Dobriskey edged out as golden finish eludes improving Britain

Silver medals for 1500m runner and 400m relay men take GB squad's haul to six
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The Independent Online

For poor Lisa Dobriskey, there is just no getting away from haunting thoughts of what might have been, it would seem.

Even as the Ashford woman was celebrating a brilliant bronze medal run in the women's 1500m in the closing session of the World Championships yesterday – happy she had finally cured the heartache of missing out on an Olympic medal in Beijing last summer by one place and 0.32sec – further cause for frustration suddenly landed in her lap.

Dobriskey was standing in the bowels of the Olympiastadion, beaming with a smile of satisfaction, when news came through that Natalia Rodriguez, the Spaniard who crossed the finish line a clear first, had been disqualified. That left the Briton in the silver medal position, but once again pondering what might have been. Maryam Jamal, the defending champion, was promoted from second to first. Dobriskey, having fought a neck-and-neck battle up the home straight with the Bahrain athlete, had finished a mere fraction behind Jamal. She had been upgraded from bronze to silver but she had missed out on gold by 0.01sec.

"No, no," the 25-year-old said, clutching her hands to her head. Then she regained her composure. "After what I went through last year, spending all winter watching the DVD of the Olympic final, I'm not going to let it get to me. It's different this time. I know it was close, but there's nothing more I could have given."

It was a silver lining that took Britain's medal haul for the championships to five, hitting the target set by Charles van Commenee, the hard taskmaster of a head coach – and this from a team weakened by the absence of several big hitters: Paula Radcliffe, Mara Yamauchi, Germaine Mason and Kelly Sotherton. And there was more to come – silver from the men's 4x400m relay quartet, anchored home by Martyn Rooney.

That left the Great Britain squad eighth in the final medals table, with two golds (courtesy of Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon and Phillips Idowu in the triple jump), the two silvers won yesterday, and two bronzes (from Jenny Meadows in the 800m and the men's 4x100m relay quartet). That added up to six medals, one more than had been gleaned at the last World Championships in Osaka two years ago, and the biggest British haul since the 1999 championships in Seville. Not since 1993 in Stuttgart had there been more than the one gold.

Six months into his mission of steering Britain's runners, jumpers and throwers to the home Olympic Games of 2012, Van Commenee is getting his squad moving in the right direction. The Dutchman, it transpired, had played a pivotal role in Dobriskey's medal-winning success.

"In the team meeting before the championships, Charles gave us quite a good talking to," she said. "He said, 'Athletics has become a yesterday sport after the Beijing Olympics, with everyone talking about swimming and cycling and rowing. People aren't interested in hearing that someone's got a virus.'

"It really hit home and made a few sit up and take notice. Before my race I was really nervous and Charles said to me, 'You're too good to be nervous. Don't let it be an obstacle'."

And Dobriskey had a few barriers to overcome on her way to the rostrum here. A stress fracture to the lower back and a thigh problem restricted her to a late bid even to secure a place in the British team, let alone mount a serious medal challenge. That she managed to get within a whisker of a world title bears testament to the huge talent the English literature graduate first showed when striking gold at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne three years ago – and also to the astute guidance of her coach, George Gandy.

Like Steve Ovett, who presented the Kentish woman with her medal yesterday, Dobriskey has a natural instinct for middle-distance racing. She got herself into the right places at the right time yesterday: fourth at the bell, and with enough room in which to manoeuvre when Rodriguez barged her way into the lead on the inside, knocking the Ethiopian Gelete Burka to the ground with 200m remaining.

The Spaniard crossed the line first in 4min 03.36sec but her disqualification was inevitable. The true race for gold, or so it proved, was between Jamal and Dobriskey. The Bahrain athlete prevailed in 4min 03.74sec. The Briton clocked 4:03.75.

It also went to the wire in the men's 5,000m final. The 5ft 4in Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele is to distance-running what the 6ft 5in Usain Bolt is to the sprinting game. Still, with the 10,000m title already in his possession, the little Ethiopian had to show a fair turn of speed up the home straight to deny Bernard Lagat of the United States in what proved to be a sprint for the gold. Mo Farah, the lone Briton in the field, finished down in seventh.

In the two 4x400m relay finals, the British women were out of the medal frame in fourth but the men's quartet – Conrad Williams, Michael Bingham, Rob Tobin and the 6ft 5in Rooney –claimed the runners-up spot behind the USA in 3min 00.53sec.

In doing so, they relegated their Australian rivals to bronze. "We've just beaten the Aussies in the Ashes," Tobin reflected, with a double smile of satisfaction. "We had to go out and do it on the track as well."

On track for 2012: GB medals in Berlin

Britain's six medals in Berlin was their most since the 1999 championships in Seville. Not since 1993, when Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Sally Gunnell triumphed, has Great Britain won more than one gold medal.

*GOLD Jessica Ennis, heptathlon; Phillips Idowu, triple jump.

*SILVER Lisa Dobriskey, 1500m; 4x400m men.

*BRONZE Jenny Meadows, 800m; 4x100m men.