Athletics: Maduaka misses medal in sprint final after poor start

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The Independent Online

Britain's Joice Maduaka produced one of the best performances of her life here last night, missing out on a bronze medal by two-hundredths of a second in a 100 metres final where Kim Gevaert, of Belgium, completed the first part of what she hopes will be a sprint double.

The 32-year-old Londoner would surely have been standing on the podium but for an awful start, but had to settle for fourth place in 11.24sec as two Russians, Yekaterina Grigoryeva and Irina Khabarova, took silver and bronze respectively, both clocking 11.22.

Maduaka's semi-final victory in 11.32sec had raised medal hopes, although she was only the sixth fastest qualifier. It was nevertheless a sterling performance from the woman who works full-time as a press officer for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, given that she was dropped from Lottery funding this year and not selected for the Commonwealth Games.

A double victory at the European trials had indicated that she was thriving under the new coaching input of Thomas Johnson, an American Pentagon employee. Maduaka and Johnson keep in touch by exchanging e-mails while Ron Roddan oversees her training in England.

"At the finish I realised I was fourth and I tried to stop the tears," the British No 1 said. "But actually I am really proud of myself. I have come so far in such a short space of time."

Tim Benjamin was left wondering once again what might happen if he could reach a major championship fully fit. The 23-year-old Briton has made a slow recovery from the hip problems that stopped him contesting the Commonwealth Games five months ago, and had struggled to reach last night's 400m final.

Benjamin could reach only sixth place in 45.89sec as France's Marc Raquil won gold in 45.02. How the Briton must have longed for just one of the cluster of sub-45sec races he produced last season.

"I'm gutted," Benjamin said. "I would have been able to win that race if I hadn't had the problems I've had. But you will see it all come together one day."

Jan Zelezny has won three Olympic and three world javelin titles, but he will retire never having won a European gold.

The 40-year-old Czech was taking part in his last big meeting here, and was seeking to complete his championship record, but an effort of 85.92 metres only merited bronze behind the Norwegian who won with 88.78m, Andreas Thorkildsen. On balance, Zelezny will probably be able to live with it.