Commonwealth Games: Athletics: Shaw's unlikely silver return

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The Independent Online
LORRAINE SHAW got two powerful hands on England's first athletics medal of the Commonwealth Games on a day when Denise Lewis closed in on a third major heptathlon title.

Just six months ago, Shaw was making a tentative return to hammer throwing after having four metal pins and a steel plate put into her back following an operation to remove a troublesome disc.

On the opening day of the athletics programme, she secured a silver medal with a fifth-round effort of 62.66m as Australia's Deborah Sosimenko won the gold with 66.56.

Her reward, in the vast Bukit Jalil stadium, was a first major championship medal.

A faintly bewildered Shaw confessed that she had almost ruined her chances by no-throwing on her first two attempts. One more mistake would have left her empty handed, but she responded with a throw of 61.81.

Lewis finished the first day of the heptathlon with an 85-point lead over her nearest challenger, Australia's Jane Jamieson. With two of her strongest events to come today - the long jump and javelin, she plans to settle the competition before the concluding 800m.

She ran 13.77sec for the 100m hurdles, finished equal first in the high jump with 1.82m - 1cm below her personal best - won the shot with 15.09m and ran the 200m in 24.47sec.

Thus she is poised to retain the title which marked her emergence to a top-class career which has since brought her Olympic bronze, World silver and - less than a month ago - European gold.

One more step for Lewis, but one giant leap for Candace Blades, an 18- year-old schoolgirl from Belize making a debut in international competition. Blades competed yesterday with an ankle injury sustained by training on her home country's one grass track. She finished the day at the other end of the standings, 1,798 points adrift of Lewis.

She had never competed in an heptathlon before. She had never taken part in a shot-put or a high hurdles race. "I did my first hurdles in training on Monday and I fell and scraped my knee," she said. "So I am afraid of them. But Denise gave me some good advice."

Today, Blades faces her first 800m - but there was no thought in her mind of failing to turn up. "I won't be a winner if I don't come back," she said. "Even if I don't get a medal I can still be a winner."

Elsewhere on a night when Kenya's Simon Maina took the first track gold with 28min 10.02sec for the 10,000m, Iwan Thomas, Mark Richardson, Soloman Wariso and Jamie Baulch proceeded to today's 400m semi-final.

Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish, Dwain Chambers and Wales's Christian Malcolm all reached today's semi-finals of a 100m which - with the additional presence of Ato Boldon, Frankie Fredericks and Obadeleh Thompson - promises to be a highlight of these Games.

"This event gives the whole Commonwealth Games legitimacy," Boldon said. "No one, but no one, could dismiss this gold medal as a soft title." Are you listening, Maurice Greene?