FOUR-TIME Olympic champion Michael Johnson insists Christian Malcolm and the 4x100m relay team can emerge victorious in London – but only if they admit defeat pre-race.
Much like England and penalty shootout defeats in football, the British men’s sprint relay team are fast becoming synonymous with high-profile blunders on the big occasion.
At four of the last five major championships the men’s team have failed to get the baton round one lap of the track.
These continued problems with the baton stem from the fact that in terms of pure speed the British quartet can no longer compete with the world’s best.
At 10.05 seconds Adam Gemili has clocked GB’s fastest 100m time this season, good enough for 29th in the world.
So to make up for what GB lack in outright pace, the British quartet appear to be pushing right to the limit on their handovers, a dangerous but in their opinion worthwhile risk.
But in Johnson’s view this is the wrong way to go, instead he points out that mistakes always happen in the 4x100m relay and a slow and steady approach from the Brits could yield the best result.
“This team is not very strong. It’s one of the weaker relay teams that the British have put together in the past few years,” said Johnson, a winner in the 4x400 in Barcelona in 1992.
“Guys like Dwain Chambers and Christian Malcolm have been around for a long time.
“Even if they give their best performances, it’s still going to be really tough for them.
“You look at how long those guys have been around and then you look at these teams that are favourites for the medals – all of the athletes are a lot younger and faster.
“If it were me, I would just take it round by round, try to get up to the final, try to gain some consistency and run as fast as I can with good, clean handoffs.
“But they feel the 4x100m is always an opportunity for a medal but they know they can’t match the Jamaicans, the Americans, and the Trinidadians for speed.
“They’ve got to really go aggressive on the handoff, and when you have to do that it dramatically increases the risk of dropping it.
“The idea of trying to outperform the teams that are faster and younger is a mistake, that’s probably what has caused them to drop it in the past.
“It’s going to be tough for the British to get a medal but they should certainly be in the final where anything can happen.
Somebody’s going to drop it.”
Johnson’s crowning glory in came in Atlanta in 1996 when in front of a home crowd he stormed to gold in both the 400m and 200m, a double that has never been accomplished before or since at the Games.
And the 44-year-old, whose world record for the 400m set in Seville in 1999 still stands to this day, has called on Malcolm and co to make the most of the home support as he did 16 years ago. “I think the biggest advantage of being at home is in the lead up to the games,” he said.
“The British athletes are trying to be at their best every day so they can be at their best at the Olympics – it’s the pinnacle for them.
“Every day you’re not going to be motivated 100%. It’s great motivation if you’re not feeling quite right, when you see an Olympic billboard reminding you of what’s coming, that it’s a great opportunity you have. I had that in 1996 at Atlanta.
“For some athletes it may actually be more pressure than they can handle at a home Games. For me it was great having that American crowd.”