Grabarz reaches high to grab European gold for Britain
High-jumper Robbie joined by Welsh 400m hurdler in race to set standard for London
Saturday 30 June 2012
It's all about the timing. While their rivals laid their cards straight on the table in European Championship finals at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki last night, Robbie Grabarz and Rhys Williams kept their aces in hand until it mattered most. It earned gold for the Cambridgeshire high jumper and for the Welsh 400m hurdler, making it three in three nights for the British team in the Finnish capital, following Mo Farah's 5,000m victory on Wednesday.
There was also a silver lining for the Scottish 800m runner Lynsey Sharp, who flew past five rivals in the home straight to claim a medal to match the one won by her father Cameron in the 200m in Athens in 1982.
Grabarz held his nerve as he sat out the two opening heights in the high jump final. He then registered first time clearances at 2.24m and 2.28m to crank up the pressure on his rivals.
None of them could negotiate 2.28m at the first time of asking and that proved crucial. Grabarz and Raivyadas Stanys of Lithuania both cleared 2.31m at the second attempt before failing at 2.33m. All of which left Grabarz the winner on the countback system, and Britain with a European high jump champion for the first time since the Scot Alan Paterson prevailed in Brussels back in 1950.
There was bitter disappointment earlier in the day when Chris Tomlinson's miserable run of form continued in the long jump qualifying. The 30-year-old could only manage 7.84m, which ranked him down in 13th place, one short of the cut for tomorrow's final.
"I learned a lot about myself today," Grabarz said. "I came here to compete under the pressure of expectation. I was quite bold in saying that I came for the title. I wanted to put pressure on myself, as it's only going to get worse going into London. It will help me for the Games."
Even getting to the Games was in doubt for Williams when he arrived in Helsinki. Having fallen in the 400m hurdles final at the trials in Birmingham last weekend, he needed to outshine Nathan Woodward to secure the third spot in the team behind Dai Greene and Jack Green.
The 28-year-old son of the flying Wales and British Lions wing JJ Williams did it in style, holding back off the pace in the opening 300m before surging from fifth to a clear first in the home straight, in 49.33sec. "It has taken me nine years and loads of work to achieve this," he said. "I will enjoy this title. It means the world to me."
With Woodward finishing back in seventh in 50.20sec, Williams has a home Olympics for which to prepare. Whether Sharp has, though, is unlikely. She needed an A standard of 1min 59.90sec to make sure of Olympic selection. She was short of that but her stunning home straight charge brought her second behind Russian Yelena Arzhanova in 2:00:52, a lifetime best.
Elsewhere, Usain Bolt sailed through the 100m quarter-finals at the Jamaican Olympic trials, winning his heat in 10.09sec, while Oscar Pistorius fell short of the second Olympic A standard he required as runner-up in the 400m final at the African Championships in Benin.
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