Athletics: Baddeley storms to victory in Sheffield

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The Independent Online

In the city that shaped the career of Seb Coe, Andrew Baddeley contributed to Britain's proud tradition in the metric mile as he earned an outstanding victory over 1500 metres at a wet and windy British Grand Prix yesterday that said everything about his new, positive attitude. It was one of two home wins here in Sheffield in a parade that was not so much rained on as drenched.

The 24-year-old with a double first in Engineering from Cambridge University excelled in a different field despite drifting rain as he shadowed the former world champion Bernard Lagat at the bell and then struck around the final bend to open up a winning lead of 10 metres that he held to the line, crossing in 3min 34.74sec and knocking almost two seconds off his personal best in the process.

The statistics were pleasing for Baddeley, but above all this was a statement of intent as he prepares for this summer's World Championships in Osaka where he plans to challenge the very best. His new-found confidence first became evident at last month's Golden League meeting in Oslo, where he finished third in the Dream Mile after leading into the bell.

Seconds after he left the track here the grey clouds that had swept over Don Valley all afternoon produced a fearsome downpour. It did not matter a jot to a young man whose work was already done. "I was very pleased with the way things went tonight," he said. "But I know there is a lot more to come."

Despite bold talk about world records from the current pre-eminent sprinter in the world, Tyson Gay, that was never likely to be a possibility here, especially in the conditions. Gay, nevertheless, proved too strong for the field as he won in 10.13sec, with Britain's Marlon Devonish winning the chase to follow him home from his erstwhile training partner, the European champion Francis Obikwelu. Devonish, who had finished fifth in the earlier 200m, recorded a time of 10.23sec which leaves him in a quandary over which event is his strongest.

The long jumpers had continued to labour down the runway at the height of the monsoon, and the British pair of Nathan Morgan and Chris Tomlinson were rewarded with second and third place respectively behind the winner, Brian Johnson of the US, who reached 7.99m. Tomlinson, who improved his British record to 8.29m last weekend, reached 7.90m here, but was overtaken by Morgan's effort of 7.92m. While the Commonwealth silver medallist Greg Rutherford was prevented from taking part because of an ankle injury, the performance from two Brits who have only recently recovered from their own long-term injury problems nevertheless provided genuine hopes for success later this summer.

Nicola Sanders, whose season has been on hold for a month as she has recovered from a hamstring injury, indicated that she is back in the running with a convincing 400m victory in 51.01sec. A smile of relief as she crossed the line indicated what the European indoor champion thought of her performance on a day not best suited to those recovering from her particular injury. "I had a race last week where I went off too fast," she said. "This time I went off slow, a lot more controlled, and I really thought about my performance."

There was no such reassurance, however, for local runner Becky Lyne. The British athlete of the year for 2006, whose season has been undermined by an Achilles tendon injury, was a distant last in the 800m.

China's golden hope for Beijing, the Olympic 110m hurdles champion and world record holder Liu Xiang, did as expected in winning his race in a time of 13.24 sec. Kenenisa Bekele also lived up to his billing in the 3,000m, winning in 7min 26.71sec, a UK All Comers record, ahead of Australia's world 5,000m silver medallist Craig Mottram.

Elsewhere, Britain's younger athletes provided evidence that the London 2012 Olympics could yet be a rewarding time for UK Athletics. Four gold medals on the final day of the European Under-23 championships in Debrecen, Hungary, took Britain's tally to six, leaving them second in the table behind Russia.

The sprint relay quartet provided the first win of the day, despite missing two runners, including the man who won the individual title in 10.10sec earlier this week, Simeon Williamson. Despite the late changes, a team including the individual silver medallist Craig Pickering finished in 39.27sec, equalling the European Under-23 record.

Further victories were provided by Abby Westley in the women's 1500m, Laura Kenney in the women's 5,000m and Gary White in the men's triple jump.

At the World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, Alison Leonard won a silver medal in the women's 800m, completing a total of four medals, including two gold.

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