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UK Athletics

Double gold for Norwich Union GB at Euro Indoor

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PHILLIPS IDOWU (Belgrave Harriers), in the triple jump, and Nicola Sanders (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Harrow), in the 400m, won gold on a wonderful afternoon for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the 29th European Indoor Championships in Birmingham.

And with Nathan Douglas (Oxford City) taking silver behind Idowu and Robert Tobin (Basingstoke & Mid Hants) landing bronze in the 400m, Britain ended the second day of the competition at the top of the medal table and placings table.

Idowu, who won Commonwealth Games gold in Melbourne last year, was sensational when he won in 17.56m, a personal best by 26 centimetres, a European and Championship record.

But Douglas was just as superb, with 17.47m being a pb on a track at the National Indoor Arena which is just down the road from his Birmingham training base.

Commonwealth champion Idowu set the medal-haul rolling for Britain by going in front in the first round of the competition after Douglas had led with 17.08m.

His 17.56m was a jump packed with thrilling speed and he said: “It is always important to set down a marker straightway and when I did, I knew I could relax a bit.

“But it was a fantastic competition between us. I am so pleased with the way it went. Nathan set a good mark but I bruised a heel in Glasgow in January and then I aggravated it at the trials and I'm still in pain...but in great shape."

All four of Douglas’ jumps were above 17m and he said: “When you enter a competition, you want to win gold - but to have a silver medal and a personal best it is special.”

Sanders had been the fastest in Europe this year before the final of the 400m, but this run was by far her best. Not so much because of the time, but because of the way she controlled the race from the start.

Sanders broke the British record as she stormed to gold in 50.02, beating the time of 50.53 which Katharine Merry, the Olympic bronze medallist from 2000, had set in 2001.

Sanders was so dominant, winning with such control from Ilona Usovich, of Belarus, who was second in 51.00 with Olesva Zykina, of Russia, third in 51.69.

She had been billed as one of Britain’s best gold medal hopes but said: “I did my best to play that down. I just wanted to win and this is amazing.”

Her words were matched by Tobin who was third in 46.15 the 400m as Ireland’s defending champion David Gillick won in 45.52.

“I came here for a medal and that is what I have, so it is fantastic,” said Tobin.

He has battled so hard this winter to establish himself and again he ran a fine race, showing what a tough character he is to hold on.

It was always going to be tough for European Cross Country champion Mo Farah (Newham & Essex Beagles) in the final of the 3000m after his fall the day before and so it proved.

Farah was only fifth in 8:03.50, just not having enough kick as Cosimo Caliandro, of Italy, won in 8:02.44.

Farah ran with a sore hip and stiff calf - but he still led.

He said: “It was hard work. I was trying to stay out of trouble because I knew the pace was not too quick.

“When I tried to wind it up towards the end, I did not feel so good. I just did not have anything left. I had to work too hard yesterday (after the fall).”

Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers) finished fourth in the 1500m final in 4:08.60 as Poland’s Lidia Chojecka won in 4:05.13.

Clitheroe was over two seconds outside of third but she said: “I felt a medal was well within my capabilities. I had to go to the front to make it a hard-run race and I gave it my best.”

After looking excellent in the heats, Malcolm Arnold’s sprinting trio of Jason Gardener (Wessex & Bath), Craig Pickering (Marshall Milton Keynes) and Ryan Scott (Yate & District) powered their way into tomorrow’s 60m final in style.

Gardener won the first semi-final in 6.58 as Scott finished second in a pb of 6.63 while Pickering won the second race, also in 6.58.

“The old boy is back,” said Gardener, seeking a fourth successive European indoor gold. “I want to win it more than ever.”

Scott achieved his double aim of a pb and a place in the final and said: “There is a fantastic amount of fans out there, so I thought I had better pick up my game.”

Pickering looked so explosive and will give Gardener a real run for his money tomorrow. The UK champion said: “The semi was much better than I have been running and it sets things up for the final.”

Jeanette Kwakye (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) is through to today’s final of the 60m after winning her heat in a pb of 7.17 - and said: “I did not have the greatest morning in the opening round. I had a word with my coach and he told me to just go out there and not to be complacent. I know I can do well and a medal will be a bonus.”

But her Norwich Union GB teammates Joice Maduaka (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) and Montell Douglas (Blackheath & Bromley) did not make it.

In the second semi-final, Belgium’s defending champion Kim Gevaert won in 7.10 with Douglas fifth in 7.28 and Maduaka seventh in 7.30.

It was the second pb of the day for Douglas, who was running with a bandana to keep her long hair in place so it would not blow about when she runs.

“People keep asking me about that but it seems to have worked,” said Douglas.

Britain will have two women in today’s 800m final after fine performances from Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) and Jennifer Meadows (Wigan & District).

Okoro was third in her semi in 1:59.87 as Russia’s Oksana Zbrozhek won in 1:59.53 while Meadows was second in hers in 2:00.79 as Tetyana Petlyuk, of the Ukraine, triumphed in 2:00.10.

“I have working for that sub-2 and have had some good training sessions,” said Okoro.

Meadows paid tribute to their 800m teammate Karen Harewood who broke her leg when she was tripped in the heats on Friday. “If she had been here, she also would have reached the final,” said Meadows.

But both British men failed to progress from their 800m semi-finals.

Richard Hill (Notts) was fifth in his race in 1:49.43 as Spain’s Miguel Quesada won in 1:48.62 while James Brewer (Cheltenham Harriers) was fourth in the other semi in 1:50.40, a race where Arnoud Okken, of the Netherlands, finished first in 1:49.65.

But Britain will have a finallist in today’s men 1500m after James Thie (Cardiff) ran a season’s best of 3:44.15 in fifth place to qualify as Juan Carlos Higuero, of Spain, won in 3:43.02. But Chris Warburton (Notts) did not progress. As Hungary’s Barnabas Bene won the second heat in 3:47.07, Warburton was ninth in 3:50.38, having had to bravely battle himself back into contention after being tripped earlier on in the race.