Botswana the threat to GB hopes of ending men’s 4x400m medal wait
Despite having a good heritage in the men’s 4x400m relay (only the USA have finished in the top three more frequently), the Great Britain team are in a somewhat of a rut when it comes to collecting an Olympic medal in the event.
Not since Atlanta in 1996 has the men’s quartet stood on the podium – finishing fifth in 2000 and 2004 before frustratingly missing out on the medals by just one position in 2008 and 2012.
However, a third-place finish at the World Championships in Beijing last year offers reasons for encouragement, when Martyn Rooney out-dipped a Jamaican rival on the line.
That team was also missing Matthew Hudson-Smith, who has already enjoyed a productive Olympics in Brazil thanks to setting a massive personal best to reach the final of the individual men’s 400m.
The other factor in Britain’s favour is that Hudson-Smith’s teammates are well rested ahead of the relay.
Rabah Yousif missed the individual event with a slight injury and is expected to recover, while Rooney has something to prove after being eliminated in the opening round.
A line up of Yousif, Hudson-Smith, Delano Williams and Rooney on the anchor leg has every chance of securing a medal.
Significantly, the first two men home in the individual event – Wayde van Niekerk and Kirani James – will not be a factor in the relay because of the lack of the depth in the respective South Africa and Grenada squads.
With the USA and Trinidad and Tobago looking close to certainties for medals, GB’s biggest rival for the third podium spot may come from an unlikely source – Botswana.
The African nation failed to make the final of the last World Championships, despite breaking the national record in their heats.
Three of their team have clocked below 45 seconds this season, with Baboloki Thebe, Isaac Makwala and Karabo Sibanda all reaching the semi-finals of the 400m in Rio and the latter taking fifth ahead of Hudson-Smith in the final. 800m star Nijel Amos is the fourth member of their team.
Teenagers Thebe and Sibanda are particularly inexperienced in a relay setting, but if they run to their best, they are the dark horses to finish on the podium in the 4x400m.
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