Commonwealth Games: Athletics: Jarrett clatters way to overdue gold

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SO DISAPPOINTED was Tony Jarrett with his failure to win a high hurdles medal at last month's European Championship that he locked himself away at home for two days, speaking to no one.

If his sister, Susan, hadn't had a spare key, perhaps he would still be there now. As it was, she persuaded him back in a direction which led, yesterday, to the first major gold medal of his 10-year career.

"She let herself in and found me sitting in the darkness," Jarrett recalls. After words of encouragement, however, he began to see the light once more.

The late withdrawal of the defending champion, Jarrett's perennial rival Colin Jackson, made victory a tantalising possibility. But Jarrett made hard work of achieving it, winning his Commonwealth 110m hurdles title by 100th of a second from Steve Brown, of Trinidad and Tobago, in 13.47sec.

His smooth performance in winning the previous day's semi-final in 13.32 established him as a clear favourite - not a position the 30-year-old Enfield-born athlete has often experienced.

The nerves clearly told upon him. It was seven minutes between the field coming to the blocks and getting away cleanly - a hiatus caused by two false starts, one from Jarrett. His progress to the line was hindered by hitting or clipping five of the 10 hurdles - although not the final one - and he finished with a desperate lunge that turned into a forward roll.

As he stood on the rostrum and watched himself tumble out of shot on the big screen replay, his hand could not completely cover a huge, embarrassed grin.

"I was getting over-excited at the start," Jarrett said. "I was saying to myself "Oh Jarrett, this could be your gold!" and I had to step away and take a deep breath. It was an untidy race, but I knew that if I cleared the last hurdle clearly I would beat him to the line."

Even so, it was close enough that neither he nor Brown were sure who was champion, and the English athlete who celebrated prematurely at the 1992 Olympics after being mistakenly told he had got the bronze - waited to see the reaction of his supporters who were watching the scoreboard.

Thus, after a sequence of 13 bronze and silver championship medals, Jarrett has one of a different colour. "I would probably have come second again if Colin had run, in a faster time," he said. "But hey, I've got the gold, and it's sweet by me."

Jo Jennings failed by a fraction to add a second gold for England when she lost the high jump title on a jump-off after tying with the South African, Hestrie Storbeck.

Jennings marked her 29th birthday with an outside personal best of 1.91m to equal the South African's best effort. After both failed at 1.93 the jump-off offered them one more attempt each at that height, which they failed again, then at 1.91, which they also failed, then at 1.89, which only Storbeck cleared.

"It was a nerve racking finale," Jennings said. "When I cleared 1.91 I felt an achilles injury and it was debatable how long I could carry on, but I couldn't give in so close to gold.

"It's my first medal in a major championship and a few days ago I would have been happy with that. But now I'm disappointed because it was only my fitness that let me down."

Jarrett's gold was the seventh of the athletics programme for England. The total had been swelled the previous day by victories from Dalton Grant, claiming his first major outdoor title in the high jump, Jo Wise, returning from a knee injury to record a personal best of 6.63m in the long jump, and Julian Golding, who became the third fastest Briton behind John Regis and Linford Christie in winning the 200m in 20.18sec.

But perhaps the most emotional achievement of Saturday was that of Diane Modahl, who took bronze in the 800m four years after being forced to pull out of defending her Commonwealth title because of the positive doping test which she has subsequently overturned.