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Gold and two silvers for GB&NI

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Dwain Chambers
Gold for new European 60m record holder Chambers

8 March 2009

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team won three medals on the final day of action at the European Indoor Championships in Turin, Italy on Sunday.

Dwain Chambers (Belgrave Harriers) justified his favourite tag by storming to gold in the men’s 60m and the 4x400m men’s and women’s teams both took silver to bring GB & NI’s overall medal count to four, following Mo Farah’s 3000m gold on Saturday.

Chambers won the men’s 60m one day after setting a new European record of in the semi-final rounds. He never looked like beaten as romped home in 6.46, one tenth of a second in front of the silver medallist Fabrio Cerutti (Italy).

Chambers said: “I wanted to go quicker but I had to make a decision- a world record or a gold medal. I was more concerned about someone else winning, so I just ran. The record was on but my legs were caned from the semis and I was just running on fumes. I did what was needed to get the medal.

“It’s just a great feeling to be back on that rostrum in my national colours and writing my name in history. I’ll celebrate with a glass of wine now.”

Simeon Williamson (Highgate Harriers) was certainly in the running for a medal, after positive performances in the qualifying stages of the competition but was narrowly pushed into fourth place in a photo-finish. He finished an agonising one hundredth of a second behind bronze place in 6.57.

Craig Pickering (Marshall Milton Keynes) was just behind his teammate, crossing the line in fifth with 6.61. Pickering said: “I think I’m capable of running the times required for a silver medal today, that’s what’s so disappointing.

“I have various issues with my start not being consistent, fortunately I’ve got a bit of time now to go away and work hard, look at my start, see what I’m doing wrong and make a few corrections and come back stronger for the summer.”

Both the men’s and women’s relay team won silver in nail biting races.

Donna Fraser (Croydon Harriers) opened up the medal quest with a quick first lap which saw GB&NI in first place going into the second leg.

Kim Wall (Basildon AC) took over the running and kept the team well in contention, handing the over the baton in second place to Vicky Barr (Rugby and Northampton) who ran the fastest split of the group with 52.18.

Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) – who earlier finished a disappointing 5th in the 800m - ran the final 400m well but struggled in the dying stages and was caught by the formidable Russians to leave GB & NI second.

Wall said: “I felt really good, I just wanted to run my own race really and make sure I had some left to accelerate down the home straight. I’m really pleased to have come here, ran and got a medal.”

Fraser said: “I was happy to get lane six because yesterday really messed up my legs. I was suffering big time. I just tried to give the girls a good start, I was just trying to get in front of the two girls. I’m happy overall, I’m a competitor and I just have to see how it goes.

“If you’re on that line then you want to go out and win. I made the team, but I have to look at the bigger picture. I’ll have a chat with my coach (about retirement) and see what the outcome is.”

Richard Buck (City of York) got the boys off to a flying start in the men’s 4x400m relay, leading through his leg and passing the baton first to second man Nick Leavey (Thames Valley Harriers).

Leavey then maintained a marginal lead right to the line and gave Nigel Levine (Bedford & County) the chance to keep that lead over the impending Russian attack, which he did.

Phil Taylor (Liverpool, Pembroke and Shefton), who was part of the gold medal winning 4 x 40om team at the same competition two years ago in Birmingham, was next up for GB&NI. He allowed the Russians to make the running and made his late attack of the final bend to briefly take the lead.

However, roared on by the home crowd, Italy put in a stunning burst and just snatched the gold in 3:06.68, GB & NI took silver in 3:07.04, the same times as bronze medallists Poland, with Russia fading back to 5th.  

Buck, 5th in the individual, said: “It’s all about the team effort! My coach told me to go out there and make up for the individual so I absolutely hammered off for 200m, worked the straight and maintained a reasonable position and had to run it really smart, not too fast.

“Nigel had a tough start, he had to really commit to that first lap which a lot of inexperienced runners would have buckled at but he dug deep and really went for it. We heaped the pressure on Phil at the end there, giving him all the big guns to run with and also with the whole crowd shouting for the Italian, he did extremely well.”

Leavey said: “It feels unbelievable, it’s so good! I’m pleased with my own race too, I’ll have to watch it back but Rich did such a brilliant job so it was up to me to continue from that. I’m really pleased.”

In the women’s 800m Marilyn Okoro paid for her fast front-running tactics, almost running into the ground as she crawled over the line at the finish.  Going through 600m on world record pace, she was tracked by the Russian Mariya Savinova who took advantage of the visibly sagging Okoro on the final lap.

Okoro was dead on her feet with 60m to go and crawled over the finish line in 2:03.30. GB & NI team-mate Jenny Meadows (Wigan AC) was among those who streamed past, finishing fourth in 2:00.42, just 0.19 shy of a medal.

Okoro said: “I panicked and probably went to the front a lap too early. In the outdoors there’s always been a couple of girls in front of me which gives me something to work for.

It was my head, I was looking at the screen and I was miles in front but I just kept pushing. That’s something with experience and with learning and it’s indoors which I personally find harder. This was a fantastic opportunity to medal.”

Meadows said: “It was an absolute of a whirlwind of a race. I don’t remember much of it. I really thought it would be quite tactical.

“I never expected 200m or 400m to be quite so fast. It completely threw a lot of us off our game plan. I really thought I was prepared for everything but I wasn’t prepared for 56.1 through 400m. I’m gutted with fourth place, only nineteen hundredths away from bronze.”

In the men’s pole vault, Steve Lewis (Newham & Essex Beagles) made a fine start, he was first to clear the opening height of 5.41m, then passed on 5.51m and achieved 5.61m and 5.71m at the second attempt. He eventually failed at  5.76m,1cm above his indoor personal best set in Manchester at the beginning of the 2009 indoor season.

The British number one said: “I changed pole after 5.71m but I just didn’t quite pull it off as well as I wanted to. I could have jumped 5.76m here, which would have been a personal best and would have been amazing,  but I would have still been in fourth. I’ve got to be happy, it’s my best ever international performance. ”

In the women’s 3000m, Katrina Wooton (Bedford & County AC) ran strongly during the majority of the race although the pack split and the first group got away from her. She continued her pace, got past a couple and ended the race in a creditable ninth place overall with 9:01.83.

She said: “Coming into here I was ranked twelfth, so I can’t complain with that. My game plan was to go out and get stronger as the race went on but then I got spiked and I had to back out of the group a bit. So I just had to keep working and working and pick them off but I’m pleased with ninth.”

Greg Rutherford (Marshall Milton Keynes) placed 6th in the men’s long jump with 8.00m, an indoor PB. He also recorded valid jumps of 7.99m, 7.99m and 7.92m in a consistent series. The gold was won by a huge European record of 8.71m by Germany’s Sebastian Bayer.

He said: “It was okay, but just didn’t seem to go quite how I had wanted it to. I don’t think I was getting enough lift. I don’t think anything went wrong particularly, I was giving it everything I had. The standard was very high. It’s unbelievable, but then again that’s the distances I need to be jumping. I’ve beaten most of these guys consistently which is frustrating.”

Neil Speight (Belgrave) held a good position in the men’s 1500m for much of the opening phase of the race, only losing ground with four laps to go. As the field began to spread he tried to keep pace but was left wanting at the back of the pack. He finished in ninth place with 3:51.04.

He said: “No excuses. It was quite slow to 800m, but all these guys are great, great runners. When they wound it up, I wasn’t able to hold that pace. A lot of Spanish in there who are 3:33 and 3:34 runners, I just wasn’t up to it today.”