“Fumbling around like a couple of Mr Magoos”
Ian Chadband, Evening Standard editor
The words of the Evening Standard editor, following a successive Olympic failure to get the baton around the British 4×100 metre mens team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. All too often expectation didn’t match reality; the all too often familiar phrase used to describe British sporting ventures.
But Athens ’04 was different; different that the 4×100 metre mens relay team went further than expectation, they won the gold; they were the conquerors of the athletics track.
Regardless of the baton change the GB team had to factor in for the Athens final, the four also had the memory of the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone used by former teammate, Dwain Chambers. They had been stripped of their European title, and silver medal at the World Championships; they deserved their moment, and Athens delivered.
In particular, GB captain, Darren Campbell had reservations about running the race following being stripped of the titles and previous disappointments:
“It makes me think twice about running the relay in Athens. I may as well stick to individual events. At least then I know I’m clean.”
Darren Campbell, quote from the Guardian
To add insult to injury, former British hurdler and world-record holder, Colin Jackson, was incredibly negative in the build-up to the Olympics; uninspired by the athletes, suggesting a British athlete had zero chance of reaching a final, let alone a medal:
“There’s a lot of B-standard athletes. We used to have one or two A-plus boys but now they’ve disappeared,”
There was a big gap that needed bridging between the then athletes, the media and fans; the mens by 4×100 metre team built that bridge.
This wasn’t Campbell’s only issue. He had a hamstring injury prior to the final relay; a factor which prohibited him from racing to his full potential in the 200 metre event. The GB captain was even called out by Michael Johnson for supposedly not being fit, and faking the injury:
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with you.”
Johnson to Campbell at a music launch before the relay, uncovered by the Guardian
The British team even went into the final as fifth fastest, so were naturally unfavoured to be in a shout for the medals; captain Campbell had other ideas following Kelly Holmes completing her lap of honour after her 1500-metre victory:
“We can’t just win a medal now. It has to be gold.”
Campbell to his teammates
His teammates obliged, the Brits had beaten the Americans by one-hundredth of a second. Campbell had some words for his critics in the media:
“What I want to say to Michael Johnson is with my solicitors, but there is something I’d like to say to Colin Jackson … I’ve got a gold medal.”
Relive the special moment in British history: