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Norwich Union International Glasgow - Saturday 27 January

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Craig Pickering
Craig Pickering

A thrilling finale to the Norwich Union International in Glasgow this afternoon saw the match end in a tie, yet it was the classy performance of Craig Pickering to prove last week’s 6.56 was no flash in the pan that proved the main talking point.


The Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team were level on 50 points with America and Germany at the finish after a strong run by Daniel Caines (Birchfield Harriers) in the 400m, the final event.


Bastian Swillims, of Germany, won the race in 47.07 from Caines in 47.51 with Sweden’s Thomas Nikitin third in 48.15 and Mitch Potter, of the USA, fourth in 48.40. But the match outcome was decided on which country had the most wins - and even that was level, with four each for Britain and the USA.


Most of all, a superb start to the indoor season with a tremendous three hours of competition at the Kelvin Hall where Britain celebrated individual match "victories" with Jason Gardener (Wessex and Bath), Andy Turner (Sale) in the 60m hurdles, Joice Maduaka (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), and Lisa Dobriskey (Ashford) in the 1500m.

 

Yet it was an appearance by Craig Pickering (Milton Keynes) which really caught the eye. Pickering, 20, showed how far he has come in the last year under the guidance of Malcolm Arnold at Bath as he won the 60m in 6.55, improving his personal best of 6.56 from a week ago.


The fastest sprinter in the world this year beat his training partner Gardener who was second in 6.70 but whose performance counted as a win in the match as Pickering's was racing as a guest. Ernest Wiggins, of the USA, was third in 6.71 while Mark Lewis-Francis (Birchfield Harriers) was fourth in 6.76.


Pickering, the European Junior 100m champion, said: “Usually against the big boys I struggle with nerves. I was worried I would be like that today, but as soon as I heard the noise of the crowd, I felt amazing. "I am absolutely ecstatic. I have been working hard in training and it seems to be all coming off now, so that is good. That is four pbs in four races." Gardener said: “Craig is doing really well. We have been working on his starts.” It means a fabulous domestic duel between Pickering and Gardener, the defending champion, heading towards the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March.


In 2007, Turner was the only English athlete to win a medal at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. He now trains at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, he too is back this week from South Africa and he looked in prolific form.


Turner battled his way to a fine triumph in the 60m hurdles, digging deep halfway through the blink-and-you-miss-it race to hold off the challenge of international rivals either side of him. He won in 7.69 ahead of Robert Kronberg, of Sweden, who was second in 7.74 with Germany’s Helfe Schwarzer third in 7.79. “I knew I was in good shape,“ said Turner. “But I was shaking on the start line. I managed to control my nerves and I am delighted.”


Maduaka was only fourth in the 60m in 7.41 as Sweden’s Susanna Kallur won in 7.25 but she made up for it in the 200m to triumph in 23.97.
“It is coming along,” said Maduaka. “It is cool. I am happy to win at the 200m but not too pleased with the 60m. But it shows there is room for improvement.”

 

Marilyn Okoro (Shaftsbury Barnet Harriers) was another British winner in the 800m but she was representing the Commonwealth Select team. Okoro ran a superb race, clocking a pb to win the 800m in 2:01.68 ahead of British teammate Jenny Meadows (Wigan & District) who was second in 2:01.87.
“I am so pleased with that today,” said Okoro. “I have been training very hard in South Africa.”


Commonwealth champion Dobriskey also set a pb in the 1500m, winning in 4:17.01 ahead of Germany’s Kerstin Werner in 4:19.00 with Desiraye Osburn, of the USA, third in 4:20.39. But she said: “I know the time was not amazing but it was just good to be back running again today.”


Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield Harriers) has just returned from warm-weather training in South Africa and though the conditions might have been slightly cooler, the competition was even hotter. Yet she responded brilliantly, having just completed her first winter in four years without injury.

 

Sotherton, the Commonwealth heptathlon champion, was not expected to win the 60m hurdles, in a field which included the European 100m hurdles champion champion Kallur. But just under five weeks until the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham, where Sotherton will be competing in the pentathlon, she ran a personal best of 8.21. She was fourth, breaking her old time by 0.05, in a race which Kallur won in 7.90, the fastest time in the world this year. Lol Jones, of the USA, was second in 8.00, but Sotherton was not the only Briton setting new personal standards in the race.


In third place, Sara McGreavy (Sale Harriers Manchester) produced a fine performance to break her pb by 0.08 with 8.16 Sotherton could not match that performance in the high jump where she was last with 1.80m as Sweden’s world champion Kajsa Bergqvist won with 1.95m.


Final match scores: USA 50, Britain 50, Germany 50, Sweden 46, Commonwealth Select 43.

 

For the results from the Kelvin Hall click here.

 

Watch Craig Pickering win the 60m race courtesy of 
BBC Sport.