Canada's relay critised

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By Randy Starkman
Olympic Sports Reporter
NEW DELHI—A volunteer was trying to get Canadian Sam Effah to smile for her camera in the mixed zone Tuesday night, but the normally affable sprinter didn’t oblige.

After the miserable performance he and his teammates had just delivered in getting disqualified from the men’s 4x100-metre final at the Commonwealth Games, Effah’s stony stare was no surprise.

This is a team in which Athletics Canada has made a substantial investment, touted as a medal contender heading towards the 2012 Summer Olympics after a fifth-place at last year’s worlds. They qualified fastest for the final here in 38.45 seconds, just six hundredths of a second off their time at the 2009 worlds in Berlin.

But at an event that have should been a stepping stone, they seemed to drop right through one of Delhi’s ubiquitous uncovered manholes. And it doesn’t get any easier moving towards London.

Relay coach Glenroy Gilbert said they were told the first baton pass between Hank Palmer of Montreal and Seyi Smith of Ottawa was out of the zone in a race won by England before an electric crowd of some 50,000 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

“I dont know if it was a case of the jitters, if there was more going on than I was aware,” said Gilbert. “They basically buckled under the pressure. They were the favourite to win and didn’t do the job. There’s no excuse for how they performed.”

These Games have been especially difficult for Effah, who hoped to use them a coming-out party internationally following an impressive 10.06 100-metre time this season. But besides the relay debacle, he lost his composure in the sprint final and came a distant seventh.

“I’m looking up from here,” said Effah. “That’s all I can do. I’m as low as I can get.”

The 21-year-old from Calgary tried to be philosophical.

“It makes it hard because I know we should be on top,” he said. “You need to have these lows in order to experience the highs. You need to know what it feels like to be on the bottom to appreciate the top that much more. I mean how I can look at it is at least it didn’t happen at the Olympics (or) world championships. All I’m saying is next year we better come out and we better perform in that final.”

Gilbert, a member of world and Olympic champion relay teams in the ‘90s, sounded exasperated.

“I was as dumbfounded as anyone watching what I saw unfold on the track. I’m still not clear as to what happened. As a coach, you can give them all the opportunities to perform but ultimately it’s up to them to perform. The coaches don’t run the race for them. You can give them all the tools but ultimately it’s for them do the job when called upon.

“Today our guys did not do the job.”

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