In the London 2012 4x400m final, when the Bahamas' Chris Brown looked across to lane seven, he was looking at one of the most dominant teams in track and field history. Last time the USA's long relay boys lost an Olympic final, Harry Truman was the President. But then Brown, and then Demetrius Pinder, and then Michael Mathieu, and then Ramon Miller – combined to make history. Who better, then, to tell us what makes a great relay team.
“You have to have a great leader to take the team into battle. A leader of the team has to make sure each athlete is comfortable, and that he is also in tune with the coaches,” says Brown, a seven-time Olympic and world 4x400m relay medallist.
“A skipper has to make sure every member of the team accepts their responsibility of performing to their best. He has to make sure every member of the team is comfortable in their role and that they will put their best foot forward. It is like being the skipper of a boat.”
2. Become brothers (and set up conference calls)
“The chemistry has to be right between the four different personalities in a relay team. It is important everyone is in sync. As skipper of the team, I make sure the squad eat breakfast and lunch together, train together. The brotherhood plays a very important role. Together we stand: divided we fall.
“It is also important we check up on each other from time to time during the season. Sometimes we arrange a conference call with each other to check how we are. It is important the communication is good and everyone is on the same page. The chemistry has to be right.”
The Golden Knights after their victorious 4x400m Olympic final.
3. Be honest
“Honesty is very important. A lot of guys, through greed and selfishness, just want to run and say they are 100 per cent when they are not. This can harm the team's chances, because it can hamper team tactics. Or, if they are carrying an injury, they might not even get around the track. I need to know if a guy is 100 per cent or 80 per cent, because then at least I know these guys will be able to give the team 110 per cent or 90 per cent.
“As long as people are honest, I know they can put on a good show for the team. Honesty helps the strategy of the team but it also helps give the team the chance to put their name in the history books.”
4. Witness the fitness
“This should be obvious, but any team needs to be in shape to put their best foot forward. This, in many ways, is the key ingredient, because if all members of the team are in great shape, historically they will do a great job.
“I like to monitor how the other squad members are at leading into national championships. This allows me to see who is in form and who isn’t, and which athletes might need two or three more races to reach peak physical shape. If the guys are all in shape, you have the key ingredient for success.”