Team harmony has been key to 4x100m sprint relay gold medal success, says Danny Talbot
Who says nice guys don’t finish first?
Danny Talbot insists that description perfectly fits the Great Britain 4x100m relay team in which he ran alongside CJ Ujah, Adam Gemili and Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake to claim a quite brilliant IAAF World Championships gold on Saturday night.
“I think we’re just a nice group of guys who get on well, train hard and we all have the same goal,” says the 26-year-old, the reality of being a world champion only just beginning to settle in.
There is indeed a clear and evident harmony among the class of 2017 but, when it comes to British relay sprint teams, it has not always been this way.
As recently as Beijing two years ago, there was a very public fallout as the side containing Talbot, Richard Kilty, James Ellington and Ujah turned on each other when the baton was dropped on the final changeover with a bronze medal up for grabs.
Talbot, however, insists the hard work put in to address that kind of problem since has well and truly paid off.
“Going back to 2015, we are really close and it would be crazy to think that we wouldn’t have disagreements,” said Talbot of the British side. “I argue with my sister but it doesn’t mean I hate her, it’s because we spend a lot of time together and can get on each other’s nerves.
“In a high pressure situation like the world championships things can come to the boil and we’ve worked very hard on understanding each other. They (British Athletics) have brought in a psychologist, Jen Savage, and she’s worked really hard with us. I wouldn’t say in 2015 we didn’t like it each other, I think it’s more that we didn’t understand each other, whereas now we have that understanding.”
That understanding has brought confidence. There was a growing feeling among the home quartet that something special might be in the offing in London and landing that gold medal didn’t come entirely as a surprise.
Did they really think this was coming?
“100 per cent,” says Talbot. “We don’t even talk about our expectations because, what we want individually, we know the other guys want as well. We don’t need to talk about times – we knew that was going to happen if we won the gold medal – and we didn’t need to talk about winning because we knew that’s what we were on the track to do. We all have the same goals and we all just want to dominate relay running now, as well as achieve individually.
“We’re a young team and if we’re world champions now then why can’t we win absolutely everything?”
If they continue to perform in the same manner then this young side will certainly take some stopping. Their world-leading time of 37.47 was enough to see off an American side which contained world champions Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman after all.
“This was the first time we’d stepped on the track for the heats and the final,” noted Ujah. “It was something that was new for us but we were ready to step up, do our bit and we did it.”
Did that not then ramp up the nerves as the final approached? It would appear not.
“With this generation of sprinters, we see what we’re doing individually and we’ve never had this many sprinters going sub 10 or sub 20, making finals this consistently and we all just trust each other that we can compete with the best,” says Gemili.
“We’re going to do our best (to win it again). Just because we won this time, it’s not guaranteed for us in two years’ time in but we’re going to do everything we can to give ourselves the best possible chance to win it.”
For now, however, they will allow themselves the opportunity to enjoy what they have accomplished, particularly in light of past painful failures which, as Talbot admits, are hard to contend with.
“It is very, very difficult, especially as we work so hard at it and take it so seriously as a nation, but at the same time you can’t dwell on things, your career is too short,” he says. “This time next year, people are going to be talking about the Commonwealth Games, the European Championships. When things don’t go well you’ve got to move on, but when they do go well you’ve got to really, really enjoy the moment because you may never get the moment again.”
Talbot is confident, however, that this talented group will have more to celebrate in the years to come.
“We’ve got a target on our backs now,” he says. “We’re the best sprint relay team in the world and it’s for others to try and beat us now. We’re going to continue to work hard and we’re confident we can continue to improve.”