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Phillips Idowu
Idowu takes gold in Berlin

18 August 2009

Tuesday evening in the Olympiastadion at the World Championships proved fruitful for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team with a gloriously memorable golden moment for Phillips Idowu.

Idowu (Belgrave Harriers) laid to rest the ghost of his Olympic disappointment with a superb triple jump gold – overcoming Portugese opponent Nelson Evora in an unforgettable competition.

It was an amazing achievement for Idowu who has had his share of ups and downs through the years including the body-blow of Olympic silver in Beijing after entering the event as hot favourite.

A repeat of that defeat at this year’s European Team Championship might have created a mental block for some competitors, but fortunately for Idowu he was made of sterner stuff, and made sure he not only performed when it counted, but had an answer when the pressure was on.

Olympic Champion Nelson Evora set the standard in the very first jump of the competition with 17.54m in front of a crowded back straight. Minutes later Idowu launched his way to 17.51m in reply, but judging by the gesturing from coach Aston Moore on the sidelines, there were plenty of improvements that could be made.

There was no change in that situation until Idowu used his third round jump to make a huge breakthrough in terms of the competition and his lifetime best. As Idowu stood on the runway, Usain Bolt’s 200m second round took place and no sooner than Bolt had crossed the line, Idowu used the relative anonymity of an unnoticed and un-clapped run-up to fly out to an extraordinary world leading 17.73m.

With Evora in possession of 17.74m as a lifetime best there was no way Idowu and the British supporters could rest easy. But as it was, the mark was never bettered, and he set about a glorious lap of honour wrapped in a union flag, choked with emotion for several minutes until his achievement hit home.

“It’s been a long time coming. I was waiting for someone to come back. I can’t wait to get my medal now. Right time, right place boy. I knew God was looking down on me, I knew this was my time, I knew this was my time,” he said.

“I was pretty nervous. I was having some pretty crazy dreams last night boy. But you know I had to say this is my time, I just had to go out there and do what I do best and hop, skip and jump my way to 17.73.

“I knew I had something inside me, I knew I was going to win. I woke up this morning and it was horrible weather and I just thought ‘you know what, I’ve been jumping in those kind of conditions all year, if it’s going to rain, it’s going to rain.’ I’ve just got to do enough to win. I’m happy.

“Even if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t have taken that last round jump. My eyes just went ‘whoosh’ full of water. I’ve worked hard. Last year was a big disappointment. I’ve come through that. I’ve improved, got a new PB, got a world championship gold medal. I’ve just got to get down on my knees through the tears and pray to God and thank him for taking me this far.

“I have to thank my coach Aston Moore – he’s been there for me over the last few months – through the ups and downs he has been there and always told me I’m a great athlete. Even though I’ve got a gold medal now I still know there’s more in there.”

GB team mate Nathan Douglas (Oxford City) struggled to make an impact in the competition and bowed out at the half way stage with a best leap of 16.79m to his name. It left him languishing in tenth and gutted he had not made his World Championship mark more significantly.

“I’m disappointed obviously. I would have liked to have got a few more jumps in there and pushed for a medal but it wasn’t meant to be,” he said.

“I don’t think I got the technical parts right. I needed to come in with a faster runway today but I think the lack of preparation took its toll today and it showed that I’m technically a bit rusty and I couldn’t catch my rhythm.”

In the final of the women’s 400m, Christine Ohuruogu (Newham & Essex) could not repeat her achievements at both the 2007 World Championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Ohuruogu, who missed vital preparation time in July, set a season’s best of 50.21 but was short of the medal positions in fifth in a race won by Sanya Richards (USA) in a World Leading time of 49.00.

Although it seemed a tough ask to expect Ohuruogu to match her previous championship performances, she was devastated with her performance:

“I don't know what happened, I’m just not too sure,” she said. “I pretty much planned to stay with the girl in lane eight, as I was drawn in lane seven. I kind of forgot about the rest of the field inside me.

“I should have kicked earlier which I didn't, I was too far down. The race evolved and I needed something more, I just didn't challenge them. It was a very good race with a great field - all credit to the girls for way they ran – I am not taking anything away from them but tonight I just could not get to them. I think the pressure was more on Sanya (Richards) to win the title than it was for me to lose it.”

In the men’s 400m hurdles final, Dai Greene (Cardiff) was unable to reproduce the form which saw him take the event by storm earlier in the week, but he still came away from the championships with a creditable performance in a high class final.

Although Kerron Clement (USA) ruled the roost with a world leading 47.91, and Greene was ‘only’ sixth, his time of 48.68 was still a strong performance in a championships where he impressed with consistent races and powerful finishing. Yet there was a tinge of disappointment in his reflection on the final:

“I think I just ran out of steam there at the end. At the 200 metre mark I usually kick on, I just didn’t really have it in my legs,” he said. “I came here with the intention of making the final, but obviously my expectations were raised after the semi final.

“You look where I was twelve months ago and I hadn’t even got the A standard for this competition, so to go from that to this is fantastic. I expect I’ll be a little bit disappointed over the next few days, but I’ve just can’t be too downhearted really.

“I’ve got high expectations of myself for the future. I thoroughly believe I can go faster and get close to that British record. I’ve just got to keep training hard and I am sure it will come.”

Sarah Claxton (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) set a season’s best of 12.86 – just five one hundredths off her PB -to progress to the semi final stages of the women’s 100m hurdles.

It was a strong performance by Claxton whose previous best this season had been 12.95 but now looks to be approaching her best form after finishing fourth in a high quality heat. Ranked tenth fastest out of the qualifiers, a spot in Wednesday evening’s final would be testament to the speed she has found.

“I was really happy with that actually – I know there’s more for the semi final – but I’m just so happy to get through this round,” she said. “My preparation coming into these championships was really good and now I want to run quicker in the next round.”

Earlier in the evening, in the second round of the men’s 200m, Marlon Devonish (Coventry Godiva) lined up against a quality heat including USA’s Shawn Crawford and managed to finish second for an automatic qualifying spot in 20.66.

In the women’s 400m hurdles semi finals Perri Shakes Drayton (Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets) and Eilidh Child (Pitreavie) both failed to make further progress and their World championships campaigns ended.

Shakes-Drayton was first up and drawn in the outside lane had little to work against in order to pace her race. Blasting away, she appeared to be leading the field into the early hurdles before the more experienced hurdlers swarmed around her by 200m. Heading into the home straight it appeared she had given her all and faded away to seventh position in 57.57

“It’s been a great experience – I did come in slightly nervous – but in that race there my confidence built up - but obviously I needed a bit more for any major championships so hopefully I’ll do much better next time,” she said.

“I had to go hard – I thought ‘please, I hope they won’t catch me’, they can see me but I couldn’t see them and I did try my best.

“I’m definitely going to work on that lane eight business, and next time I come out no matter what lane I am in, I’m going to know the distances and be better.”

Child followed in the next heat and although appearing to run a well structured race, could only manage sixth in 56.21 in a race dominated by USA’s Lashinda Demus winning with 54.25.

“It was a good performance, and just to get out there amongst those girls but I’m gutted about the time,” she said.

“I knew people would come past me so I just tried to run my own race and not get distracted. I had to attack on the bend and I thought I did, but it’s been a long season you know.

“Me and Perri were at the top at the under 23s and we kind of felt like the bee’s knees, but you come here and no-one knows who you are and I want people to know who I am at this level.”