Athletics: Farah pipped but future looks golden

Mohammed Farah came within 0.09sec of a 5,000 metres gold medal here yesterday in the penultimate event of a European Championship which, while it has seen modest achievements by the British team, has nevertheless offered several reasons to be cheerful for future years.

On the evidence of his performance here, this 23-year-old Somalian refugee - he left the war-ravaged country 10 years ago to join his father in England - certainly appears an athlete who can benefit his adopted country as it looks towards the Beijing Olympics.

Farah had arrived here as the second-ranked runner in the European rankings following his breakthrough performance in Heusden, Belgium last month, where he took 20 seconds off his best to clock 13min 09.40sec.

When the man occupying top place in those rankings, Ireland's naturalised South African Alistair Cragg, stumbled out of the lead with just over 1,000 metres to go because of a knee problem, Farah had the opportunity to add the senior European title to the junior version he won in 2001.

He gave it everything but was passed in the finishing straight by Spain's Jesus Espana, who held off another final effort from the Briton to win in 13min 44.70sec to Farah's 13.44.79.

"I'm a bit disappointed to lose by .09sec, which is a small margin at this distance, but I have to be happy with the Championships and the season as a whole," said Farah, who has spent the last year training and living with a group of Kenyan runners at the house in Teddington which has become a European haven for so many African competitors over the years.

"I had great support in the group and this gives me more confidence for years to come to compete at world levels with African runners," Farah added.

On a chilly and overcast day which left the track gleaming with rain, the women's sprint relay team had earned Britain's first medal of the final session as they made the most of opportunities presented by mistakes from three other strong contenders.

First Belgium - with double individual champion Kim Gevaert waiting impotently further along the track - and then, on the final changeover, Germany and France, failed to transfer the baton.

Anchor leg runner Joice Maduaka emerged from the mêlée in bronze position and made up a couple of metres on Aksana Drahun of Belarus to see a team which also included Anya Onuora, Emma Ania and Emily Freeman home in 43.51sec behind the Russian winners, who clocked 42.71.

"This is just brilliant," said the 32-year-old trials winner, who missed an individual medal here by 0.02sec. "I was especially determined to get a medal here after missing out earlier in the week." Within 20 minutes, Britain had another medal of an even more unexpected nature as Sam Ellis earned Britain another bronze in the 800 metres.

The 24-year-old Sheffield athlete, whose coaching advisor John Anderson was refused accreditation to attend these Championships by UK Athletics, forced himself back into contention in a race where he appeared to have lost any chance following a bumping and barging match on the back straight that left himself and fellow Briton Michael Rimmer staggering.

A distant fifth as the field reached the final straight, Ellis made up almost 10 metres before forcing himself between the man who finished second, David Fiegen - winning Luxembourg's first ever medal at these Championships - and the athlete who led most of the race, Latvia's Dmitrijs Milkevics. Ellis was timed at 1min 46.64, just .08sec behind the Dutch winner, Bram Som.

The same spirit seemed to animate Tim Benjamin as he forced his way past Poland's last leg runner in the 400m relay to turn bronze into silver.

Benjamin, disappointed not to win a medal in the individual event, managed to earn some reward for a season which has been badly affected by a hip injury.

France, whose team included the individual champion Marc Raquil, won in 3.01.10, with Benjamin anchoring a quartet that also comprised Robert Tobin, Graham Hedman and Williams home in 3:01.63.

Final medals table

Russia
G: 12
S: 12
B: 10
Total: 34

Germany
G: 4
S: 4
B: 2
Total: 10

Belarus
G: 4
S: 3
B: 2
Total: 9

France
G: 4
S: 1
B: 3
Total: 8

Spain
G: 3
S: 3
B: 5
Total: 11

Sweden
G: 3
S: 1
B: 2
Total: 6

Belgium
G: 3
S: 0
B: 0
Total: 3

Portugal
G: 2
S: 1
B: 1
Total: 4

Italy
G: 2
S: 0
B: 1
Total: 3

Great Britain
G: 1
S: 5
B: 5
Total: 11

Czech Republic
G: 1
S: 2
B: 1
Total: 4

Finland
G: 1
S: 2
B: 0
Total: 3

Greece
G: 1
S: 2
B: 0
Total: 3

Bulgaria
G: 1
S: 1
B: 1
Total: 3

Netherlands
G: 1
S: 1
B: 0
Total: 2

Norway
G: 1
S: 1
B: 0
Total: 2

Israel
G: 1
S: 0
B: 0
Total: 1

Latvia
G: 1
S: 0
B: 0
Total: 1

Lithuania
G: 1
S: 0
B: 0
Total: 1

Poland
G: 0
S: 3
B: 4
Total: 7

Ukraine
G: 0
S: 1
B: 2
Total: 3

Estonia
G: 0
S: 1
B: 1
Total: 2

Hungary
G: 0
S: 1
B: 0
Total: 1

Ireland
G: 0
S: 1
B: 0
Total: 1

Luxembourg
G: 0
S: 1
B: 0
Total: 1

Serbia
G: 0
S: 1
B: 0
Total: 1

Switzerland
G: 0
S: 1
B: 0
Total: 1

Romania
G: 0
S: 0
B: 2
Total: 2

Denmark
G: 0
S: 0
B: 1
Total: 1

Slovenia
G: 0
S: 0
B: 1
Total: 1

Turkey
G: 0
S: 0
B: 1
Total: 1

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