Athletics: Golden haul for Britain's junior class

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The Independent Online
A JAVELIN thrower who two weeks ago could not walk, and a sprint hurdler who crashed out of her last major final, yesterday added two golds to the British team's medal haul here, making it the most successful World Junior Championships for Britain since the days when Colin Jackson was a lad.

It was, of course, the contribution of two gold medals by Christian Malcolm - like Jackson a phenomenally talented sprinter from south Wales - which formed the foundation of Britain's successes. But Malcolm's victories, including the 200 metres on Saturday in a British junior record 20.44sec, were widely expected.

Given the traumas suffered by the 19-year-olds Julie Pratt and David Parker, their golden moments yesterday were true triumphs over adversity. Parker is the first British man to win the javelin at a world championship. Even Steve Backley only ever won a silver medal at the World Juniors, though Backley has been among those to help Parker towards this success.

When Parker injured knee ligaments last month, only physiotherapists could help. But he was nearly denied his chance on Friday, when as he was warming up, he was balked by an official, causing him to twist his already fragile knee. More treatment was needed so that he could throw yesterday. With heavy strapping, and despite driving rain, the big Yorkshireman launched his spear 72.85 metres in the first round. "I knew I had to get a good throw in early to put pressure on the others. They didn't handle the conditions so well, but I was biting my nails during the final round," Parker said.

For Pratt, winner of yesterday's 100m hurdles, the rehabilitation process began a year ago, after she crashed into the last barrier when leading in the European Junior Championships final. "It was like when a child falls off a bike," her coach, Ian Grant, said. "You've just got to get straight back on."

Yesterday, Pratt was rated as having an outsider's chance behind Hongwei Sun, of China, and three other, faster women. But for Pratt, the rain and cold were less of a hindrance than for her rivals. Like Sally Gunnell, a member of the Essex Ladies club, Pratt said: "After the last hurdle I just closed my eyes and went for the line. I didn't realise I'd won until I heard the announcement."

With two bronzes on Saturday from Sarah Wilhelmy in the 200m and Carl Myerscough in the shot, the British class of '98 passed their finals with distinction - only China and Russia finished above Britain in the final medals table.

Results, Digest, page 19