The men’s 4x400m relay squad capped Australia’s best-ever medals haul at a world athletics championships with a bronze in the last event of the nine-day titles on Sunday.
The team of John Steffensen, Ben Offereins, Tristan Thomas and Sean Wroe reprised the stellar efforts of the Silver Bullets from the 2004 Athens Olympics as they finished third behind the star-studded United States and Britain in a time of three minutes 00.90 seconds.
With individual 400m gold and silver medallists LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner in their line-up, the Americans were always the hottest of gold-medal favourites and so it proved as they won a third straight world crown in 2:57.86.
It was Australia’s fourth medal of the championships as they finished 10th on the table with two golds and two bronzes.
Despite again ceding sprint superiority to Jamaica, the US topped the medals table ahead of the Caribbean powerhouse, Kenya and Russia.
Steffensen was the only survivor from the 4x400m team which claimed silver in the same event at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He replaced Joel Milburn in the line-up for the medal race in Berlin and ran the lead-off leg, although he again felt pain in his left hamstring in the final straight.
Offereins repeated his semi-final heroics, lifting Australia to third place before passing the baton to 400m hurdles specialist Thomas.
Thomas briefly passed Britain’s third-leg runner Robert Tobin, but Australia were still in third place at the final change.
The top three placings remained unchanged in the final leg with Wroe running strongly to ensure Australia would finish on the podium.
“This is one of the best experiences with a relay team I have worked with,” said Steffensen, the reigning Commonwealth Games individual 400m champion.
“I started off as a junior and listened to the seniors.
Aussie marathon record
“I found myself taking on a senior role with the guys and this is a testament to all of them – not just because we won a medal.
“We had a game plan from the start and once we made the final we had a great opportunity to win a medal and all the guys believed it.
“We really were a real team and that hasn’t happened since 2004.”
At 26, Steffensen was the elder statesman of a team where all the other runners were aged 24 or under.
In other Australian action on day nine, Lisa Weightman finished a creditable 18th in the women’s marathon, smashing her personal best in the process.
Weightman’s time of 2:30:42 was easily the fastest by an Australian woman at a world championships, bettering the 2:36:29 by the late Kerryn McCann in 1995.
‘Lots to learn’
Weightman slashed more than a minute and a half off her PB of 2:32:22 set last year in London on her marathon debut.
“I have only run three of these things, so I have a lot to learn, but this one was good, it felt good except for about three or four (kilometres),” said Weightman, the cousin of former Richmond AFL great Dale Weightman.
“I was pretty safe, you have to be because of the heat.
“I’ll try to run a cooler one and see what I can really do.”
Chinese runner Xue Bai won the gold in 2:25:15.
Collis Birmingham was last in the 5,000m final in 13:55.58.
Ethiopian distance running great Kenenisa Bekele completed the 5,000m-10,000m double by claiming gold in 13:17.09 ahead of defending world champ Bernard Lagat from the US.