Commonwealth Games: England's golden finale: Backley spearheads last-day charge by field eventers

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S Commonwealth Games ended in a gold rush yesterday with six victories. It may not have put the smile back on the face of British athletics at the end of a bad week, but at least it can come home sporting a grin.

The field eventers earned the biggest cheer with wins for Steve Backley in the javelin, Julian Golley in the triple jump and, most unexpectedly, Matt Simson in the shot putt. Kelly Holmes in the 1500m and the men's and women's 4x400m relay took England's total of gold medals to 10 in track and field.

Simson benefited from the absence of Paul Edwards, the top ranked thrower in the Commonwealth who was sent home in disgrace. The 25-year-old from Canvey Island, who had contemplated retiring after these Games, improved his personal best three times during the competition from 19.23m to 19.49m, to beat Courtney Ireland, of New Zealand, by 11cm.

Simson expressed sympathy for Edwards, a former occasional training partner. 'There is tremendous pressure on shot putters to pump themselves with drugs,' he admitted. 'I felt that pressure myself. But luckily I've got my family to back me up and it's an easier temptation to resist on a day like this.'

Golley, one of a crop of fine young triple-jumpers emerging in Britain, set a Games record of 17.03m with his opening leap, an improvement of 5cm on his previous best. He then had to watch his team-mate, Jonathan Edwards, come within 3cm of his mark in the fourth round.

There was a long delay after Edwards had the last jump of the competition, while the judges measured a mark tht appeared to threatened Golley's lead but it was only 16.98m and Edwards had to settle for his second successive Commonweaslth silver medal.

For Backley, these Games represented another important step towards re-establishing himself as the world's No 1 javelin thrower, though there was not the opposition he faced at the European championships in Helsinki. In fact, he could have been throwing at Telford because the man he threw 82.74m to beat was Mick Hill, his training partner. Backley joined Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell and Clin Jackson as British athletes who retained both their European and Commonwealth titles this year.

There was excitement in both the 4 x 440m relays. Du'aine Ladejo, disappointed with his silver medal in the individual event, made up a 25m deficit on the final leg to pass the Canadian and Jamaican teams, showing tremendous acceleration to bring England's men in 3min 02.14sec, a Games record. England were awarded the women's race following a spate of disqualifications after faulty changeovers. Cathy Freeman ran an anchor leg to rival Ladejo's as passed Gunnell, only for both teams to be disqualified. Amid much confusion England were reinstated to the gold medal.

Britain's men's and women's sprint relay teams each won bronze medals, while Hudspith finished third in the marathon behind Steve Moneghetti, of Australia.

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