Athletics: Macey's pain turns to gain in decathlon
Wednesday 22 March 2006
England's athletes took over where the swimmers left off last night as they added six medals, three of them gold, to the Commonwealth kitty.
For emotional impact, you could not match Dean Macey's securing of the championship decathlon title he has been chasing for seven injury-racked years.
For surprise, you had to look no further than the face of Lisa Dobriskey as she took in the fact that she had just become Commonwealth 1500 metres champion. And for sheer poise, it was hard to imagine anyone outdoing Christine Ohuruogu's achievement in beating the world and Olympic champion, Tonique Williams-Darling, to the 400m title.
Macey had promised that we would see a grown man cry if he eventually won a decathlon title. In the event, no tears flowed, but the Macey lip - which, unlike his elbows, hamstrings and Achilles tendons, is always in full working order - was bitten a couple of times as he contemplated his belated success and hugged his parents, Pat and Alan, who had travelled over with other relatives and friends.
Having aggravated a hamstring injury three weeks before, the 28-year-old Canvey Islander had travelled more in hope than expectation, but intensive medical treatment allowed him to achieve a victory which, while understandably conservative, offers huge psychological succour for further challenges, starting with the European Championships in August.
"Getting on the line was a miracle," said Macey, who has silver and bronze world medals and two Olympic fourth places to his credit. "Finishing was another one. Mate, this runs my wedding day close and I never ever thought I'd say that."
As it happened, standing there with his floppy Union Jack hat on and looking more like one of the Barmy Army who will be inhabiting the MCG come the Boxing Day Test, he was able to say a lot more.
"My parents have flown numerous times around the world and I've never rewarded them," he said, having completed his 10 events to stay 69 points clear of Jamaica's Maurice Smith with a total of 8,143. "I've won medals that are respected, but never in my entire life have I stood on top. For the first time in my life I can actually pat myself on the back and say, 'I'm the man'."
As he plodded round the track in the 10th and final event, the 1500m, he looked haggard but determined. "Even though I was confident going into it, there was still three and three-quarter minutes between myself and the gold medal and it was the longest four and a half minutes of my life.
"The Europeans are going to be a hell of a lot tougher - I'm going to have to compete out of my skin. But there are five months to go and there is absolutely no better way to start those five months than to be Commonwealth Champion."
Asked if the pain was worthwhile, his reply was characteristically direct: "It ain't gone yet, mate. I'll let you know. I'm going home to have 20 hours' kip."
Ohuruogu, whose parents came to Britain from Nigeria, trains under the direction of Lloyd Cowan at Mile End stadium in east London, close to where the Olympic Stadium will be built. It is tempting to speculate on how this 21-year-old linguistics graduate might fare there in 2012. Could she emulate Cathy Freeman in following Commonwealth 400m victory with an Olympic version on home soil six years later?
Sensibly, Ohuruogu is making no comment on that prospect, but she exuded confidence in the wake of a decisive victory which saw her finish 0.48sec ahead of Williams-Darling in a personal best of 50.28sec, becoming the first Englishwoman to win this title since Donna Hartley in 1978.
"Christine was really strong and hungry for it," said the silver medallist. "I was surprised at how fast she went out."
Ohuruogu, however, appeared anything but surprised to have defeated such a lofty opponent. "I beat her yesterday," she said, referring to the semi-final. "Beat someone once, you can beat them again."
After a disappointing run at last year's World Championships in Helsinki, Ohuruogu had been determined to run less fearfully in Melbourne. "This time I said to myself I really had to go for it," she said.
The same sentiments were uttered by Dobriskey after she had claimed gold in the metric mile in 4min 06.64sec, with Wales' Hayley Tullett taking bronze in 4:06.76.
Further English medals were provided by part-time diplomat Mara Yamauchi in the 10,000m, where she took half a minute off her personal best, Nadia Williams in the triple jump and Andrew Turner, 0.01sec behind Scotland's Chris Baillie in the 110m hurdles.
* The Norfolk shooter Mick Gault won silver in the 50m pistol event for a record 14th Commonwealth Games medal, overtaking the swimmer Karen Pickering's 13.
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