Britain add relay silvers to Farah's perfect finish
Monday 09 March 2009
After the 60-metres gold rush by Dwain Chambers, there was not one silver lining but two for the Great Britain squad as the European Indoor Championships drew to a conclusion yesterday. The women's 4x400m relay team – Donna Fraser, Kim Wall, Vicky Barr and Marilyn Okoro – finished second to the Russians in their final. Then the men's quartet – Richard Buck, Nick Leavey, Nigel Levine and Phil "The Power" Taylor – were runners-up to Italy in theirs. With just the one medal from the first two days, Mo Farah's 3,000m gold on Saturday, that added up to a total of four – a little way short of the target of "five or six" set by Charles van Commenee on his first international assignment as head coach of UK Athletics.
There ought to have been a fifth but Okoro's kamikaze bid for an 800m bit the dust in the dramatic denouement to the race. In going for broke after 200m, stealing a 5m march on her rivals, the Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier was always playing a risky game. She was caught by Mariya Savinova at the start of the final 200m circuit and passed by a second Russian, Oksana Zbrozhek, as she entered the finishing straight. Then, with the Italian Elisa Cusma pulling alongside her, Okoro lunged too early for the line, crashed to the track before crawling the last few metres. She finished fifth behind team-mate Jenny Meadows.
"I think that was a bit naïve," Van Commenee said, when asked about Okoro's tactics. The Dutch coach was more impressed by the efforts of Steve Lewis in the pole vault. And with good reason. The 22-year-old finished fourth with a clearance of 5.71m. There was disappointment in the long jump, though – Greg Rutherford finishing sixth, with a personal best of 8.00m.
All of which followed Farah's tour de force in the 3,000m final on Saturday. Judging his effort to perfection, the 25-year-old pulled clear over the last two laps of Bob Tahri, the French steeplechaser he accompanied on a training trip to Ethiopia before Christmas. In the process, Farah set new championship record figures of 7min 40.17sec and ensured there will be an international sporting prize on display in the Twickenham area this year.
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