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Brilliant Bronze For Meadows

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Jenny Meadows
Celebrations for Meadows in Berlin

19 August 2009

On Wednesday evening at the Olympiastadion, the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team were able to celebrate a superb bronze medal in the women’s 800m  as well as progression for Michael Bingham to the men’s 400m final and Emily Freeman into the  200m semis.

Jenny Meadows (Wigan) – the pocket rocket – the woman who won the very race which marked the retirement of Double Olympic Gold Medallist Kelly Holmes, sprang a stunning surprise on the high class field when snatching bronze in the women’s 800m final.

With a trademark late sprint, similar to that which saw her make it through the semi finals, Meadows overhauled the majority of the field that had stretched in front following a blistering opening lap.

On the approach to the line South African Caster Semenya was clear and safely headed for the gold medal, but Kenya’s Janey Jepkosgei and Ukraine’s Yuliya Krevsun began to fade as the pace took its toll. Even with 20m to go it was unclear if Meadows had done enough to make it to the line in a medal position but she continued with all her might and grabbed the last piece of neckwear. First was Semenya 1:55.45; second Jepkosgei 1:57.90 and third Meadows in 1:57.93.

It was an amazing and glorious moment for the 28 year old, who has figured as part of championship teams in various guises over the years, in the 400m individual, the in the 4x400m squad and more recently as one of the country’s top 800m runners.

And such has been her apprenticeship in the two lap event she has improved with each and every championship – learning her craft and biding her time.

And tonight in Berlin, that moment arrived and an ecstatic Meadows enjoyed every moment accounting for her success:

“I used to get to the final and look at all the other girls to see what they were doing – but tonight I knew I was really fit and really healthy and the only thing that would let me down would be if my head went,” she admitted.

“I was really strong and I didn’t panic – I didn’t want to be at the front all of a sudden my strength has become my strength – as long as I was just a couple of metres back from the leader I felt quite confident.

“I can’t believe it happened like that. In Osaka two years ago I made the semi final and did a PB performance and that was as good as it gets. Last year I went to Beijing and I thought of the times those girls were running and I actually asked myself the question ‘am I going to make the final’

“This year I’ve not panicked and took every race as it comes. I’ve learnt more about myself  - not to go off too fast and to run my own pace.”

For Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet) the moment was bittersweet. In every way possible she placed herself in the right positions in the race within the top four and ensuring she stayed in touch. But the fast pace took its toll on the front running athletes and in the home straight she simply had nothing left to give.

But in true gracious style, she picked up the union flag that had been thrown to the track and presented it to Meadows pushing her on to a lap of honour which was enthusiastically received by the British athletics supporters around the venue.

Okoro said: “I tried – I was in the final – I was dying to be in the final. It’s been something I’ve wanted for a long time and I wanted to give it my best shot. Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough this year but it’s a massive stepping stone.

“It was great that Jenny came away with the bronze. I was in the right place but unfortunately my legs couldn’t finish the job so I am disappointed not to finish it off there. But I learnt a lot from the championships – came into it in a different place to where I was last year, but it’s not good enough for me now just to be making finals

“Compared to Monday I was very relaxed and that was the key. I had a massive break through on Monday – I nearly wanted to turn around and go home I was that nervous – but this is my dream it’s what it is all about – and I have learnt masses about what you can do when you compose yourself and relax.

“Jenny is my team mate as well as my rival – I wanted to beat everyone in that field but I’m elated that she stepped up, she’s in the prime of her running with a couple of PBs – I’m really happy for her.”

In the men’s 400m semi finals Michael Bingham (unattached) was an impressive second in his race, just five one hundredths behind Jeremy Wariner (USA). More significantly he set a PB of 44.74 in doing so and put himself in contention in Friday evening’s final. It was a well-structured run by Bingham who was forced to race against himself out in lane eight but timed his effort to perfection in the home straight to consolidate an automatic qualifying spot for the final.

“I just go out there to compete and compete and compete. I’m not finished yet,” he promised. “I’m not winning so the PB doesn’t matter but it does build confidence. I’ve got a lot left.”

Olympic finalist sixth placer Martyn Rooney (Croydon) struggled to make an impact at this championships, following a difficult injury-hit season, and was a shadow of his usual self in crossing the line in seventh in his heat with 45.98.

“It was just a poor run. By anyone’s standards that’s a poor run but what can you do?” he said. “I put it down to missed training - I have just missed too much time running – I spent a good eight weeks on the bike - I wasn’t allowed to run so I can’t really expect too much.

“I’ll go away from here and have a good think about stuff, come back and try to do my best for the relay team.”

Rob Tobin (Basingstoke & Mid Hants) also struggled in the semi final heat won by Chris Brown (BAH). Tobin faded back to seventh position in the home straight and crossed the line in 45.90. But the indoor specialist seemed encourage by his outdoor season in relation to recent years:

“I was just too relaxed down the back straight and just wasn’t running quick enough,” he said after. “After the seasons I have had for the last two years running 45.9 and 46.1, I think to run here and make the semis is pleasing.”

As GB and NI’s sole female representation in the sprints, Emily Freeman (Wakefield) looked quietly confident as she ran a smooth opening 200m heat to finish second in 23.10 to Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell Brown in 23.01. It was a self assured performance by the UK’s top female sprinter this year and from the way she eased over the line it looked as though she had much more to come.

It meant she qualified for the semi finals in 16th fastest place, but will no doubt have something extra to give in order to reach Friday’s final.

Marlon Devonish (Coventry Godiva) lined up in the men’s 200m semi final in the lane outside Wallace Spearmon (USA), and for the first 100m was equal to everything the field had to offer. But as Spearmon kicked away in the home straight, Devonish tied up and faded to seventh in a time of 20.62.

Honest as ever, Devonish gave a critical verdict on his race performance:

“I think I ran it too aggressively so I got onto the straight and I just couldn’t maintain the intensity.,” he admitted. “The lesson is not to try and hit the first 100m like it is a 100m race and then to try and come again – a schoolboy error.

“If I had executed my race properly I would have made it and I believe that dearly. I was up for it but that’s just athletics you have ups and downs.”

Sarah Claxton (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) went into her 100m hurdles semi final knowing she would have to put in the performance of her life to make the evening’s final. Unfortunately she could not produce against a quality field in a fast run semi won in 12.48. Her time of 13.21 for eighth place not a genuine reflection of the form she demonstrated in her earlier heat and highly frustrating for last year’s Olympic finalist:

“I hit a hurdle and I just couldn’t get it back from there. It was the seventh or eighth hurdle – and it threw me off balance,” she revealed.

“It is satisfying to get this far and get through the qualifying yesterday and a season’s best so I can hardly complain. But I am more determined now to come back next year.”