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UK Athletics

European Championships underway in Gothenburg

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Dwain Chambers (Belgrave Harriers) led the way in the 100 metres for the Men of the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the opening session of the European Championships in Gothenburg on Monday 7 August.


Chambers was the fastest of the field in qualifying. He won his heat in 10.24 seconds, with fellow Britons Tyrone Edgar (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) and Mark Lewis-Francis (Birchfield Harriers) also in the eight quickest of the qualifiers.

“It was good," said Chambers. “The next run will be faster”.


Edgar set the British progression in motion when he won the opening heat of the 100m in 10.32 seconds, as the crowd grew steadily at the Ullevi Stadium.


“The first run is always hard, “ said Edgar. “But the surface is pretty fast.”


Lewis-Francis won his heat too, in 10.37 seconds, and was pleased to be through to the second round. He said: “It was as I wanted it - relaxed and easy. But I must say our hands were shaking because the starter waited so long.”


It was an encouraging morning too for the Men in the 400m. Tim Benjamin (Belgrave Harriers), who was fifth in the World Championship final in Helsinki last summer, came through well in lane seven to win his heat in 46.10 seconds.


He has been injured for much of the year, but the rounds could work to his favour as he builds up his speed. “I got out well, “ said Benjamin. “I was relaxed until 300m and I finished good enough to win.”


Robert Tobin (Basingstoke & Mid Hants) made it through, despite finishing fifth in the next heat. Russian Vladislav Frolov set a storming pace to win in 45.73, and Tobin’s time of 46.10 - the same as Benjamin - was good enough to make the semi-finals.

Graham Hedman (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), in the final heat, earned automatic progress by finishing third in 46.02 as Frenchman Marc Raquil won in 45.65.


The opening two days of these Championships were the most eagerly-awaited by the Swedish crowd because of the presence of one of their biggest stars, Carolina Kluft, the Olympic and world heptathlon champion.


But the British presence was strong with Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield Harriers), the Commonwealth champion, and Jessica Ennis (Sheffield), the bronze medallist from Melbourne, and Louise Hazel (Peterborough).


The British women made a fine start, with all three in the tough opening heat of the 100m hurdles, which included Kluft and former world champion Eunice Barber.


Barber won the race in 13.11 ahead of Holland’s Karin Ruckstuhl, in 13.17, with Sotherton next in 13.22, a personal best time, followed by Ennis in 13.33.

Kluft finished fifth in 13.35, with Louise Hazel sixth in 13.44, also a pb. When the action then moved to the High Jump, Ennis improved her points score even more.


Sotherton ended with 1.77m and Louise Hazel cleared 1.71m on her final attempt, but as the fans cheered with such great expectation, Kluft finally cleared 1.86m, she managed it on her second attempt - but Jessica Ennis had already gone over, in the same group.


Ennis failed at 1.91m, but was satisfied with her performance, which gave her 1054 points to end the morning session in third place with 2129 behind Barber, with 2201, and home favourite  Kluft, with 2165. Both cleared 1.89m.


 20 year old Ennis said afterwards: “I am pleased overall, I hoped for a little bit more in the hurdles, but it was still my second best time for hurdles in the heptathlon. My high jump was solid, it was good to be close to 1.91m.”


Sotherton was seventh after the first two events with 2032 points and Hazel finished the morning in 19th place at her first major championships with a score of 1926.


Carl Myerscough (Blackpool & Fylde) failed to make it past the qualifying round in the Shot Put, the first event of these Championships. Myerscough began with a solid-enough start, of 19.52m, but then fouled on his second attempt. By that stage, Bulgaria’s Andrei Mikhnevich had set the standard, leading with 20.49m. He won the A Group, where Myerscough, who recorded an effort of 19.02m with his final effort, finished seventh.


But such was the strength of the B Group, where seventh placed qualified with 19.71m, that the Briton failed to progress.

Shirley Webb (Trafford AC) and Zoe Derham (Birchfield Harriers) were knocked out in the qualifying stages of the Hammer. Webb was 18th in her group, with a best of 60.30m, from her final effort, having achieved 59.84m with his first before a second-round foul. Derham, in the second group later in the morning, achieved only one legal effort, her first of 56.94m, and she was 20th in the group.

Great Britain & Northern Ireland had mixed fortunes in the women’s 400m hurdles, where two of the three entrants progressed.

At these Championships in Munich in 2002, Lee McConnell (Shaftesbury Barnet) won bronze in the 400m. Since then, she has switched disciplines, and while she is still very much a novice over the barriers, particularly at major Championships, her progress this morning took her into the semi-finals as one of the fastest losers.


She was fourth in her heat in 56.02, but it was a tough start because the race was won by Fani Halkia, the Olympic champion from Greece. She triumphed in 55.42.


In the following heat, Tasha Danvers Smith (Shaftesbury Barnet), the Commonwealth silver medallist, qualified by rights when she battled to the line to finish second in 55.64, just pipping Angela Morosanu, of Romania, who was third in 55.74 in a race won by Russia’s Yevgeniya Isakova in 55.21.


Emma Duck (Team Southampton) went out as she finished last in the final heat in 58.03 seconds.