Another day of drama in the World Championship arena. Another medal bound for Britain. After the men's triple jump final was concluded on day three in Nagai Stadium, the silver medal was destined for Dunston, the village by the banks of the Tyne that gave Paul Gascoigne to the world.
Back in his native country, they must have thought Jadel Gregorio was daft as a Brazilian brush when he decided to uproot his family from Sao Paulo and travel the 5,907 miles to Tyneside two years ago – all in the hope of turning himself into another Jonathan Edwards in Gateshead. They were not smirking yesterday when the giant adopted Geordie stepped on to the World Championship rostrum to collect his medal from the man who took triple jumping into a new dimension. "It is a dream for me to get this from Jonathan," an emotional Gregorio said, clutching his silver.
Sadly for his adopted homeland, the medal will be chalked on to the World Championship table for Brazil. Still, despite that, and the fact that the half-fit Phillips Idowu could only place sixth as Britain's sole hop, step and jump representative, it was another good day for the firing-on-most cylinders GB team. The day after Kelly Sotherton opened the British medal account with bronze in the heptathlon, there was the promise of more to come, with Nicola Sanders and Christine Ohuruogu striding to highly impressive victories in two of the women's 400m semi-finals, qualifying for the final tomorrow with the second and fourth-fastest times. It might not quite be a great British team yet but it is starting to look a pretty good one – for all the pre-championship talk that GB stood for Gone (irretrievably) Backwards.
Britain can also take a good share of credit for Gregorio's medal-winning success. It has been forged in Gateshead, at the North-East Regional High Performance Centre, and masterminded by Peter Stanley, who holds the honorary role of UK Athletics event coach for the triple jump but who was urging on his South American charge from track-side yesterday wearing a Brazilian team coach's shirt. Stanley coaches part-time and works as a civil engineer in Blaydon. It was he who redesigned Edwards' triple jump technique, transforming him into an 18.29m world record holder and world title winner at the 1995 championships in Gothenburg.
He might have had another world champion and 18m man on his hands yesterday, but Gregorio ventured over the take-off board with a monster of a third-round jump. It was a fifth-round effort of 17.59m that earned silver, behind Nelson Evora of Portugal, with 17.74m. Idowu's best was 17.09m, nowhere near the limit of his capabilities but commendable enough considering he has been nursing a back problem. "I have to be happy," the Commonwealth champion reflected. "A couple of weeks ago I didn't even know if I would jump here at all."
Gregorio, unsurprisingly, intends to keep working on his hopping, stepping and jumping on Tyneside, where his two children – a son, Jade, and a daughter, Sahara, were both born (at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead) – and where his wife, Samara, feels safer than she did in Sao Paulo (she was robbed at gun-point while five months' pregnant before travelling to join her husband in England). The man mountain of a 26-year-old, who stands 6ft 8in and weighs in at 17st, has no plans to switch national allegiance. "I have good facilities in England and good coach," he said, "but Brazil is my country. To change now is not right."
Of those sporting the Union Flag on their vest yesterday, Sanders was the most impressive, emerging from a summer of injury troubles to build on the form she showed when blitzing her way to the European indoor 400m title in Birmingham in March. The slenderly-built Buckinghamshire woman broke through the 50sec barrier with a run of supreme assurance. Despite applying the brakes as the line approached she stopped the trackside clock at 49.77sec, a performance which elevates the 25-year-old to third on the UK all-time ranking list, behind Kathy Cook (49.43) and Katharine Merry (49.59).
"I was surprised it was so fast because I wasn't eyeballs out," Sanders said. "Anything can happen in the final." Indeed it can, and a British medal is looking a distinct possibility. Ohuruogu, running only her fourth race since serving her 12-month ban for three missed drugs tests, won her semi-final in 50.16sec – a personal best and fourth fastest time of the day.
A medal in the women's 4 x 400m relay final looks likely too. And, with Andy Baddeley, in the 1500m, and Martyn Bernard and Tom Parsons, in the high jump, all qualifying for the finals of their events, the Great Britain team now stands just one short of its target of getting 11 athletes through to finals or into the top eight of straight finals.
All this after Sotherton had collected the heptathlon bronze she earned the night before – and torn into the critics of the latter day British team, notably John Regis and Colin Jackson. "We're not monkeys chasing peanuts," the Birchfield Harrier said, referring to Regis' ill-chosen accusation. "These ex-athletes are dragging us down, saying we're a load of crap, but really we're doing the best we can against a standard which is much harder than it was in their day. It's 'in my day' – like older people in the war. Well, it's a new generation. We're moving on."
The sprint coach Lance Brauman gets out of jail in the United States today, having served eight months of a 12-month sentence for fraud, to celebrate a famous world championship double. Following in the speed marks of Tyson Gay, winner of the men's 100m on Sunday, Veronica Campbell won a blanket finish to the women's 100m final yesterday. Like Gay, the Jamaican has been guided from behind bars by Brauman.Reuse content