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Latest from Barcelona

Mark Lewis Francis

 

28 July 2010

At the end of the second day of action from the  European championships, the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team had another medal to celebrate following the men’s 100m final – yet its source was for many rather unexpected.

With Dwain Chambers (coach: Daniel Plummer) the most fancied of the Brits to make inroads on the medals, the thrilling final where second to fifth position could only be split by thousandths of a second, saw a rejuvenated Mark Lewis Francis (Linford Christie) take the silver medal behind France’s Christian Lemaitre, and mark a fairytale return to the major championship scene.

Chambers unfortunately placed in fifth position, clocking the same 10.18 as Lewis Francis, but it was a huge disappointment for the Belgrave Harrier who had looked set for a podium finish.

“Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose – the main guy Christian Lemaitre came here and did what he had to do,” he philosophised.

“Mark deserves to have got a medal – all I can do is just smile about it. I’d just had to rely on my experience and my experience kept me relaxed but wasn’t good enough to win.”

Yet for Lewis Francis, whose career has been blighted by long term injury issues since taking Olympic 4x100m relay gold in 2004, it was a moment of pure joy, having been added to the individual 100m slot following a clear display of form at the Aviva preparation camp in Monte Gordo, and justifying that call by literally taking home the silverware.

I’m European Silver medallist – wow!” was his initial reaction.

“I got to the final on a lucky star and I got to these championships on a lucky star. 2010 is my year I am the happiest man in the world I cannot complain – I said I’d take fourth place before the final and I ended up with second.

“We stuck to the plan in training for the individual and I was able to run it. I knew it was going to be tough to go out there and do anything crazy. I just wanted to go out there and enjoy the moment.”

Christian Lemaitre crossed the line for gold in 10.11, fulfilling the 2010 potential which has seen him break the ten second barrier and marking a superb new era for French sprinting, with compatriot Martial Mbandjock taking the bronze.

Earlier in the evening teammate, James Dasaolu (Michael Khmel) just missed out on a spot in the final after finishing third in 10.31 in the third semi final. The youngster unimpressed with his showing: “I feel I should have done much better. I'm not happy with that performance at all. I feel I should have made the final.        

I've learned a lot from this being my first championship and I'll learn to deal with the pressure and the nerves and won't let it happen again.”

In the 400m semi finals, there was a mixed bag of results for the GB men as they lined up against the tough two plus two qualifying requirement – the top two from each race and the two fastest losers from all three races set to make the final.

Martyn Rooney (Nick Dakin), ran close to his season’s best in his – the first of the three heats – and yet was only third placed behind Belgian Jon Borlee who set a national record of 44.71 and Frenchman Leslie Djhone in 44.87. However his  45.00 timing looked a good bet to see him progress to Friday’s final although he was cleared annoyed with his race position:

I knew it would be quick with the number one in Europe and number three lining up,” he said.

“I thought I ran an alright race, but I made a few mistakes. I slowed down at 200m for some stupid reason and I kicked too early - just silly, silly mistakes.

“If I'd have run a proper race I would have been comfortable but I didn't and that's stupid. You run like that in a final and you get punished.

In the next race, Michael Bingham (Ken Harndon) was second although he faired better than Rooney with a second place in 44.88 and a certain place in the final, easing up behind Irishman David Gillick who looked impressive with 44.79.

Conrad Williams (Linford Christie) however was unlucky and did not progress. His heat was won by Kevin Borlee in 45.32, and Williams struggled, crossing the line from lane eight in sixth position and 46.60.

Afterwards, he was philosophical about his performance and knew exactly where it had gone wrong:

“It was the semi final you have to run fast to get to the final to show what you're capable of,” he said.

“I'm disappointed with that. I'm in much better shape than that race. Tactically I got it wrong, I went out too hard for too long. Schoolboy error but I'm the one that's going to have to deal with it and bounce back from it.

“I like lane 8, it doesn't matter what lane you're in, if you don't stick to your race plan and get it wrong in the first second it's game over and that's what I did.”

It meant that the Aviva GB & NI team will have two representatives lining up in the final with Bingham and Rooney ranked in fourth and fifth position, although both will be hoping to make an impact on the podium spots.

 

Andy Baddeley

 

In the women’s 400m hurdles semi finals it was two from two with both GB athletes progressing towards the final on Friday night.

Eilidh Child (Stuart Hogg) was first up and ran a solid race although faded over the last 50m and finished just outside the automatic spots in fourth – her time of 55.27 in breezy conditions looking likely to get her through, and as it was following the second semi, she emerged as the fastest in the qualifying slots although she was antagonised by the lapses in concentration she felt had almost cost her dear:

“I mucked up my last set of hurdles in the heat so I was thinking about that, I got to eight ok in this race but I stuttered again at ten.

“I'll be disappointed if I don't get through because it's my fault, I should have run better in the home straight. It's amazing how much ground you lose when you stutter and the other girls attack it.”

It was a more straightforward story though for Perri Shakes Drayton (Chris Zah), who really stepped up to the championship stage and ran a stunning PB.

In a tough field, the Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets athlete ran a mature race to further improve on her ongoing 400m hurdles progression, and finished a comfortable third in 54.73, behind Russia’s Natalya Antyukh and Czech athlete Zuzana Hejnova, with the race won in 54.28.

After, a beaming Shakes Drayton was brief but buoyed by her run:

“It was better conditions today - cooler, like a cool British summer day! That felt good, I'm really pleased with the PB. It's just two days and then the final now!”

Then to continue the theme of British team members progressing to finals, it was the turn of the men’s 1500m representatives Colin McCourt (Craig Winrow); Andy Baddeley (Andy Hobdell) and Tom Lancashire (Norman Poole) to all make their European Championship openers on what was a perfect warm yet comfortable evening for middle distance running.

None of the threesome disappointed, as McCourt and Baddeley took automatic qualifying spots in the first heat finishing in first and fourth positions, and Lancashire repeated the trick in the second, striding home comfortably after leading the pack through the bell and having enough time to ease off the gas 70m out to stroll over the line in third place.

Baddeley, the senior member of the trio, reflected on a good evening again for endurance runners: “That felt really good. It was quite cool running on the blue track and I felt alot better here than I did last year in Berlin.

“Yesterday was a great start to the competition, I took great inspiration from Chris and Mo into tonight. They both ran so well.”

Earlier in the evening, in the women’s 400m opening round, Lee McConnell lined up in lane three in the first of the three heats, in tough qualifying standards.

With just the top two and two further fastest losers set to progress to Friday night’s final, it was a tough ask for McConnell, who finished fourth in 53.15, adrift of the race winner Antonina Krivoshapka’s 51.52.

It meant no further participation for McConnell as the GB teams only individual 400m representative who will be keen to make an impact as part of the 4x400m relay over the weekend, and was clearly devastated with her race:

“I don’t know what happened, I just don't know. I really don't know,” she admitted.

“I felt fine going into it, a little rushed in warm up, but other than that I felt fine. I couldn't get into the race at all, I wasn't comfortable at any point of it and I really don't know why it went so wrong.”

The Aviva GB & NI team are back in action on Thursday morning, with the men’s 110m hurdles at10:45am local time