UK ATHLETICS chief Neil Black is full of optimism about the state of the Great Britain team, even if it took a disqualification for them to meet their minimum medal target at the World Championships in Moscow.
Britain were awarded their sixth medal long after the fans had filed out of the Luzhniki Stadium and the athletes had returned to the team hotel.
The women’s 4x100 metres relay team were upgraded to bronze to ease the disappointment of seeing the men stripped of their medal of the same colour following the now-customary baton changeover error.
It meant Britain left Russia with three golds – a joint record tally for a World Championships with 1993 in Stuttgart – thanks to Mo Farah and Christine Ohuruogu, and three bronzes. The target set by UK Sport for the championships was six to eight medals.
“I really feel inherently positive,” said Black, UKA performance director and acting head coach. “I’m so excited and enthusiastic. I’m a realist, it’s been a tough year and this is the World Championships. We’ve got to remember that.”
The year after London 2012 was always going to be difficult as the sport started its build-up to the next Olympics in Rio in 2016, and the World Championships in London in 2017, and athletes re-evaluated their future.
Black termed it a “transition year” and as well the team were hit by more than their fair share of injuries, with the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill missing in Moscow.
He added: “It was great to see Tiffany Porter (who won bronze in the 100m hurdles) replacing Robbie Grabarz (the Olympic high jump bronze medallist who finished eighth) and I’m sure Robbie will have learned from this championship and will be even more determined going forward.
“Jess, is going to come back with a vengeance and Mo and Chrissy are showing signs of still being ongoing. So, no, I’m not concerned. It would have been great if it was more (medals). It could be, it should be and I’m hoping it will be in the future.”
Perhaps the most exciting British performance was Adam Gemili’s fifth place in the 200m final which offered huge promise for the future. He ran 19.98 seconds in the semi-finals, becoming only the second Briton ever to break the 20secs barrier, and was praised by Usain Bolt.
“In the last few days he demonstrated he had moved on to another league,” said Black of the 19-year-old former footballer.
“We have to understand that, embrace that, support, protect and assist. He’s one of the people who has huge potential. How far he can go we don’t know at this stage, but we are incredibly optimistic.”