Athletics: Devonish on a hot streak with double victory

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The Independent Online

The men's 200 metres final at the Norwich Union European trials here yesterday provided another surprising performance to go with the previous day's shorter sprint as 21-year-old Rikki Fifton only lost on a photo finish to the former world indoor champion Marlon Devonish, himself an unlooked-for winner of the 100m.

Fifton was credited with the same time as Devonish, 20.69sec, in the glaring heat of the Manchester Regional Arena, where temperatures nudged 30C all afternoon. It was a personal best for the Victoria Park Harrier, although it fell short of the élite qualifying mark of 20.60 for next month's European Championships.

But he could yet be named in the first wave of Gothenburg selections tomorrow having finished inside 21.10, one of the UK Athletics Development marks introduced this year to allow selectors to offer promising performers championship experience even if their performances fall short of élite level.

"It's good to be close to someone like this," Fifton said. "I've just run a pb [personal best]so I can't be too disappointed. I need to get a bit more strength."

Devonish acknowledged the seriousness of Fifton's challenge. "I didn't win as I would have liked to, but it's nice to see the young guys coming through," said the 30-year-old Olympic relay champion.

In making certain of a 200m place, Devonish saved the selectors possible embarrassment as he now looks very likely just to run his specialist distance rather than claiming a run at 100m, which would allow the selection of second-placed Tyrone Edgar, Mark Lewis-Francis, who could only manage third place on Saturday, and this season's leading performer Dwain Chambers, back from a doping suspension, who withdrew after the semi-final with a thigh injury.

Christian Malcolm, who looked like winning the 100m until he slowed with a hamstring problem 20 metres from the line, did not risk the 200m yesterday, but his excellent victory in last month's European Cup will guarantee him the third discretionary place - assuming he is fit enough to claim it. He will receive the results of a scan on his injured leg today.

Darren Campbell approached these Championships claiming that they could be a defining event for him. If that was so, the 32-year-old may have run his last big international event, given that he failed to reach yesterday's 100m final and did not choose to contest his main event, the 200m, yesterday. Campbell is now believed to be seeking selection for the relay team in Gothenburg, where he plans to run his last race.

The men's 800m was another area where the future was expected to announce itself as two 20-year-olds, Richard Hill and Michael Rimmer, met again after last month's hugely promising performances at the Watford meeting when Hill had won in 1min 45.10sec, with Rimmer 0.37sec behind.

This time it was Rimmer's turn to rejoice as he won in 1:47.20 to earn his first national senior title, having previously won at Under-15, Under-17 and Under-20 level. Hill could only manage fourth place in 1.48.07, but he should get the third discretionary place given that he has already surpassed the qualifying mark of 1.46.00.

Tim Benjamin, still struggling to regain his best form following the hamstring injury that prevented him competing in the Commonwealth Games in March, duly won the 400m, holding off the 19-year-old who finished fifth in Melbourne, Martyn Rooney. But the World Championship finalist's time of 46.00 means he has still not got the élite qualifying mark of 45.80 this season.

The Commonwealth triple jump champion, Phillips Idowu, did no harm to his Gothenburg prospects with victory in 17.50m.

Rebecca Lyne underlined her growing status at 800 metres - where she became the third fastest Briton behind Kelly Holmes and Kirsty Wade last month with 1:58.20 - as she earned her first senior national title in 2:00.31.

There was relative disappointment, though, for 16-year-old Emily Pidgeon, who had been seeking a possible claim to a Gothenburg trip by surpassing the 5,000m development mark of 15min 40sec. She suffered in the heat and finished ninth to Jo Pavey in 16:29.96.

The previous day's action had produced two outstanding performances. The first came from Ashia Hansen in the triple jump - her first competitive appearance since the knee injury that many felt had brought her career to an untimely end two years ago. The 34-year-old Birchfield Harrier managed to achieve the development mark of 13.65m despite a late scare over the state of her knee, but she insists she will not consider seeking to defend her European title unless she can surpass the élite standard of 14.10m - more than a metre below her best.

Greg Rutherford, who is 19, will travel to Sweden with rising expectations after seeing off his two big long jump rivals, Chris Tomlinson and Nathan Morgan, with an effort of 8.26m, one centimetre less than Tomlinson's British record.