Commonwealth Games: Thomas applies supreme will

Showdown on the track: Welshman defies back injury to add 400 metres gold to European and World Cup titles

IF ANYONE even faintly doubted it, they know it now: Iwan Thomas is a championship racer par excellence. The 24-year-old Welshman yesterday added a Commonwealth 400 metres gold medal to the European and World Cup titles he has won in the space of a month, having overcome a back injury, which, he revealed, had left him unable to walk after his second-round heat on Wednesday.

His victory was a blow for his domestic rival Mark Richardson, who had been desperate to make up for his defeat by the Welshman at the European Championships late in July.

Just three days after making the 6,000 miles flight from Johannesburg, the World Cup venue, Thomas completed his trial by ordeal with a time of 44.52 sec as Richardson, teeth clenched with effort, followed him home to take silver in 44.60. It was a demonstration of strength and endurance that was hard to credit. But even the rugged Welshman is human - as it became clear following his win. After his second-round heat a disc in his back began to give him such pain that he was unable to walk properly.

"I was in tears, because I wasn't going to be able to run," he said. Then he heard that Torbern Hersborg, a Danish osteopath he knew, was in town and he sent out an SOS. "Torbern arrived at the athletes' village at 11 that night, and he was still working on me at four the following morning," Thomas said. "I felt something go click - and then it was all right."

Twelve hours later he was chatting his way down the final straight with Welsh team-mate Jamie Baulch to qualify from his semi-final in 44.61. Perhaps, he isn't human after all.

Richardson could have been forgiven for lying on the floor, kicking his heels and screaming. Instead, he responded with customary dignity. "Obviously, I'm not pleased that I lost," he said. "But I feel I did myself justice in the final. Iwan is a great racer. I don't know how he had the strength to do what he did."

With his shirt hanging out of his shorts, and his haywire hair sticking up, Thomas looked even more like Just William than ever as he stood contemplating his achievement. "It's not only about who has got the most ability, it's about believing in yourself."

While Richardson had to settle for silver, two of his England team-mates, Judy Oakes and Larry Achike, produced gold in the shot and triple jump respectively.

Oakes, now 40, won her first Commonwealth medal in 1978, and this was her third gold in a career which has seen her make 87 international appearances. Oakes came close to expunging Gael Martin's drug-tainted Commonwealth Games record of 19.00m, reaching 18.83. All six of her throws went further than those of Myrtle Augee, who took the silver for England.

"This is special for me because these are definitely my last Commonwealths," said Oakes, who admitted that she was feeling her age. The innocent comment of a Malaysian reporter probably didn't help her in that respect: "Judy," he asked, "How many grandchildren have you got?" Oakes had visited a hairdresser here to have her fringe died red, white and blue. But something went wrong and the fringe came out gold. Ideal, as it turned out.

Achike, 23, set a new personal best and Commonwealth Games record of 17.10m as he made the most of an event lacking the injured world record- holder, Johnathan Edwards.

The 23-year-old has just enjoyed his first winter of training free from injury since winning the World Junior title four years ago. He paid tribute to the coach with whom he worked in Australia this year, Keith Connor, who won the Commonwealth triple jump title in the same year Oakes landed her first gold medal, 1982.

Oakes was not the only senior athletic citizen to earn a trip to the podium. At 38, and with her 11-year-old son watching proudly, Gowry Retchakan won the first international medal of her career in what was her last race, taking the 400m hurdles silver behind Australia's Andrea Blackett in 55.25 sec, her best time for five years. A fine farewell, indeed.

There was silver, too, for England's hammer-thrower Mike Jones, who does his weight training during lunchtime breaks from his 50-hours-a-week as a warehouseman. The 35-year-old from Crawley practises on a seven by 10- foot concrete slab, which he persuaded a local farmer to let him lay in his field. "I told him he could use it to get his tractor in, and I could use it for throwing. The field is about 75m long, with strawberries and leeks at the top end."

Jones raised his personal best to 74.02m behind Stuart Rendell of Australia. If he carries on like this, the produce is set for a pounding.

In the women's 400m, Scotland's Allison Kurbishley lowered her personal best to 50.71 sec to take silver ahead of England's Donna Fraser, who recorded 51.01.

Canada's Michael Smith failed in his attempt to equal the English great Daley Thompson's feat of three consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medals in the decathlon.

Smith finished the 10 events with 8,143 points, behind two younger Australians, Jagan Hames, who won with 8,490pts and Scott Ferrier, who took the silver with 8,307pts. He had aggravated a tendon injury when his pole broke during the warm-up for the pole vault.

However, Smith, who turned 31 two days ago, was gracious in defeat. "The two young Aussies competed brilliantly. I'll take my bronze medal with a smile on my face," he said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent