Dwayne Cowan admitted he nearly buckled under the pressure as he helped deliver a British bronze at the World Championships in London.
Cowan concluded a championships to remember, keeping his cool in a super-charged atmosphere as the home team won men’s 4x400m bronze.
It was a first major medal for the 32-year-old, who only took up athletics seriously five years ago, when injury ended his football career and the London Olympics inspired him.
And he believes there is more to come.
“Age is just a number. So many athletes are competing at an older age now and I’ve got no intention of slowing down yet, I’m late to this sport and I’m just getting started,” he said.
“Some people might say it doesn’t get any better than competing at a World Champs and winning a medal in front of your home crowd but I’ve got more I want to do.
“Hopefully I’ve got three more years in me and we can do all this again at the Tokyo Olympics, maybe do even better.”
After a shaky performance in the 4x400m heats, Cowan could be forgiven for feeling tense.
And that pressure was only ramped up when Great Britain turned their disappointing championships around in the three relays that preceded the 4x400m final – with gold in the men’s sprint relay and both women’s quartets claiming silver.
Matthew Hudson-Smith gave Britain a flying start with solid legs from Cowan and fellow thirty-something Rabih Yousif setting up anchor man Martyn Rooney, who recently turned 30, in clear third.
He duly delivered, holding off the challenge of Belgium as Trinidad and Tobago pipped the United States to gold.
“That was a new level of pressure. I got the baton in a really good position and I had to really push it down that back straight and I’m really pleased with my split,” added Cowan.
“I was so motivated watching the men’s sprint relay. I chat with NMB and what we did there, holding off the best in the world, that was something special. That whole team is so together and I wanted a medal so badly.”
There wasn’t quite so much expectation on the men’s 4x400m relay, with three members of the quartet in their 30s.
But one year on from their disqualification at the Olympics, they made amends when it mattered most and Rooney paid tribute to his team-mates who put him in a driving position.
“Those sprint relay guys certainly set the standard for us, we couldn’t be the only ones not to deliver,” admitted Rooney, now a three-time world medallist.
“That was really emotional, the guys made it really easy for me, I don’t think I’ve ever been better set-up on a final leg. Usually it’s much tighter and there’s much more work to do but I could just relax and get the job done and let the crowd take him home.
“To come away with a medal and close the championships with a medal, that’s really special.”
Rooney had expressed his irritation that key name Hudson-Smith had ruled himself out of the heats, claiming ‘his head isn’t right’.
Team officials later denied that the youngest member of the team had excused himself, but Rooney insisted there were no resentments or hard feelings after a ‘clear the air’ team meeting.
“There are some big men in this team. We weren’t happy after the heats but we came together, spoke honestly and sorted stuff sort and that’s the result, a world bronze medal,” he added.
And there was even a touch of regret. At last year’s Olympics, the team felt in position to challenge, only to find themselves disqualified in the heats when Hudson-Smith was judged to have his foot over the line.
“I wish I was in the shape I was in last year because, and I think I’m being realistic, I would have gone past those guys on the home straight and won the gold,” added Rooney.
You can help the next generation of young British athletes by getting involved in SportsAid Week this September with London 2012 hero Greg Rutherford MBE. Find out more about how you can support the week of fun and fundraising by visiting www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek.
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