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Farah through to 3000m final

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A DRAMATIC opening morning at the 29th European Athletics Championships in Birmingham for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team as Mo Farah (Newham & Essex Beagles) was tripped in the heats of the 3000m, but recovered brilliantly to make it through to tomorrow's final.

Farah's recovery epitomised the spirit showed by many members of the British team in this first session, with the Pentathlon duo of Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield Harriers) and Jessica Ennis (City Of Sheffield) breaking personal bests.

Farah, last year's British Male Athlete Of The Year, is among the favourites for gold and though he has been training more for the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa later this month, he is determined to make his mark here. He did that - but not in the way he could ever have imagined.

With seven laps to go, Farah was in the lead pack when, whyen he moved out from the inside lane, he was tripped by Austria's Gunther Weidlinger.

Not only did Farah go flying, when he climbed back onto his feet he did not know where he was and he started running the wrong way down the back straight.

But, amazingly, Farah, the European Cross Country champion, made up so much ground when he was left at the back of the field that ultimately he qualified as a fastest loser.

Farah charged his way through and though the leaders increased the pace, that worked in the Briton's favour. He was running quick enough to ensure by finishing sixth in 7:55.36, as Jesus Espana, of Spain,

won in 7:52.50, he was in with a shout of making the final, depending on the speed of the second heat.

But as Farah was chatting in the mixed zone about the incident, Weidlinger came up to him to apologise.

"I am sorry," said the Austrian. "You ran in front of me and I could not do anything. Will you accept my apology?"

Weidlinger, who had qualified in second place in 7:53.18, offered his hand and Farah shook it. "Things happen in races like these but I did not know where I was after I fell," said Farah. "That was why I started going the wrong way. But I was really disappointed that it happened. I feel good and I do not think it has affected my chances of a medal in the final tomorrow."

At the time as he chatted, he was being slightly presumptuous because the second heat was still in motion. But his instincts were correct. That race was won by Turkey's Halil Akkas in a much slower time of 7:54.72 and Farah was through.

His Norwich Union Great Britain team mate Scott Overall (Blackheath & Bromley) is out though after finishing eighth in that second heat in 8:06.88.

"The group got away at 2k and I just did not have the legs over the last 400m," said Overall.

 

If it was a morning which Farah could not have expected, the same could be said about Ennis who, after two events of the Pentathlon, was leading the competition with 2198 points from Carolina Kluft, the defending champion and Olympic heptathlon champion, from Sweden, with 2164 with Sotherton third with 2157.

It is not very often that Kluft is ahead in a multi-event competition and then is overtaken but that was the case today. She was in charge after the 60m hurdles but Ennis was superb in the High Jump to go in front.

The 60m hurdles saw Kluft win in 8.20 with Ennis second in 8.22 and Sotherton third in 8.23. It was a season's best for the Swede but setting personal marks was the domain of the Britons in the high jump.

Ennis had an indoor best of 1.90m, but she beat that with 1.91m on her second attempt with Kluft clearing 1.89m and Sotherton finishing third in 1.88m, also a pb.

It put Ennis in a superb position before the competitors took a break prior to the Shot Put.

"It has been a brilliant day so far," said Ennis. "But I was a bit disappointed with my hurdles because I thought I was going a little bit quicker. The high jump was excellent because I did not expect to get 1.91m. I had a good attempt at 1.94m and hopefully I will achieve that next time."

After the shot put, where Sotherton had a strong PB performance of 14.57m and Ennis managed 13.28, at the end of the first session the leader board showed Sotherton in 1st position 2989, Kluft in second with 2987 and Ennis third with 2944.

At first it looked like it might be a tricky morning for Nathan Douglas (Oxford City) in the Triple Jump qualifying, but he turned it around in style after a foul on his first effort.

His second was 16.46m and then his third was 16.96m, which was the best of the day with his fellow Briton Phillips Idowu (Belgrave Harriers) third with 16.82m from his first, and only, jump.

"I was a little bit nervous after I missed the first jump," said Douglas. "I just had to slow it down and control my run up to get a good one it. The distance was a bit less than I was hoping for but this early on, I was just concentrating on qualifying."

Idowu added: "I have not jumped for a couple of weeks. I bruised a heel in Glasgow and then I aggravated it at the trials. If I can put a good one in in the final, then that is a medal for me."

Andy Turner (Sale Harriers Manchester) is looking one of Britain's best medal hopes and he was superb in the third heat of the 60m hurdles which he won in 7.60.

It was the joint fastest of the first round with Spain's Jackson Quinonez, who Turner talked about as being his main threat.

"That was okay," said Turner. "I was a little shaky at the start because I had the false start in the back of my mind from the Grand Prix here. There is a lot more to come from me so watch this space."

Allan Scott (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) also progressed, despite finishing fourth in 7.81 in the heat won by Quinonez. "I rattled the hurdle with my trail leg but I am alright," said Scott.

 

Nicola Sanders (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow), the fastest in Europe this year, and Emma Duck (Team Southampton) both made it through in the first round of the 400m.

Sanders won her heat in 52.15 and though Duck was third in hers, as Romania's Angela Morosanu won in 52.16, she qualified by rights.

Sanders, who ran the first lap in 23.77, said: "It was a little bit fast, but I had to because I was lane two and I had to work hard to make the break."

Duck had the same problem and added: "I was on the inside and I had to go off fast. Hopefully the next round will be better."

Robert Tobin (Basingstoke & Mid Hants) was impressive in the first round of the men’s 400m, winning in 46.77 and looking a great medal chance. Ireland's David Gillick, the defending champion, won his heat in 46.70 and may take some stopping but Tobin said: "I felt really good and I am looking forward to the semi-final later."

Steven Green (Newham & Essex Beagles) also progressed, finishing third in his heat in 47.08 as Sweden's Johan Wissman won in 46.92. "It was good but just not quite as fast as I wanted to go," said Green. But Dale Garland (Channel Islands) is out, finishing fourth in 47.51 in the race won by Gillick. He said: "I am disappointed because I ran 46.90 a fortnight ago after five weeks out with injury."

Amy Harris (Birchfield Harriers) was in tears after failing to progress through the qualifying round of the long jump after winning the UK Championships last month. She has a pb of 6.47m, but today managed only 6.39m and 6.20m before fouling on her third attempt.

"I do not feel like I have done myself justice (even though it was 19 centimetres further than her best at the start of the winter)," said Harris, who was making her senior British debut. "I do not know what happened. It was one of those days. I felt a little nervous, but not enough for it to affect me. I hoped to get to the final."

Steven Lewis (Newham & Essex Beagles) was five centimetres short of his pb in the pole vault with 5.55m and it was not enough to make the final. He needed 10cm more and said: "My series was not clean enough.  The run up is so fast here, I used my 5.60m pole at 5.20m and from then on I was in new territory with my poles."