “We have shown that we are serial medallists in this relay. Every champs that we have come to we have been fortunate enough to medal. That is testament to our individual skills and the collective effort of everybody behind.”
Prescod said: “For me it was just about concentrating and focussing on the task at hand. Nethaneel made me feel very confident and the rest of the boys made me feel very confident. It is nice to finally be part of this team and, in my first champs, get a medal with the boys and we can build for the future and go from there.”