It was a double nightmare for the Netherlands on the opening night of the World Athletics Championships as the dramatic fall of Femke Bol gave the Brits their first medal in Budapest.
At the height of the 4x400m mixed relay, the Dutch star stumbled and dropped the baton just before the finish line, earning Britain silver and USA gold.
Few singled out Lewis Davey, Laviai Nielsen, Rio Mitcham, Yemi-Mary John and Joe Brier as potential medalists, but it is this quintet who are responsible for putting Britain on the medal table.
“You never know what’s going to happen until you cross the finish line,” said John, who passed Bol to take the medal. “I was ready for anything to happen.
“It was tough for the final lap, I just wanted to close the gap to the USA and the Netherlands and see how close we can come. They say my last 100m is my strongest, so I just had to do what I’m good at and get close.”
At last year’s World Cup, Great Britain failed to make it out of the prelims, but this time the prospects were different.
With Brier on the first stage, they set a national record of 3:11.19 in the heats, with Laviai Nielsen’s 49.15 being the second fastest time ever by a Briton. In the final, they lowered that mark to 3:11.06.
Bol, meanwhile, is the favorite to go for the individual gold medal in the women’s 400m hurdles, which culminates on Thursday.
“I got lactic acid, like we all do, and I think I went into a cramp when I felt someone was next to me,” she said. “Then I was on the ground. I felt great, but not the last two meters!
“I’m lucky enough to get another chance in a few days, so I want revenge.”
Bol was the second Dutch favorite to fall down the stretch within minutes.
Sifan Hassan, attempting the first part of an unprecedented distance triple, stumbled in the final meters while leading the women’s 10,000m.
That paved the way for a clean-shooting victory for Ethiopia on the podium: Gudaf Tsegay took gold, Letesenbet Gidey silver and Ejgayehu Taye bronze.
Elsewhere, Katarina Johnson-Thompson entered the medal fight past halfway through the heptathlon.
After a hesitant performance in the 100m hurdles, the 2019 world champion ignited the spark when he completed a wrist-high 1.86m high jump.
A solid 13.64m shot put was followed by an impressive 200m win, putting the Liverpool native on the silver medal spot overnight.
“It was a day of ups and downs, especially considering the start,” said Johnson-Thompson. “I’m really happy to finish with a win.
“I just wanted to attack the 200m, if anything I went a little too far off the curve but I’m happy to finish on a high.
“The 200 is one of my favorite events. I was unlucky with that, last year I was late two, the year before that was Tokyo and we all know how that ended so I just wanted to attack it. I gave everything.”
All six British 1500m sprinters made it through their preliminary rounds safely, as did the trio who took part in the men’s 100m with the blue ribbon.
The 100m was far from exciting as Jamaica’s Oblique Seville set the fastest time of 9.86s by a tenth of a second.
But Britain’s Zharnel Hughes, the world’s fastest that year, advanced by 10.00 seconds – along with “the world’s fastest accountants” Eugene Amo-Dadzie and Reece Prescod.
In the long jump, however, there was a disappointment for European indoor champion Jazmin Sawyers.
After fighting off his hamstring and quadriceps injuries for the competition, the 29-year-old’s personal best of 6.41m was only enough for 22nd place in qualifying and missed the final by a wide margin.
“I felt good, but I just couldn’t do it,” Sawyers said.
“I had a very bumpy prep but if I was ready to excel then I could easily have qualified for the finals and should have been aiming for a medal. I underperformed massively. There.”
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