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<SPAN class=NewsTitle>Spar European Cup - Final Day</SPAN>

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The Norwich Union Great Britain & Northern Ireland team suffered mixed fortunes on the final day of action on Thursday 29 June in Malaga, Spain. The women’s team were relegated for the second time in three years, although the men showed last year’s relegation was far behind them with a solid third place performance.

 

Men

Steve Lewis (Newham & Essex Beagles) lined up for his first GB vest, keen to show the sort of form that saw him claim Commonwealth bronze earlier this year, and to hit the UKA development standard for the European Championships of 5.55m for the pole vault. He missed out however, but bagged valuable points for the men’s team with equal fifth place.

Nathan Douglas (Oxford City) finished fourth in a strange triple jump competition where no jumper exceeded 17m. His leap of 16.62m was down on his best for the season of 17.45m. Competing for the second time in two days, Carl Myerscough (Blackpool and Fylde) scored a season's best and points for the GB & NI men with a throw of 61.11m in the first round. His fifth place took more points than expected and he revealed he was pleased with his day’s work:

 

“I’m quite surprised with that because I’ve not done much discus work recently – it wasn’t the most ideal wind conditions so that is pretty satisfying,” he said.

 

In the 110m hurdles, Andy Turner (Sale) recovered from a bad start and clattering a few hurdles to come through strongly and dip for second place in 13.47 seconds, behind Ladji Doucoure. Turner revealed he knew he could beat the Russian and Ukraine competitors halfway through:

 

“The Russian started to grunt and I knew I could have him because I expected him to tighten up, then I just dipped. I thought – I’ve got you!”

 

Having watched his team-mates battle whole-heartedly the night before, a determined Richard Hill (Notts AC) lined up for the 800m keen to pull in the points on his GB debut. But his typical front running style made him a wind break for every other competitor and he was badly overhauled in the home straight. Despite this, the Notts AC man still clocked what just a few weeks ago would have been a PB with a 1.47.59.

 

“I wouldn’t change a thing about how I ran. I had to give myself a chance of being in it to win it at 600m and that’s what I did. Perhaps in a year when I’m stronger I’ll be able to make sure I can last that last section and hold off the strong kickers.”

 

Adam Bowden (Harrow AC) ran a clever race to finish fifth in the 3000m Steeplechase and take four points for the team. He also came close to his PB with 8.34.23 – although he revealed he had to hold himself back after going to the front with three laps to go.

 

“I wasn’t sighting the hurdles well enough,” he said. “I moved to the front and then had to hold myself back from pushing too hard just because my view was better.

 

“It was windy – but that didn’t make a difference – not as much as the injection of pace they put in!”

 

The long lasting talent of Nick Nieland (Shaftesbury Barnet) threw 73.26m to bag three points for the GB men in the javelin as the evening cooled in the Malaga stadium.

 

Keen to defend his European Cup title, Christian Malcolm (Cardiff AAC) showed in the 200m that he was more than benefiting from the coaching of Linford Christie since March and produced a fine performance to clock 20.29 seconds for maxiumum points, ahead of Ronald Pognon.

 

Clearly delighted Malcolm recalled “I was talking with Linford the other day and he said I was in shape to run 20.3 but to run into the 20.2s is great.”

 

Mo Farah’s (Newham & Essex Beagles) 3000m race was an exciting display of effort as he battled down the home straight against Spain's Sergio Gallardo. Unfortunately the home favourite had the roar of the crowd to help him pip Farah to the line.

 

In second place, Mo stopped the clock at 8.27.91, reflecting the slow start to the race.

 

The 4x400m quartet of Rob Tobin, Andrew Steele (Trafford), Richard Strachan (Leeds City) and Graham Hedman (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) closed the points account for the GB men with fourth position. An argy-bargy race resulted in Graham Hedman dipping for fourth on the line, and sealing Great Britain’s points  haul to consolidate third place.

Dave Collins, UK Athletics Performance Director said of the men’s team result:

 

“I’m a darn sight happier than I was this time last year, there are definite signs of a change in attitude – the talent is there – they just have to convert it and believe in themselves.”

 

“Put Tim Benjamin back in there, and a full relay squad, and get rid of the most disappointing performances and GB are starting to look very dangerous.

 

“It is still early doors for signs of change, but I am seeing changes in process and the way athletes are conducting themselves. But it still can’t change fast enough.”

 

Women

 

Zoe Derham (Birchfield Harriers) showed her true strength when competing in her favoured event, following her punt for a point the previous evening in the discus. Her hammer throw of 61.62 took two points for Great Britain as they started the evening in close proximity to mid table safety. Many of the throwers suffered with no throws, a result of the circle surface affecting their footwork, and many a hammer crashed into the cage, forcing Germany’s Betty Heidler out of the running.

Julie Crane’s (Sale Harriers) high jump of 1.85m took seventh place as she revealed she had only been back in training a few weeks from an ongoing back problem.

 

In the shot, Joanne Duncan (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) went a place better than prediction with seventh, putting 16.48m in a strong field.

 

Lisa Dobriskey (Ashford) started the 1500m knowing full well that the bumping and barging of the previous evening had seen room-mate Becky Lyne tumble out of contention. However, she was still unable to free herself from the field when a break occurred with 300m to go, and she suffered badly, fading to seventh in 4.18.13.

 

“I can’t believe it,” she winced “If I could run again tomorrow I would make sure I was closer for the break but I just felt so flat I had nothing when they went.”

 

Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield) completed a hat-trick of consecutive years in the long jump at the European Cup, but admitted she was less than happy with her 6.50m effort that took fifth place.

“I’m not pleased,” she said “If I could have got my first one in then it was a big one – but then that’s hindsight and I can’t look back on what might have been.”

 

In the 100m hurdles, Sarah Claxton (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) marked a fantastic return to form with an accomplished fourth position but better still a 13.01 season’s best and claimed the scalp of established hurdler Glory Alozie.

“I am absolutely delighted with that,” she said, “I was a but slower than I wanted to be over the last four hurdles but I’ve been working on getting over the hurdles quicker and it is really starting to show.”

 

Determined to put the previous evening’s relay disappointment behind her, Abi Oyepitan (Shaftesbury Barnet) was running scared in the ninth lane over 200m. However she marked her returning form with a season's best of 23.06 and signs that she could soon return to the best of 2004.

 

But the Tony Lester coached athlete had her usual must-do-better demeanour about her after the race:

 

“That wasn’t great. I didn’t work my bend at all and left myself with far too much to do – it’s almost as though I was waiting for them to catch up with me.”

 

The women’s 5000m was a tough race with Kathy Butler (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) having only just returned from altitude and suffering in a race where the pace was injected with a kilometre to go. Her 16.34.75 for sixth place not truly reflecting how the race burst to life in the later stages.

 

Ending the evening and unfortunately unable to consolidate the GB women’s place in the top league of the European Cup, the 4x400m team of Helen Karagounis (Birchfield Harriers), Nicola Sanders (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow), Mel Purkiss (Team Southampton) and Lee McConnell (Shaftesbury Barnet) managed to finish third in a strong relay performance which regained a little of the pride lost through the relegation woes.

 

Dave Collins, UK Athletics Performance Director said of the women’s team result:

 

“There were some plucky performances but too many of the team did not realise their best. The two big disappointments on the first day cost us, one you can legislate for but not the other.”