Athletics / European Championships: Britain finish on habitual high note

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BRITAIN drew once again on its traditional gold reserve, the 400 metres relay, to end the European Championships second behind Russia in the medals table.

Du'Aine Ladejo, the individual 400m champion, finished 10 metres clear in a time of 2min 59.13sec - the fourth fastest run by a European team - to bring Britain its sixth gold of the week.

Silvers from Kelly Holmes in the 1500m and Rob Denmark in the 5,000m contributed to a total of 13 medals. That was five less than in Split four years ago, but Malcolm Arnold, the chief coach, was happy enough at the end of a week which had started so inauspiciously with the departure of Solomon Wariso after a positive drug test.

'The only two reservations I have are to do with the relays, where I felt we threw away two medals, and the absence of John Regis, who missed out on a certain gold medal in the 200m because of injury and could have helped us in the sprint relay,' Arnold said.

While the women's 400m relay team lost their chance through poor changeovers, and the men's sprint relay team dropped the baton, there was no suggestion of a hitch in the men's 400m relay, an event they have now won three times in a row.

Roger Black, clearly determined to gain the maximum out of yesterday after the draining disappointment of failing to win a third European individual title on Thursday, recorded 43.93sec for his third leg - the fastest relay he has ever run.

As Ladejo set off for home, Black raised a single finger in the air. But he insisted that the job had already been done by the first-leg performance of David McKenzie, the 24-year-old who made his British debut this year. 'With respect to Dave, the only danger we had was that someone might take five metres out of him. But once he handed over in the lead, it was over.'

McKenzie, whose season has been disrupted by a hamstring injury, was timed at 45.70; Whittle, the shoeless wonder from the 1986 victory in these championships, at 45.30; Ladejo, who registered the ease and simplicity of the operation as he approached the line with palms widespread, at 44.17.

Back home, meanwhile, the national record-holder, David Grindley, and the former record-holder, Derek Redmond, are working to overcome injury. Having those two back would turn the event at next year's World Championships into a fascinating competition.

Denmark and Holmes win silver, Photograph, Results, page 31