European Athletics Championships 2014: James Dasaolu and Tiffany Porter deliver on night of glory for Britain’s sprinters

Athletes secure men's 100m and women's 100m hurdles gold

Letzigrund Stadion

This season was supposed to see British sprinting’s coming of age and so it has proved. James Dasaolu became the first British sprinter since Darren Campbell in 1998 to win 100m European Championship gold in a comfortable victory, with fellow countryman Harry Aikines-Aryeetey narrowly avoiding disqualification for a faulty start to take bronze.

It was hardly a final to leave the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, quaking behind his sunglasses as he watched from the stands, Dasaolu crossing the line with a winning time of 10.07sec to deny France’s Christophe Lemaitre a third consecutive European title over the distance.

The event had been billed as an Anglo-French tussle for gold but, with event favourite Jimmy Vicaut pulling out of his semi-final with a thigh injury, Dasaolu’s path to gold was relatively straightforward.

There was, however, to be no fairy-tale ending to the night for Dwain Chambers. Remarkably, he had finished with silver behind Campbell in Budapest 16 years ago. There was an irony that Aikines-Aryeetey, often criticised for being too bulky, should pip Chambers to the bronze by virtue of his bigger chest.

On another impressive night for the British team, there was gold too for Aikines-Aryeetey’s training partner Tiffany Porter in the 100m hurdles while Ashleigh Nelson, previously bedevilled by injuries, bounced back to win 100m bronze.

But for a nation starved in recent years of a sprint king to take on the world, or even just the continent, it was Dasaolu’s star that shone brightest.

Britain's Tiffany Porter celebrates after winning the 100m hurdles final during the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, Switzerland Britain's Tiffany Porter celebrates after winning the 100m hurdles final during the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, Switzerland (AP)
He was adamant his previously frail body would not let him down this time, and he crossed the line seemingly fully fit from three rounds in two days. There had been hopes he would dip under the 10sec barrier and break Francis Obikwelu’s European record of 9.99sec dating back to 2006 but it was not to be.

Dasaolu, whose indoor season had been brought to a premature end by a hamstring tear, said: “It’s a lovely feeling to be European champion. I’m still trying to take it all in. I didn’t get a good start in the race but I battled to the win. I’m so happy.

“Track and field has its ups and downs, I’ve had injuries and didn’t know if I’d be able to compete this season so it’s a lovely feeling to come away with a gold.” At 25, Aikines-Aryeetey finally backed up the promise of his youth when he won a string of world junior and youth titles, describing his bronze as “a landmark for me”. But he might well have not raced at all, the Londoner twitching in his blocks before the gun but given a second chance.

Like Dasaolu, it was a first title for Porter, who had come in as a mere second favourite for gold behind Cindy Billaud. But while the Frenchwoman faltered in the final, Porter appeared to get stronger, running increasingly aggressively to take gold in a time of 12.76secs. “I’m just so happy to win, this is my first gold medal so I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “I performed when it mattered most.”

In an increasingly bright era for British sprinting, Ashleigh Nelson became the first British female to win a European 100m medal for 40 years, matching Andrea Lynch’s bronze in Rome in 1974. She marked it with a smile as wide as the night in a race that always looked destined to be won by Dafne Schipers of the Netherlands.

Nelson said: “The last few years have just been managing injuries and it’s been tough. I didn’t feel like it was my best race and I feel like there’s a lot more to come.”

The six medals won so far by Team GB – five tonight and six in total with Jo Pavey’s gold – is the best start ever by a British team at a European Championships.

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