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?
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?