Clitheroe clinches first gold at 37

It was only last summer that Helen Clitheroe was contemplating life on the scrapheap. "I remember walking off the track depressed, with my head down, thinking, 'What's the point?' the Lancastrian recalled, her face wreathed in a huge smile after the women's 3,000m final on the concluding day of the European Indoor Championships here yesterday. "It was my husband who kept me going. He said, 'You're a long time retired. Don't give up until you're ready to do it on your own terms.'"

Neil Clitheroe could reflect on the wisdom of his advice as he sat among the capacity crowd in the Palais Omnisports de Bercy watching his wife standing on the top step of the medal rostrum as the new, 37-year-old, golden girl of British athletics. It was the proudest of moments for Mrs Clitheroe, a Preston Harrier, having hauled herself from the brink of retirement to her first international championship title at the same age that Tom Finney was when he hung up his boots for Preston North End – and two years older than Colin Jackson when he became Britain's previous oldest European indoor champion, in Vienna in 2002.

Clitheroe – a one-time lifeguard who has been off the Lottery funding list since 2009 – has been an inspiration throughout the indoor season as she has grafted towards "the dream" of making the British team for the home Olympics of 2012. She has switched her attention from the 3,000m steeplechase, and the extra training miles she has been putting in for an outdoor season at 5,000m and 10,000m have got the best out of her legs.

The benefit was clear to see as the British captain played an inspirational, starring role for a team who added four other medals yesterday – all silvers – to finish the championships with a haul of eight, double the tally they gained in Turin two years ago.

Like Mo Farah in the men's 3,000m on Saturday, Clitheroe found a Midas touch in the final of the women's 15-lap event. She drew on all the grit she has learned in a 14-year international career spent mainly on the fringes, save for a bronze medal-winning 1,500m run at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

With three laps to go, she hit the front and increased the pace. Round the final turn, Russia's Olesya Syreva tried to pass her but Clitheroe gritted her teeth and held on to win by 0.03sec in 8min 55.66sec. "To win a gold medal at 37 is just unbelievable," she said. "It's a bit of payback for all of the hard work I've put in over the years."

It was very nearly a glory day for the 17-year-old kid in the British team, too. On her senior international debut, Jodie Williams finished within 0.01sec of a medal, clocking 7.21sec for fourth place in the women's 60m final.

In the men's 60m final Dwain Chambers took silver just 0.01sec behind Francis Obikwelu of Portugal in 6.54sec, with the big home hope Christophe Lemaitre third. The British men's 4 x 400m relay team were also runners-up, while Jenny Meadows anchored the GB women's 4 x 400m quartet to second just 75 minutes after taking silver in the 800m behind Yevgeniya Zinurova of Russia.

Not that that the French crowd took much notice, as Parisian Teddy Tamgho improved his world indoor triple jump record to 17.92m.

Britain's medal haul

GOLD Mo Farah, 3,000m

Helen Clitheroe, 3,000m

SILVER Tiffany Ofili, 60m hurdles; Jenny Meadows, 800m; Dwain Chambers, 60m; Kelly Sotherton, Lee McConnell, Marilyn Okoro and Jenny Meadows women's 4 x 400m relay; Nigel Levine, Nick Leavey, Richard Strachan and Richard Buck men's 4 x 400m relay.

BRONZE Richard Buck, 400m

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine