Great Britain’s 4x100 metres relay team were left heartbroken as the latest in a long line of baton blunders saw them stripped of bronze at the World Championships.
The British quartet of Adam Gemili, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, James Ellington and Dwain Chambers performed admirably at the Luzhniki Stadium, clocking a season’s best 37.80 seconds.
However, it proved irrelevant as the second changeover from Aikines-Aryeetey to Ellington took place out of the designated box and the result was reversed.
It is the latest in a long line of relay failures for Britain’s sprinters, having been unable to get the baton round properly in six of the last seven major championships.
“It’s heart-breaking,” Aikines-Aryeetey said.
“You’re going out there to get your medal and then someone stands in front of you and says ‘sorry to be the bearer of bad news’. We only found out literally when we were walking out for the medal presentation. It’s just like that. It is heart-breaking, you know?”
Asked if he had any inkling they would be disqualified, he added: “No. I still got the baton in his hand, it felt right.
“I can’t imagine how close it must have been... I am wondering if there has been a counter-protest.
“I don’t understand, it just doesn’t feel real. Literally, I gave him the baton, I ran for my life.
“We are in the industry where this is our bread and butter. This means a lot to us and we worked so hard for this.”
Britain’s disqualification saw Canada promoted to bronze – news that led to loud squeals of joy from their relay team, who moments earlier had come through the media zone looking for any updates.
Having changed into everyday clothes immediately after the race, they quickly got into their team tracksuits and were rushed to the medal ceremony.
While the Canadians, led by former UK Athletics head coach Peter Eriksson, celebrated, the emotions of the British team could not have been any different.
Ellington was led out of the media zone in tears and, with Gemili at anti-doping, Aikines-Aryeetey and Chambers, the experienced head of the team, were left to try and express their feelings.
“It is emotional,” the 35-year-old Chambers said. “To be able to cross the line in third place and secure a medal, we were looking forward to getting on the podium.
“But this is sport and it is just unfortunate that we were not able to experience what these guys are experiencing on the podium.
“All that we can do now is get back home and build our team–spirit back up again and move on to next year.”
Considering bronze had been ripped from his grasp less than 30 minutes earlier, Chambers was impressively philosophical.
“Just because we didn’t succeed the way we wanted to, it doesn’t mean you stop,” he said.
“When you fall, you get back up again and that is what we’ve got to do. We all look after each other. We’ve just got to be there for each other. We are a team, we are not going to make any individual criticisms or individual responsibility. We all go out there together, it is a team effort and we did the best we could.”
If British relay blunders have become expected, so too have Jamaican wins and Usain Bolt took his World Championships career medal tally into double figures by anchoring Jamaica to gold.
The indomitable 26-year-old claimed his third gold in Moscow by bringing the Jamaica team home in 37.36secs.
Bolt has now won 10 World Championship medals, eight gold and two silver, to equal Carl Lewis’ men’s record.
Meanwhile, Great Britain’s women’s 4x100 metres relay squad were promoted to bronze after the French team were disqualified at the World Championships in Moscow.
Britain came home in fourth place but were upgraded after a successful protest against the France team, who were second.
The International Association of Athletics Federations confirmed the French had been disqualified because their second baton exchange took place outside the changeover zone, with their appeal subsequently rejected.