Athletics: Vintage Jackson turns back the clock

European Indoor Championships: Veteran hurdler adds to his collection as the British enjoy bumper day in Vienna
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The Independent Online

Aside from his collection of 70 wrist-watches, Colin Jackson's most treasured possession is his 172mph limited-edition Audi RS4. "It can do nought to 60 in 4.7 seconds," the Welshman proudly purred. In the sprint strip at the centre of the Ferry Dusika Hallenstadion yesterday, Jackson did nought to 60 metres in 7.40sec ­ over five barriers a car could never tackle. It was fast enough to win another major- championship gold medal for the vintage high-speed hurdling machine.

Jackson might be 35, and a year short of his declared retirement date, but he can still motor ­ and fly over hurdles that have never been a true barrier to his athletic ambition. A veteran of 16 years of international competition, he had to shift into overdrive to get past Elmar Lichtenegger, the Austrian rival he has been helping to coach this winter, edging ahead with his last two strides to win by 0.04sec.

"I knew I was down on Elmar at the third hurdle," Jackson said. "I had to focus on what I had to do, but with my attributes and skill I came through. I'm really happy for my coach, Malcolm Arnold. I've had some crap years and he's pulled me through." In pulling through to victory yesterday, Jackson extended his British record collection of individual major championship gold medals to 12.

He also helped Britain finish the second day of the European indoor track and field championships with a healthy tally of five medals. Ashia Hansen took silver in the triple jump, John Mayock claimed bronze in the 3,000m, Christian Malcolm silver in the 200m and Michael East an unexpected bronze in the 1500m.

East was an eight-year-old primary-school pupil when Jackson won his first medal in a senior international championship, a 100m hurdles silver behind Mark McKoy at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986. At 24, the sports-shoe company representative from Portsmouth is too young to recall the golden British middle-distance days of Ovett, Coe and Cram. "I've never seen them run ­ only on video," he said. It remains to be seen whether East can fast-forward British 1500m running to a golden future, but he took an encouraging step in the right direction as he held off the fast-finishing Croatian Branko Zorko to take third place yesterday, behind Rui Silva of Portugal and Juan Higuero of Spain.

East's time, 3min 50.52sec, was far from exceptional but the execution of his shrewd racing tactics certainly was ­ in his first major championship at senior level and in his first season of indoor competition. That was testimony not just to himself but also to Mark Rowland, the 1988 Olympic 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist who has already made a major coaching impact guiding Hayley Tullett, who runs in the women's 3,000m final today.

Mayock's medal-winning run in the men's 3,000m final could hardly have been more dramatic. He struck gold in the event in Valencia four years ago, fending off a trio of Spaniards in the process. Yesterday it seemed that the Barnsley man had been sunk by a Spanish armada as Alberto Garcia sped to gold in a championship record time of 7min 43.89sec, Antonio Jiminez claimed silver in 7:46.49 and the tiring Mayock appeared to be caught in a desperate lunge for the bronze by Jesus Espana.

After a tantalising five-minute wait, however, the result that flashed onto the stadium scoreboard confirmed that Mayock and Espana had tied for third place, both clocking 7:48.08. "I wanted to win the gold," Mayock said, "but I can't be disappointed after a finish like that. The third Spaniard finished like a rocket as we went for the line."

So did the Polish sprinter Marcin Urbas in the 200m final, relieving Malcolm of the title he won in Ghent two years ago. Urbas took the gold on the line, clocking 20.64sec to Malcolm's 20.65sec, with Daniel Caines fourth in 21.14sec. "It wasn't until I dipped at the line that I realised the Pole was so close," Malcolm lamented afterwards. "As I came off the bend I started feeling my right hamstring but I thought I had enough to hold on to the line."

Hansen was disappointed with her silver medal too, missing gold in the triple jump by 10cm with a third-round effort of 14.71m. "I'm not very happy with it," she said after being eclipsed once again by her Bulgarian rival Tereza Maranova. There is the promise of British gold on the closing day, though, Mark Lewis-Francis having set legal troubles aside to clock the fastest time in the 60m heats, 6.57sec, and Jason Gardener, the reigning champion, winning his race in 6.61sec.

The international performance which stole the glory yesterday, however, was that of Glory Alozie, the 5ft 1in African woman who hurdled to an Olympic silver medal two years ago after her fiancé, Hyginus Aguna, had been killed in a road accident in Sydney a week before the Games began. Alozie had to take Aguna's corpse back to Nigeria at her own expense, even though he was a non-competing member of her native national team. She was so incensed she switched allegiance to Spain.

Making her debut for her adopted homeland yesterday, the woman who captured the hearts of the watching world with her brave run for silver in Sydney did the same in Vienna. She took Spanish gold in 7.48sec, a new national record.

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