Athletics: Sotherton and Ennis revive spirits

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The Independent Online

Britain's nightmarish prelude to the 19th European Championships - which saw the Commonwealth decathlon champion Dean Macey reduced to tears of frustration over injury and the Commonwealth 400 metres champion Christine Ohuruogu provisionally suspended for a doping infringement - gave way to a series of results as competition began yesterday which, if not quite dreamlike, were certainly enough to prevent UK Athletics officials here from having another sleepless night.

British medal possibilities glint at the end of today's programme as heptathletes Kelly Sotherton and Jessica Ennis earned overnight silver and bronze placings respectively behind home favourite Carolina Kluft, while Dwain Chambers still has possibilities of earning tangible consolation for having the last European 100m title stripped from him because of doping infringements.

Sotherton and Ennis - respective gold and bronze medallists at the Commonwealth Games in March - benefited from the withdrawal of the leader after two events, France's Eunice Barber, who was suffering from a strained hamstring.

Sotherton set three personal bests, and her 20-year-old team-mate two as they negotiated the first four of their seven disciplines. The 29-year-old Olympic bronze medallist, who had begun with a personal best of 13.22sec in the 100m hurdles but then slipped in the high jump with 1.77m, eight centimetres below her best, responded with another best in the shot-put of 14.27m. Sotherton then equalled her 200m best, as her 23.57sec saw her take second place behind an inspired Ennis, running a personal best of 23.56sec to win.

Ennis, too, produced a best in the shot, 12.72m, and her 200m finish, which left Kluft in third, established a 41-point gap between herself and fourth-placed Nataliya Dobrynska of the Ukraine, with 3,861 points. Sotherton is on 3,866, with the Olympic champion on 3,990. Both Britons need good performances in their weakest event, the javelin, to secure medals.

"It's been good all day, although I was disappointed with my high jump," Sotherton said. "My injury has held up and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Ennis commented: "I've just seen the points score and I'm a bit in shock - to be third, it's surreal."

Having recorded the fastest time in the opening heats, 10.24sec, Chambers only secured the fourth qualifying place in the second round after an awful start, clocking 10.39sec.