Ghosts of relays past return as Britain’s women suffer baton disaster in Munich

Dina Asher-Smith had expected to bring the curtain down on an exceptional European championships for Britain by leading the 4x100m women to gold. Instead she was left with her hands on her hips as the ghosts of relays past came back to haunt the team.

Dropped batons used to be one of those perennial British problems, alongside late-running trains and bad food at motorway service stations.

And between the Atlanta Games in 1996 and the world championships in Beijing in 2015, a GB 4x100m team dropped the baton or were disqualified 11 times in an Olympics or world championships.

However in recent years Britain have turned baton-changing into an art form – and reaped the rewards. So it was a major surprise to see Imani‑Lara Lansiquot hold out her hand for the baton on the second leg – and her teammate Asha Philip fail to get it to her. It meant the team were left shaking their heads as the German team delighted the 50,000 home crowd by taking gold.

“I’m shocked by what happened out there,” Philip said. “I can’t really get my head around it. We came here to defend our title but things just didn’t go my way in that race.”

It said a lot about the bond in the team that Philip was comforted by her teammates. Asher‑Smith tried to put what had happened into perspective.

“As I was saying to these ladies, we’re so strong,” she said. “I feel like it’s one of those things where behind the scenes this year, we’ve worked so hard, we’ve improved so much and nothing is ever going to change that. If that means our time comes in Budapest and Paris then so be it.

“Some things that are very frustrating, make us sharper and make us want it even more. This is anomaly.”

Britain ended these championships with 20 medals – their joint second best behind Zurich in 2014 and only behind Germany in the medal table. Two more came on the final day through the men’s 4x100m team, who won gold, and Jake Wightman, who won silver in the men’s 800m.

“It’s a formality now,” the men’s relay team captain, Nethaneel Mitchell‑Blake, said after they won in a championship record of 37.67 seconds. “We won in 14, 16, 18 and now 22. We’re serial champions. We don’t take it for granted but there’s a standard we expect, especially in Europe, and it’s nice to uphold that.”

Wightman, meanwhile, continued to ride the wave of the greatest 33 days of his career by completing a hat-trick of major medals in 2022 – and then promised to celebrate by surfing down the Eisbach river late on Sunday night.

“I’m going to try to get down that river tonight and hopefully be sober enough to enjoy it and not risk anything,” said Wightman, who made global headlines after winning the 1500m world championship in Eugene while his father, Geoff, commentated on his victory in the stadium.

Told that the surf area went past a nudist area in Munich’s Englischer Garten, Jake joked: “My dad will probably be there. That’s more his scene. If you did that in Bushy Park you’d be in the back of a police car straight away but the rules are a bit different here.”

It was so nearly gold too, with Wightman missing out by just 0.06sec. He spent the first lap tracking the Spaniard Mariano García, but when his main rival began to wind it up with 150m to go, Wightman was temporarily boxed in and was forced to come wide to get a clear run.

That made the difference as Garcia held on to win in a personal best of 1:44.85, with Ireland’s Mark England taking bronze. “I’m disappointed but if you’d said to me before that I’d come away with a silver, I’d have taken that,” he said. “I was a little bit too far back in the straight to make up that gap.”

However Wightman was delighted at his hat-trick of medals, saying: “The thing I’m proudest about is I’ve kept my head through it all because it could easily have been a shit show after the worlds. Mentally it was hard to come back.”

But on a night where the high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh took gold for Ukraine, there was also disappointment for Cindy Sember in the 100 hurdles. The Briton was the favourite for gold but she smashed into the second hurdle and finished last in a race won by Poland’s Pia Skrzyszowska in 13.53sec.