Athletics: Brown fails narrowly in medal bid

European Championships: Britain show resurgence in middle-distance running with three 1500 metres finalists
Click to follow
BRITAIN'S OPENING day at the European Championships ended in frustration here as Jon Brown failed by one place to earn a medal in the 10,000 metres.

But that disappointment was balanced by highly promising developments in the men's 1,500m, where all three British competitors reached the final, and the 100m, where three members of the post-Christie generation swept impressively through to today's semi-finals as heat winners.

Darren Campbell and Dwain Chambers both recorded times of 10.26sec, and Marlon Devonish 10.28sec, to bring Chambers's prediction of a British clean sweep a step closer. Chambers could have clocked a faster time in his heat, but slowed appreciably to take time to stare fixedly at the man who crossed the line at his shoulder, Marcin Nowak of Poland.

Brown, however, was left staring fixedly at the ground after finishing fourth in a final won with an explosive second-half breakaway by 32-year- old Antonio Pinto of Portugal, twice a winner of the London Marathon.

Once Pinto made his move after 6,000 metres to activate what had been a procession, only the two leading Germans, the 1992 Olympic 5,000m champion, Dieter Baumann, and the world bronze medallist, Stephane Franke, managed to keep in touch, and they too dropped away over the final five laps - so much so that, with two laps to go, Brown appeared to have a chance of reeling at least one of them in.

"I thought Franke was looking ragged at one point," Brown said. "But I think now he was just having a rest so he could finish strongly over the last two laps."

For Brown, who renewed the demands he made at the AAA Championships for improved testing facilities to deal with the misuse of EPO, the performance- enhancing substance he believes is being used in his events, there was only faint consolation in the way he had performed. He was timed at 28min 02.33sec, with Pinto winning in 27min 48.62sec.

"There is a big difference between being third and fourth, as I am about to discover," Brown said wryly. "But I have to accept the result."

There was disappointment too for Nathan Morgan, who could not match the eight-metres plus form he displayed in winning the long jump at the AAA trials and failed to qualify for the final, recording 7.67m as his best.

But Diane Modahl, still seeking damages from the now defunct British Athletic Federation, moved through to today's 800m semi-finals as the fastest loser in the first-round heats.

For Britain's 1500m men, yesterday produced an unexpected flourish. John Mayock, seeking a double after winning the European indoor 3,000m title in February, finished second in his fiercely contested semi-final, a place ahead of Tony Whiteman. It would have been a surprise if either Briton had failed to progress, but there was no such certainty about the performance of Matthew Yates, who only made the team at the eleventh hour after achieving a qualifying time a week after the AAA trials.

The 29-year-old from Rochford was understandably delighted afterwards to have reached his first major championship final since he finished sixth in the 1993 World Championships.

"Three Brits in the final," he said."It's just like the old days when I started." Yates first rose to prominence with an 800m bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games of 1990, in the race which was the last appearance of Sebastian Coe, and two years later he took the European indoor 1500m title.

In recent years his form has slipped, and earlier this year his coach, Bruce Longden, parted company with him after Yates had claimed in a newspaper article that it was impossible to achieve success at world level without resorting to drugs.

Yates, who finished third in 3min 38.97sec in a race won by Spain's former Olympic champion, Fermin Cacho, only achieved the qualifying time last Saturday, the final deadline for entries. After recording 3:37.83, he rang the selectors on his mobile phone at 10.25pm as they concluded their meeting.

Now he will join Mayock and Whiteman in a final which now appears a battle between Britain and Spain, whose other entries, Reyes Estevez and Andres Diaz, also qualified.

Mayock, who bustled his way past three Spaniards to take his title in Valencia earlier this year, knew he was going to be in for another rough ride yesterday - and the spike marks evident on his thigh afterwards confirmed his opinion was correct. He was second behind Estevez in 3:41.69, with Whiteman 0.02sec behind him: "It was bloody hard out there, because our semi was packed with fast finishers," Mayock said. "I got boxed in with a lap to go, but I wasn't too worried. I knew I would push people out of the road if I had to.

"It was a bit nerve-wracking, because we only learned this morning that there would be two races rather than three. But I feel really good. I came here to try to do the double, and I am going to give it a real go."

Elsewhere in the programme, Britain's Joice Maduaka, who won the AAA 100m title in Birmingham, progressed to today's semi-finals as a fastest loser with a time of 11.35sec.