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UK Athletics

Bronze for Williams, Devonish and Lyne

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The Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team joined the bronze age in Gothenburg on Thursday night with a hat-trick of brilliant third places at the European Championships, added to the Silver won by Shelley Woods in the Wheelchair 800m.


Rhys Williams (Cardiff AAC) produced a wonderful run to make the podium in the 400m hurdles. Then Becky Lyne (Hallamshire Harriers) did the same in the 800m before Marlon Devonish (Coventry Godiva) stormed home to celebrate glory in the 200m.


Rhys Williams, 22, set the ball rolling in some style. He had been awarded a false start, even though he raised his hand because he was not ready in his blocks and when the race began the second time, he made a solid start.


He looked as though he was never going to challenge when the final 100m emerged but he came through to finish strongly third in 49.12, snatching the bronze medal place from Naman Keita, of France, by 0.01 as Greece’s Periklis Iakovakis won in 48.46.


Williams, the European Under-23 champion who was fourth in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March, was delighted. He ran to the crowd to hug his mum and sister in the stand where his famous dad JJ, one of Wales’ great rugby players, was there to celebrate too.


Williams, who rejected a career in rugby, said: “That was tough. I was keeping my fingers crossed but that was too close for comfort at the end. This is the stage I want to run on. This is me giving something back. I was so disappointed to finish fourth in Melbourne, I really wanted a medal today for the team.”


It always looked like the Russian and Bulgarian challenge would prove too much for Becky Lyne. But the 24-year-old Hallamshire Harrier showed amazing maturity once more.


The former European Under-23 champion stayed out of trouble in the first lap, then got herself in a good position, coming off the final bend. But she almost tripped as she came into the home straight, as the athletes battled to get into medal contention.


 But Lyne came through from fourth to steal third place in the final few strides in 1:58.45 as Olga Kotlyarova, of Russia, won in 1:57.38.


She dedicated her medal to one of Britain’s greats, the late Lillian Board who won the European title in 1969 in Athens but died the year later.


”This is for her” said Lyne.

“I am really happy. At the start of the year, I was injured and training every day on the cross trainer hoping to get back. Not in my wildest dreams did I dream that I would win a medal at the European Championships!”

'It's nice to have lifted British spirits a bit by getting a medal.'


Marlon Devonish, who won the sprint double at the Norwich Union European Trials, opted for the 200m and as in Munich four years ago, finished third as the crowd roared Wissman to Silver.

He said: “I am happy but not overjoyed. I hoped to improve upon the bronze from four years ago. I was very nervous even a few days ago, so I am pleased to get a medal.”


It was a tough race because Francis Obikwelu, the 100m champion, is in sensational form and he flew away to win in 20.01 with Johan Wissman, of Sweden, second in 20.38 and Devonish held on to finish third in 20.54.

But Rikki Fifton (Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets) was disappointed to finish sixth in the first semi-final in 20.85 as Obikwelu won that in 20.36.


Nicola Sanders (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) has opted for the flat 400m this year because of a back and leg trouble which has forced her to take a break from the hurdles.
But she could not be faulted for her performance in the 400m final, even though she was beaten for speed throughout.

Sanders finished sixth in 50.87 seconds, as Bulgaria’s Vanya Stambolova won gold in 49.85. At first her name did not even appear in the results. I was wondering what was going on”, said Sanders. “They seemed to miss me out.”

”I will decide later in the year what will happen next year in terms of the hurdles or not.

Mo Farah (Newham & Essex Beagles) and Nick McCormick (Morpeth Harriers) both moved into Sunday’s 5000m final but Chris Thompson (Aldershot, Farnham & District) struggled in the latter stages of the race and didn’t qualify for the final.

Farah, who took more than 20 seconds off his personal best when he ran 13:09.40 earlier in the year, looked relaxed enough. He led for part of the way, happy to settle in the pack to cross the line in fourth in 13:46.77 in a race won by Khalid Zoubaa, of France, in 13:46.32.

Though McCormick was last in 13:52.87, he made it through as one of the fastest qualifiers because of the speed of this heat. But there was no such fortune for Thompson in the opening semi-final when he was last, in 14:10.27.


 Thompson said after the race: “I was ill a couple of weeks ago but thought I was OK now to race. I went for it, but there was nothing in the tank. That performance was not what I came here for.”

Having booked his place in Sunday’s final, Farah said: “I have been here almost a week, so I really needed a run out. I knew what I had to do, trying to save as much as I could for Sunday. I feel good and I really enjoyed the race.”


Earlier in the evening, there was medal success for Britain in the women’s 800m Wheelchair final as Shelley Woods (British Wheelchair Racing Association) won silver in 1:59.61.


While Switzerland’s Edith Hunkeler won in 1:52.58, Woods won Britain’s second medal of the Championships with Dame Tanni Grey Thompson (Cardiff ACC and New Marske Harriers) fifth in 2:05.27.


”I am really pleased ” said Woods. “I hoped for bronze, so I am chuffed to get silver. My main aim was to be the first Brit today. I knew both Swiss athletes would be strong. I had a bad start but came through on the last lap.”


David Weir (Velocity Wheelchair Racers), the British record holder with 2:58.82, progressed through to the final of 1500m Wheelchair race by winning his heat in 3:12.34.


Tushar Patel (Velocity Wheelchair Racers) will join him there after being one of the fastest qualifiers having finished fourth in the second race in 3;13.71.


But in a race won by Marcel Hug, of Switzerland, in 3:12.51, Brian Alldis (British Wheelchair Racing Association) was fifth in 3:13.71.