England claimed a further six medals in the penultimate session of athletics at the Commonwealth Games, headed by gold for the men’s 4x100m quartet. Also highlighting a successful morning session at the Alexander Stadium, Matthew Hudson-Smith and Victoria Ohuruogu gained 400m silvers, and England’s women added another in the 4x100m. There were also bronze medals for Jodie Williams in the 400m and Cindy Sember in the 100m hurdles.
It was a comfortable title defence for the England men’s sprint squad, who started as favourites and safely passed the baton around to claim this event for the sixth time in nine Games. Jona Efoloko (Clarence Callender, Sale Harriers Manchester), Zharnel Hughes (Glen Mills, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers), Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Ryan Freckleton, Newham and Essex Beagles) and Ojie Edoburun (Stuart McMillan, Shaftesbury Barnet) combined to clock 38.35 — 0.35 ahead of silver medallists Trinidad & Tobago. Nigeria won bronze with 38.81.
The support from a packed home crowd truly tested the senses of the British team as Mitchell-Blake admitted to not hearing the shouts of 'hand' from the incoming Hughes. Hughes, who won 200m silver yesterday, said:
“I was just focusing on getting the job done. I trusted Jona because we ran already together. I knew he was going to give us a good start regardless. I just waited until the baton got in my hand and I turned on all turbos that I could possibly turn on and just ran into Nethaneel and it was over from there.”
Edoburun, who came into the squad as a late replacement, said: “I’m just so happy to come in and fit in so well with the boys… For me, words can’t describe it.”
Their female counterparts were beaten by an African record (42.10) from the Nigerian team as the home quartet ran the fastest time ever by a quartet in England vests. Running 42.41, five hundredths quicker than their winning time in Gold Coast, were Asha Philip (Amy Deem, Newham and Essex Beagles AC), Imani-Lara Lansiquot (Stu McMillan, Sutton and District AC), Bianca Williams (Linford Christie, Enfield & Haringey AC) and Daryll Neita (Marco Airale, Cambridge Harriers). Jamaica took bronze with 43.08. Neita, who won 100m bronze earlier in the week, produced a storming leg at the end but had too much of a gap to make up.
Victoria Ohuruogu (Christine Ohuruogu, Newham and Essex Beagles AC) Ohuruogu clinched her first major individual medal as she backed up her improved form this year with silver. She sliced more than a quarter of a second from her PB with 50.72 and it took a Games record 49.90 from world bronze medallist Sada Williams of Barbados to beat her.
“I’m really chuffed to just go sub-51,” she told BBC Sport. “I knew it was going to be tough. I always aim high but I just had to back myself — I got a silver, PB, I’m excited.”
Ohuruogu, who moved up from fourth in the last 100m, was watched from the stands by coach and sister Christine, who won the Commonwealth title in 2006.
“I’m just so proud that our name is still on the track,” she said. “I just want to say thank you to my family, my sister, my boyfriend, my support system. It’s been a rough year but we’ve got something out of it so I’m happy.”
Jodie Williams (Stu McMillan, Herts Phoenix AC) continued a great comeback after an injury-hit start to her season by running 51.26, her quickest since finishing sixth in the Olympic final 12 months ago. Running blind in lane nine, she secured her third Commonwealth medal, following on from her silver over 200m in 2014. Williams, who had run just three one-lap races this year before these championships, said afterwards:
“I was in lane nine so knew it was going to be rough. I had to run my own race. I am race-rusty for sure. I just thought ‘get out, commit, and hold on for dear life’ then battle to the end. I couldn’t see because I was so far out so I didn’t know where I had come. I saw my name up in bronze and was delighted.”
Nearly catching Williams and finishing faster than anyone was Ama Pipi (Marco Airale, Enfield and Haringey), who moved up from seventh to fourth in the last 50m. Her 51.38 is her sixth fastest ever time.
Matthew Hudson-Smith (Gary Evans, Birchfield Harriers) made it two medals from two international championships this summer as he crossed the line second in 44.81. Powered on by a full crowd of spectators on his home track, the locally based athlete led for around 390m of the race but was ultimately denied by the stunning finish of Zimbabwe’s Muzala Samukonga, who set a PB of 44.66. In assessing his race, he said:
“I went for the win but I got the silver in front of the home crowd. I am disappointed but, at the same time, I can’t complain. My strategy was to come out relaxed, wind it up in the top bend then come on strong.
“I tightened up in the home straight. I probably could have done that a bit differently. I am sorry I couldn’t bring it home. I don't want to make excuses — it happens."
Hudson-Smith, who has shown great form this season to break the British record and win a world bronze, will now head to the European Athletics Championships in search of a third podium place.
Cindy Sember (Jeff Porter, Woodford Green AC with Essex Ladies) produced her fourth best ever time of 12.59 in a race in which world record-holder Tobi Amusan of Nigeria set a Games record of 12.30. Indeed, Sember’s time would have been a championship best before it was broken in the heats. The Englishwoman was finishing as fast as anyone after moving up from fifth at 60m, almost catching Devynne Charlton of Bahamas, who ran 12.58. After claiming her first international outdoor medal, she said:
“It feels amazing. I can’t imagine it. I’ve had a long season and have come back from a lot of injuries. An Achilles rupture took me out for about two years and I’ve had a shoulder issue and hamstring, so I’m just grateful to be healthy.”
Analysing her race, she added: “I could have gone out a little bit better and my lean at the end wasn’t as good as it could have been and maybe cost me a silver, but for me that’s OK.”
Callum Wilkinson (Robert Heffernan, Enfield and Haringey AC) was within a second of his British record as he finished fourth in the 10,000m race walk. His 39:06.28 left him 17 seconds behind bronze medallist Sandeep Kumar. Olympic bronze medallist Evan Dunfee of Canada became the first Commonwealth champion in this event with 38:36.37, a time bettered by only three athletes in the world this year. Wilkinson said:“Tough race out there. Warmer conditions than I was expecting for Birmingham. It’s one of those: I’m happy, I was only a second off my British record.” Having recovered from surgery in February, he added:
“To make this sort of progress is miraculous. I started my winter training in April so to be in this form this time of the year. I could have done the British record and I still would have come fourth, so it just shows the quality in Commonwealth walking at the moment.”
In what he announced as his farewell race before retirement, Tom Bosworth (Andi Drake, Tonbridge AC) showed a hint of the quality that has brought him a great career. He was seventh in 40:58.64, within 14 seconds of his PB. The “Friendly Games” have represented the beginning and the end of his career. His first major championships was Delhi 2010, where he was 11th, and he also won silver in Gold Coast 2018. He said:
“I knew today was going to be really difficult. I’ve had an injury-prone year… I’ve always wanted to put on a show for race walking. This time it was further down the field. Being the athlete I am, I wanted to be at the front. And that crowd made it special… I couldn’t have thought of a better way to go out."
In the triple jump, Ben Williams (Aston Moore, City of Stoke AC) was left wondering what might have been after finishing eighth following a 16.03m and five no-jumps. His final leap looked further than the winning distance but he was four centimetres over the board. Ultimately, it was India’s Eldhose Paul who took gold with 17.03m.
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- Images by Mark Shearman