Athletics: Pavey heartbreak as race of her life is not good enough

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When Dave Collins, the performance director of UK Athletics, sat down last night to consider his daily marks for Britain's World Championship team, he will have had one notable problem. Even 10 out of 10 hardly does justice to the kind of effort Jo Pavey poured into the women's 10,000m, the final event on the opening day of competition in Nagai Stadium. The Devon woman gave everything, and then dug deep within herself for more.

By the end of 25 draining laps in oppressive heat and humidity, Pavey lay spread-eagled on her back on the floor. The stretcher bearers made a beeline for her but she picked herself up and walked off the track. Without a medal, sorrowfully. But with her head held proudly up towards the Japanese skies.

At 33, Pavey produced the race of her life. With four laps to go, and Tirunesh Dibaba and Elvan Abeylegesse out in front battling for gold, the Briton clung on to the coat-tails of American Kara Goucher and Kiwi Kimberley Smith in the race for the bronze. At the start of the penultimate lap she hauled herself into third and briefly threatened to break her pursuers – only to be hauled back and overtaken. At the bell she surged back into third, dropping Smith but failing to shake off Goucher.

With 200 metres remaining Goucher finally got away and claimed the bronze medal, Dibaba taking gold and Abeylegesse silver. It was heartbreaking for Pavey, who has reached the final of every major track championship contested since the turn of the millennium – the only Great Britain athlete to do so. It was a run drawn from the same inspirational well that took Liz McColgan to gold in the same event in Tokyo back in 1991 and Paula Radcliffe to silver in Seville in 1999.

"I'm pleased, but there's also a lot of frustration there that I got myself into that position [third place] but I wasn't able to maintain it and push on when I needed," Pavey said. "I'm also pleased that that was a performance that came in just my third 10,000m. I'm just a novice, learning the event."

After three summers of performing like novices on the international championship stage, Britain's male sprinters were back in business yesterday. All three 100m runners made it through the opening two rounds and Marlon Devonish, for one, is looking good to get beyond the semi-finals and into the final today. The 31-year-old Coventrian might even dip under the 10 seconds mark, if not quite get on to the medal rostrum.

Just as encouragingly, the form of all three – Devonish, Craig Pickering and Mark Lewis-Francis – bodes well for a medal in the 4 x 100m relay, possibly even gold what with the US managing to get just one of their trio through to the second day. American sprinting in crisis, anyone?

The one starred-and-striped survivor, though, is Tyson Gay, whose duel for the gold with a fit and firing Asafa Powell could threaten the Jamaican's 9.77sec world record on what Devonish described as "a lightning track". "I'll be disappointed if I don't get to the final," Devonish said. "If I get a medal, a PB, I'll be happy."