Athletics: Britain's 1500 trio miss out in sprint

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S 1,500 metres runners were left feeling like boxers who failed to land a proper punch yesterday as they were run out of the medals in a chaotic final won by Reyes Estevez of Spain. But the punches should land in earnest today in the finals of the 200 and 400 metres, where Britain have high hopes of success.

All three one-lap runners came through their semi- finals, as Solomon Wariso produced a marginally steadier performance than the one he had produced the previous day, and all three 200 metres runners moved into today's semi-finals in good order, with Julian Golding looking particularly assured in winning his heat in 20.39, just 0.01sec outside his personal best.

There was a full complement of British runners in the 1,500 metres final, too, but when a slow, bunched affair developed into the inevitable sprint around the final bend, none was in position to challenge the leaders, and Estevez ran clear of Portugal's Rui Silva and his fellow countryman Fermin Cacho, the 1992 Olympic champion, to claim gold.

Anthony Whiteman was the closest British challenger, finishing fourth in 3.42.27, 0.14sec adrift of Cacho.

John Mayock, the European indoor 3,000m champion, finished fifth after disentangling himself from the bunch too late, and Matthew Yates, in what may be his last major championship final, was sixth - a more than decent result for a man who only qualified at the 11th hour and was not expected to reach the final.

It was all very unfortunate - and Mayock may have been right in his suggestion that the third Spaniard, Andres Diaz, had obstructed him as his two compatriots sprinted for the line.

But the bottom line was that the Britons wasted their chance and failed to apply their talents to telling effect. Whiteman's stated plan - to follow the Spaniards - was executed almost perfectly.

Wariso, who had flirted with disaster in the first qualifying round of the 400 metres, earned a place in today's final alongside Britain's two top-ranking exponents, Iwan Thomas and Mark Richardson.

Wariso took the fourth qualifying place in his semi-final in a time of 45.59, but the manner of his running was still far from reassuring following his misjudgement in the opening race, when he had looked round and slowed over the final 50 metres and missed the third automatic qualifying place to a fast-finishing opponent.

Yesterday he also disrupted his rhythm in the home straight by twisting round to survey the field, although on this occasion he secured the place he needed.

It has been an erratic competition so far for the man who was chosen for an individual place ahead of Roger Black, who is now observing the action from the high viewpoint of the BBC TV commentary point, having retired earlier this month.

But now Wariso is in the final, where there is not going to be any point in taking measures apparently intended to conserve energy. And his times are moving in the right direction.

In contrast to their 31-year-old colleague, Thomas and Richardson have progressed through two rounds with the minimum of anxiety.

Thomas, who has won only once in his six meetings with Richardson this season, albeit at the AAA trials, looked in impressive shape as he won his semi-final in 44.82sec, three places ahead of Wariso.

"I jogged my heat at the trials, and I feel as tired now," he said.

"Solomon is a bit of a wild card, so I went out hard over the first 300 metres and then waited to see what happened. I think the title is between Mark and myself. The proof's in the pudding now, it's too late for talking.

"I won't be avoiding Mark before the final, but I won't be going over to him for a friendly chat. We both want to win."

Richardson took second place in his semi-final behind Tomasz Czubak of Poland, who celebrated a national record of 45.22sec, with the Briton recording 45.51.

The main challenge to Britain's hopes of retaining a title they have held since 1986 appears likely to come from the Poles, who saw Robert Mackowiak lower Czubak's record to 45.08sec behind Thomas in the second semi-final.