Athletics: Mayock medal adds mettle to funding complaint

Great Britain's 60 metres gold medallist, Jason Gardener, was still talking to the press in the mixed zone when the wiry, red-haired figure of John Mayock arrived, still flushed with effort from the 3,000m. "How did you get on?" Gardener asked. "Silver!" said his team-mate, "and I'm not even a full-time athlete!" At which point the sprinter, with characteristic graciousness, invited those scribbling in front of him to switch their attention.

Great Britain's 60 metres gold medallist, Jason Gardener, was still talking to the press in the mixed zone when the wiry, red-haired figure of John Mayock arrived, still flushed with effort from the 3,000m. "How did you get on?" Gardener asked. "Silver!" said his team-mate, "and I'm not even a full-time athlete!" At which point the sprinter, with characteristic graciousness, invited those scribbling in front of him to switch their attention.

At 34, the Yorkshireman who first claimed public attention when he won the 5,000m at Sheffield's ill-fated 1991 World Student Games had made a return to prominence that few had expected, collecting his fifth European indoor medal.

This was the last hurrah for a popular athlete who now plans to end his track career and take up marathon running. And it was fitting that Mayock's success should occur on the boards in Spain, seven years after the performance that will almost certainly stand as his finest, when he elbowed aside three home runners to take the European Indoor 3,000m title in Valencia.

"I was shocked," Mayock confessed. "I said to my wife before I came out that if I ran 110 per cent I could come away with a medal. I wanted to show UK Athletics that they had made the wrong decision in dropping me from the World Class Funding programme for the last two years. Half of the people on it didn't even get to the Olympics, and I missed out on the final in Athens by just one place."

Government funding has been available to the Barnsley runner in a different form, however, following his appointment last year as liaison officer for the Sports Council of Wales in Cardiff. His training routine has altered accordingly. "I get into work at 7.30am, hang my suit up behind the door, and then I run round the fields for an hour before getting back and having a shower. I'll run again in the evening before going home."

Mayock's satisfaction was thrown into disarray by the news that his medal ceremony would take place later the following afternoon.

"I need to be on a flight then," he said, his face clouding. "It's year-end closing soon, and I've got a stack of paperwork waiting on Monday."

Happily for Mayock, his boss is the UK Athletics president Lynn Davies. In the circumstances, a day off seemed fair enough.

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