Athletics: Local hero Hough back to being one of the crowd

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The Independent Online
The unexpected hero of Britain's European conquest in Munich last weekend was another face in the crowd back on home ground last night. Not just another face, however.

Before he left Alessandro Lambruschini a beaten man at the final barrier in the Olympic Stadium, Rob Hough's face did not even fit the bill for the Securicor Games, Britain's showpiece grand prix meeting of the summer. He was still pressing the organisers for the chance to race on the Don Valley track where he has trained since uprooting from his native Kent to study at Sheffield University.

Having claimed not just a surprise victory on his senior British debut but also the scalp of the Olympic 3,000 metres steeplechase bronze medallist and reigning European champion, however, the local hero was never going to be kicking his heels in the stands.

Even before he stepped on to the track - more than two hours before, in fact - Hough was accorded star treatment. When Fat Freddie M, of Kiss FM, bounded up and down the in-field imploring the crowd to put their hands together in appreciation of the main attractions the name of the Sheffield Athletics Club member who failed to make Britain's Olympic team last year was roared as loudly as those of Bailey and Christie.

Eight days earlier the response would have been more like: "Rob who?" When it came to the business of racing, however, Hough was not a man apart last night.

With no barriers before him, none of a physical nature at least, he was always likely to be a face in the crowd of the mile race. His 21 rivals included two past winners of the Dream Mile: Venuste Niyongabo, Burundi's Olympic 5,000m champion, and David Kibet of Kenya.

As a steeplechaser out of water, his real rival was the clock. Sadly, he lost, failing to beat the four minute barrier by five seconds.

The draining legacy of his mammoth effort in Munich was showing long before he crossed the line, in 15th place.

It was not just a mile race. When the Emsley Carr Mile was inaugurated, at the late White City Stadium in 1953, the great Paavo Nurmi - the Flying Finn who broke 29 world records and struck Olympic gold 12 times - was paraded before the crowd in an open-topped car.

Past winners have included Jim Ryun, Filbert Bayi, Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, John Walker and Steve Cram. Last night Niyongabo added his name to the illustrious honours list, winning from the Barnsley-bred John Mayock in 3min 53.27sec.

He was not the only man, though, to get his hands on the Emsley Carr Trophy, a handsome book bound in red Moroccan leather listing the performances and signatures of all those who have run in the event. Rob Hough, European Cup steeplechase winner, made his mark too - if not, this time at least, on the track.

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