Sprinters hold talks as errors hit relay again

Great Britain's Men's 4x100m relay team of Richard Kilty (second left),  Daniel Talbot (right), James Ellington and Chijindu Ujah (left) after the race after they fail of finish
Great Britain's Men's 4x100m relay team of Richard Kilty (second left), Daniel Talbot (right), James Ellington and Chijindu Ujah (left) after the race after they fail of finish

Great Britain’s sprinters have held clear-the-air talks in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the men’s 4x100 metres relay squad.

Richard Kilty and James Ellington blamed the decision to bring in Chijindu Ujah in place of Harry Aikines-Aryeetey for the baton blunder which cost them a medal at the World Championships in Beijing.

The quartet failed to finish after a mistake on the final-leg changeover and in the immediate aftermath of the disappointment Kilty and Ellington blasted the decision to drop Aikines-Aryeetey following the heats, saying the athletes themselves needed to have more say over selection.

The team held meetings with team management on Saturday night and on Sunday in a bid to draw a line under the unseemly episode.

“We just had straightforward conversations,” said British Athletics performance director Neil Black.

“Everyone said what they wanted to say, really, really clear. It’s an internal process, there’s no questions about people being able to say what they need to say. We discuss it, we deal with it, with go forward.”

Black said it was important to understand Kilty and Ellington gave their initial reaction when “high on emotion at the time of severe disappointment”.

It was 21-year-old Ujah who bore the brunt of his team-mates’ anger, though, as they claimed without him they would have easily won a medal.

The Londoner was stood a matter of feet away as Kilty and Ellington gave it both barrels.

Black said Ujah was “absolutely fine” and explained the decision to bring him into the team was made to improve their medal chances.

“We came to win medals, we didn’t believe that the team we put out in the first round was going to win a medal in the final,” said Black, who added all of the changeovers were practised regularly.

“We were not going to be happy with fifth or sixth, so we chose a team and we chose a tactic that we actually believed was the most likely to win a medal.”

Adam Gemili, in Beijing in a supporting role, injury having ruled him out of competing, insisted the decision to bring in Ujah in place of Aikines-Aryeetey was “not an excuse”.

On Ujah carrying the can, Gemili, who would have been in the squad if fit, said: “That shouldn’t happen and it’s very unfortunate.

“There’s no blaming one person.

“CJ is very mentally strong and will bounce back from this. As a team we will have a meeting and talk about it and once emotions have died down everything will be all right.”

Ellington hinted a split between those athletes on relay funding, like himself Kilty and Aikines-Aryeetey, whose support is based on relay performances, and those on full funding like Ujah.

He said after the race: “For me the relay is my life because I don’t get money coming from anywhere else.

“The horrible thing for us is that if we go out there and don’t perform, we get cut from funding. The people doing the jobs at the top don’t get cut from funding. They keep their jobs.”

But Gemili dismissed any talk of division and said: “They win as a team and they lose as a team.

“It’s a real shame about the result, but we are seeing progression in the relay.”