Athletics: Pickering takes gold as juniors indicate a bright British future

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The Independent Online

On a day when his senior colleagues were measuring their World Championship ambitions at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix, the 18-year-old Milton Keynes athlete earned this title for Britain for the 10th time as he clocked 10.51sec on a rain-sodden track. He was followed home by Simeon Williamson, 19, who was one 100th of a second behind him, with 16-year-old Alex Nelson taking bronze.

Britain's golden glow was enhanced by the 16-year-old prodigy Emily Pidgeon, who finished 25m clear in the 5,000m in a time of 16min 14.71sec. Greg Rutherford added a third gold on the day for Britain in the long jump, earning a possible place at the World Championships by registering a British junior record of 8.14m - a B standard qualifying mark by 4cm - with his last jump.

Not since these championships began in 1970 have all three medals in a men's event gone to the same country, and Pickering can now number himself with an impressive list of former champions from Britain including Darren Campbell, Mark Lewis-Francis and Dwain Chambers.

"I've worked for this for three years," said Pickering, who underlined his potential last month by defeating senior fields at Loughborough, where he clocked 10.22sec, and Bedford. "I was so nervous. I'm really, really, really glad." Now all he needs to make his happiness complete is a good set of A-level results.

Pickering had been beaten by Williamson in his three previous races, including the previous day's semi-final, but after his win he said this had worked to his advantage.

"I'm glad I didn't win the semi-final because it made me go to bed and make sure I could win the next day," he said. "My plan was to react well because I knew Simeon is a great starter. I thought if I was up with him at 40m I could reel him in, and that's what happened."

As a white sprinter - and a member of Milton Keynes AC - Pickering does not have the most obvious credentials for a future Olympic champion. But he has already set his sights on making a splash in London seven years from now - "I would like to win the 2012 Olympics," he said.

He also has more immediate Olympic ambitions after watching Britain's sprint relay team on television earning the gold medal in Athens last summer.

"As they won it, I said to myself, 'It's my job to try and retain it next time.'"

Nor does the challenge of becoming the first white sprinter to break 10 seconds daunt him.

"I've only got to run 0.23sec quicker and I've got 10 years to do it," he said.

Williamson, who beat Pickering to the AAA Under-20 title earlier this month, admitted that the tension had got to him.

"I got a fast start," he said. "My reaction time was good and I was in front for 60-70m but then I seized up. This is my first silver, and I don't like it. But you can't win 'em all. It's a one-two-three for Britain, and we all wanted that."

Nelson, who took silver behind his British colleague Harry Aikines-Akreetey at last weekend's World Youth Championships, was happy enough to have made the podium in a competition he is eligible to contest again in two years' time.

"On the day I have to be happy with getting so close to the other guys," he said.

Pidgeon's achievement comes just four months after she distinguished herself by finishing 20th in the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships, provoking comparisons with a previous winner, Paula Radcliffe.

Like the world marathon record holder, Pidgeon is blonde, middle-class, clever and well-spoken. She is also a marvellous runner - good enough to stand the comparisons and good enough, injuries permitting, to make a big impact at London 2012.

Pidgeon, who has two more years in the junior category, has revealed more recently a talent in the 3,000m steeplechase.

While Pidgeon has shown herself to be ideally adaptable, Liz McConnell, Scotland's European and Commonwealth 400m medallist, has found life hard going as she attempts to switch to the 400m hurdles.

Although she ran a personal best in finishing second at the world trials, McConnell was still in need of a qualifying time when she lined up for a national event race at Crystal Palace last night, but she came to grief at the seventh hurdle.

Nicole Sanders, who won the trials in 55.61sec, 0.01sec outside the qualifying standard, pulled out of last night's meeting with a stomach problem but intends to book her ticket to Helsinki tomorrow, in Belgium.

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