Athletics: Mayock jostles with locals to hijack the gold

European Indoor Championships
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The Independent Online
THE loyal band of British track and field followers roared and waved their Union Jacks as John Mayock circled the Luis Puig stadium track in celebration of his golden run in the final race of the European Indoor Championships last night. The winner of the 3,000 metres final was not, however, a popular man.

The locals jeered in disapproval of the party pooper from South Yorkshire. The Valencians had gathered to witness a Spanish clean sweep. They were left disappointed when Mayock, a member of the Cannock and Stafford club and a native of Barnsley, snatched his chance on the final lap.

It was the defining moment of a race run with tactical astuteness by the 27-year-old protege of Britain's recently appointed middle-distance running coach, Peter Elliott. Intelligently positioned from the start, Mayock made his move before the final bend, in the process causing the two Spaniards - poised to strike behind him - to chop strides.

Manuel Pancorbo and Alberto Garcia had to settle for silver and bronze respectively - and Isaac Viciosa, the third Spaniard in the final, for fourth place - as Mayock strode clear to victory in the finishing straight, stopping the clock at 7min 55.09sec.

For all the catcalls, it was a perfectly fair victory by the Yorkshireman with the golden hair. As he remarked: "Racing indoors is physical. The Spaniards were shoving me all over the place in the heats and with three laps to go Pancorbo gave me a nasty push. One of them said to me `Don't push me' and I told him, `Don't mess with me.' I know how the bulls must feel like over here.

"But I knew I was going to win. I had to. Peter Elliott said he'd break my legs if I didn't."

Instead, Elliott, winner of the Commonwealth 1500m title in 1990, was the first to offer Mayock congratulations when he disappeared from the arena, the second of Britain's three gold medal winners here in Spain's third city. Following Ashia Hansen's victory in the women's triple jump on Saturday, Jonathan Edwards completed Great Britain's hat-trick when he captured gold in the men's event with a first-round jump of 17.43m.

It was, however, another miserable championship for Tony Jarrett. Either five false starts had an unsettling effect on the 29-year-old Londoner, or he unwittingly eased down too much as he approached the finish line. It was impossible to say for certain.

Jarrett was speechless as he made his departure dejectedly from the stadium, having failed to qualify for the final. He did so by less than 0.01sec, the photo-finish picture determining that the fourth and final qualifying place went instead to Poland's Ronald Mehlich, who was credited with precisely the same time, 7.61sec.

It was left to Andy Tulloch to fly the British flag in the final, the Belgrave Harrier taking seventh place in 7.66sec. Jarrett's disappointment could hardly have been eased by Igor Kazanov emerging as the winner.

The Latvian beat him to the gold in Glasgow's Kelvin Hall eight years ago and last night Kazanov - a balding 34 year old - claimed the title for a fourth time.

All three Britons made it to the final of the men's 200m but only one crossed the line as a medal-winner, and not the young man who, like Jarrett, arrived in Valencia as favourite. Julian Golding could only finish fourth as Sergey Osovic, with the build of a Ukrainian outhouse, powered to a decisive victory in 20.40sec.

Osovic, who first showed a glimpse of his pace as a close second to Linford Christie in the 1994 European Cup 200m race, finished with a winning margin of 0.25 sec - a veritable street in the split-second world of sprinting. Behind him, Anninos Marcoullides, a Cypriot, was the surprise silver medallist and the Sale Harrier Allyn Condon took the bronze, clocking 20.68sec. Golding failed to recover from a poor start and he trailed in fourth in 20.68sec.

Condon, a resident of Runcorn, was the first of two Merseyside athletes to win a bronze medal. Diane Allahgreen - like Condon, a 23 year old - clocked a personal best 8.02sec to finish third in the women's 60m hurdles.