Stephen Maguire masterminded GB relay glory

Britains gold medal-winning 100m mens relay team (l-r) Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Chijindu Ujah, Adam Gemili and Daniel Talbot. Picture: Getty.
Britains gold medal-winning 100m mens relay team (l-r) Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Chijindu Ujah, Adam Gemili and Daniel Talbot. Picture: Getty.
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While the British sprint relay teams basked in the deserved adulation pouring down on them from the fever-pitch London Stadium crowd, media and wider nation on Saturday night, you would hope that, somewhere backstage, a hefty pat on the back was being given to a former director of coaching at Scottish ­Athletics.

Stephen Maguire was the Northern Irishman who was charged with leading Scotland’s track and field programme in the lead up to the home Commonwealth Games in 2014 and guided them to achieve the medal ­target of four.

Post-Glasgow 2014 he moved on to a new role at British Athletics with the most enviable of job titles – “Head of Power”. His remit was to oversee the sprint, hurdles and relay ­programmes.

One wonders how often over the weekend he has re-watched that dazzling performance by the men’s 4x100m quartet and purred at 37.47 seconds of near-perfect relay ­running.

Perhaps he was picking up on the minor details that could take the “near” out of that description – it was just the third fastest sprint relay run in history after all – but either way, he and his team of coaches certainly helped relieve a good deal of mounting pressure on the head honchos at UK Athletics and the GB team.

Going into Saturday night’s relays, the home team were stuck on two medals, courtesy of one man in the shape of Sir Mo Farah’s gold and silver, which was equal to GB’s worst ever world championship return at Edmonton in 2001.

That pre-championships target of six to eight medals was, with every passing day and near miss, becoming more of a millstone around the neck of British Athletics.

The sensational victory by the men, who obliterated the British record in an awesome display of well-drilled slickness and speed, and a superb silver from the women’s team of Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita, after Farah had been forced to settle for the same colour in the 5,000m earlier, added a much healthier gloss heading into the tenth and final day, rocketing Great Britain up to fourth on the medal table.

If five years ago it was “Super Saturday” then this might better be described as “Staggering Saturday”.

In all the drama and emotion, the sad end to Usain Bolt’s magnificent career as he buckled with hamstring cramp on the anchor leg for a lagging Jamaican effort, became a bit of an awkward, unfortunate sideshow to an historic night for GB athletics as a first ever men’s world 4x100m crown was achieved by CJ Ujah, Adam Gemili, Danny Talbot and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake.

The bleating by the Jamaicans about the delay to the race start possibly causing Bolt’s meltdown merely added to the sense that a sporting colossus deserved a better swansong than this. But such is the pain and beauty of sport.

No other runner seemed to be affected by the delay. Perhaps boogie­ing in a Soho nightclub until dawn hadn’t been a sufficient warm down for those clearly weary limbs following his 100m loss last weekend.

Flippancy aside, the image of Bolt hobbling over the finish line with the help of his team-mates will fade fast and the legend will live on for many, many years.

A sad end for Bolt but a glory night for Britain as they won that historic gold in stunning style. The off-form Jamaicans may have blown out but there was no American foul-up to seize upon this time as with the famous Olympic gold in Athens 13 years ago. It was a brilliant and fully merited triumph.

For decades the time-honoured GB baton drop has gone down in the pantheon of Great British sporting “oops, they did it again” eye-rollers. Like an England football penalty shoot-out defeat, a glorious failure by their Scottish equivalents, an English cricket batting collapse or a Wimbledon semi-final defeat for Tim Henman.

Heading into Saturday’s final, the men’s sprint relay record of the past ten years read: five minor medals, five disqualifications or failures to finish.

Maguire and his coaches, including former sprinter and relay runner Christian Malcolm, can reflect on a night when things went like a dream and made all the training drills and relay camps worth the time, money and effort. There have been eras when Britain has had better sprinters at their disposal but, in a relay, a well-oiled team can often get the better of a collection of stars.

Reece Prescod, the only Brit to make the individual 100m final, wasn’t even required and it is now up to those new world champions to take the confidence into their solo events. And keep practising those handovers. Total perfection will forever be there to aim at.