Athletics: Daring Denmark drives Britain into second place: Russians complete a men's and women's double on a weekend of mixed fortunes for Britons in the European Cup

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THE thought which Britain's men were asked to take with them into the concluding day of the European Cup final here was that, although they were a few goals down, it was only half- time. Frank Dick, the national director of coaching, did not go so far as to say it only takes a second to score a point, but at the end of the day his team had won the second half in some style.

Victories from Colin Jackson, John Regis, Rob Denmark and the 400-metre relay team allied to second places for Mick Hill in the javelin and Jonathan Edwards in the triple jump, helped lift the team from fifth to second behind the winners, Russia.

Contrary to some earlier reports, these two teams did not qualify for next year's World Cup, which now looks like being held at Crystal Palace. Qualification for that competition will be from next summer's European Cup in Birmingham.

The women, who had begun the day in fourth place dropped one position as Russia completed the double. But the overall feeling in the British camp was one of pride at a successful recovery operation after the disappointments of the first day, notably Steve Smith's failure to manage better than sixth in the high jump and Eamonn Martin's withdrawal half-way through the 10,000m with a strained ligament in the arch of his foot. By the final event, the 400m relay, Britain needed to finish five places ahead of Russia and although Du'Aine Ladejo, Kriss Akabusi, Regis and David Grindley won in a championship record of 3min 00.25sec, the Russians were only half a second behind.

Dick saw Martin's misfortune as the key factor and hinted that it might cost him his season. 'What happened to Smith was part of the rough and tumble of this event,' he said. 'But what really separated us was what happened to Eamonn. He showed enormous courage in running in pain from the third lap onwards. He got a standing ovation at this morning's team meeting. He is still in a lot of pain, and with only eight weeks to go until the World Championships he and his coach are going to have to measure every minute of every day. It is not an injury that gets better quickly.'

Regis, who received two injections for a knee injury last week, needed to work hard down the final straight to hold his lead over Fedoriv, of Russia, and was rewarded with a time of 20.38, the fastest 200m in Europe this season.

Jackson set the tone for the day with an overwhelming win in the 110m hurdles, finishing in 13.10sec, 0.01sec inside the previous world best for the season, set on the same track by him earlier this month. Jackson must wish all the world's major championships could be held in Rome. Denmark's victory in the 5,000m, which put Britain into a temporary lead, was truly memorable. Was there, he was asked afterwards, a moment when he knew he would win? Yeah,' he said. 'With 5,000 metres to go.'

The early part of the race saw him take an intermittent lead in a field that was chopping and changing. As the bulky figure of France's Thierry Pantel, who had won the 10,000m the previous day, cut in on him, Denmark appeared a frail, almost vulnerable figure. So much for appearances. Having led into the bell with Dasko, of Russia, and Freigang, of Germany, at his shoulder, he let rip with a sprint around the final bend which attenuated the field behind him. The Italians had switched Lambruschini from the 3,000m steeplechase in an effort to match Denmark's finishing speed. He could do nothing as the Briton - intent personified - strove for the line, crossing it with arms waving and in full cry.

The yelp contained more than triumph. 'I don't know what I shouted out,' he said. 'But it was for all the people who have doubted me and who have criticised British middle and long distance running. I hope it got right under their skin. I defy anyone to say they have worked or trained harder for success than I have. To say I am elated is an understatement.'

Hill reached 80.76m in the javelin behind the world record holder, Jan Zelezny, who threw 89.94. Edwards held the triple jump lead with 17.23m before being overhauled by a late effort from Pierre Camara, of France. Tom McKean, whose selection provoked controversy after he was beaten by Martin Steele in Belfast last week, ran a tactically astute and brave race to earn third place in the 800m.

For the women, Jackie Agyepong earned an unexpected second place in the 100m hurdles and Suzanne Rigg, selected at short notice following Liz McColgan's withdrawal from the 10,000m finished an exhausted fourth, having run the distance only last week in Hengelo. She showed the kind of spirit which this team competition is designed to engender.

----------------------------------------------------------------- EUROPEAN CUP FINAL STANDINGS ----------------------------------------------------------------- MEN ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 Russia. . . . . . . . . . . 128pts 2 Great Britain. . . . . . . .124 3 France. . . . . . . . . . . 123 4 Germany. . . . . . . . . . .119 5 Italy. . . . . . . . . . . .112 6 Ukraine. . . . . . . . . . . 97 7 Spain. . . . . . . . . . . . 76 8 Poland. . . . . . . . . . . .65 9 Czech Republic. . . . . . . .54 ----------------------------------------------------------------- WOMEN ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 Russia. . . . . . . . . . . . 141pts 2 Romania. . . . . . . . . . . .102 3 Ukraine. . . . . . . . . . . . 97.5 4 Germany. . . . . . . . . . . . 96 5 Great Britain. . . . . . . . . 91 6 France. . . . . . . . . . . . .75 7 Poland. . . . . . . . . . . . .62 8 Italy. . . . . . . . . . . . . 55.5 9 Finland. . . . . . . . . . . . 44 -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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