Last summer Steph Twell was a gold medallist on the global stage, winning the 1500m at the World Junior Championships at Bydgoszcz in Poland. Twelve months on, the day after her 20th birthday, she made a tearful exit from the heats of the metric mile on her senior World Championship debut in the Olympiastadion yesterday. Running in the last of three first round heats, the Aldershot athlete dropped out of qualification contention on the final lap, finishing 12th in 4min 18.23sec, more than 14 seconds down on her personal best. "I didn't feel right from the start," she said.
Twell's coach, Mick Woods, had not wanted her to attend a compulsory British team preparation camp in Portugal, fearing that the heat might affect her. "Portugal was tough, I have to admit," Twell said. "I have not dealt with it before. I had never been warm-weather training before. My steady training was fine but for some sessions there was no shelter at all."
Sadly for Charlene Thomas, the Wakefield Harrier who booked her Berlin ticket with a surprise win at the British trials in Birmingham last month, there was no shelter from the mid-race collision in the opening heat that dislodged one of her shoes. With one shoe off and one shoe on, she could only struggle home 10th in 4min 9.91sec.
"I think it happened when one of the other runners fell," Thomas reflected. "I hurdled over her but she either pulled down on my heel or it fell off.
"It was half off and I was running trying to get it back on again for about 250 metres but I couldn't, so I kicked it off and ran the rest of the race with only one shoe on. It's just really disappointing. I was feeling so good. I had my race ready to go."
Still, at least one Briton managed to make it through to Friday's semi-finals. Drawn in heat two, Lisa Dobriskey ran an assured race, qualifying comfortably in third place in 4:07.90, behind Ethiopian Gelete Burka and Natalia Rodriguez of Spain. "I'm really happy with that," Dobriskey said. And with good reason.
The Kentish woman narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal in Berlin last summer, finishing fourth in the final. Since then, however, Dobriskey has endured a torrid time of it. A stress fracture to the lower back and a thigh problem have restricted the 25-year-old to a late challenge in the medal stakes for Berlin.
Happily for the British team, there were no tales of woe from the first round of the men's 400m. Rob Tobin won the opening heat in style, clocking 45.50sec. "What you want in a championship is a good start, and then to carry it on through the rounds," the Basingstoke athlete said.
Michael Bingham also carried himself through to tomorrow's semi-finals, finishing runner-up in his heat, behind Chris Brown of the Bahamas, in 45.54sec. Martyn Rooney, sixth in the Olympic final in Beijing but hampered by injury this summer, also progressed. The big Croydon Harrier finished third in his heat, clocking 45.45sec.
Like Rooney, Sarah Claxton was also a finalist in Beijing last August, placing eighth in the 100m hurdles. The Belgrave Harrier has yet to recapture that form this summer but she secured her semi-final passage yesterday, clocking a season's best time of 12.86sec for fourth place in her first-round heat. Jessica Ennis had also entered in the event for Britain but she withdrew in the wake of her gold medal winning heptathlon performance.