Jackson's turn of pace denies Greene perfect return home

Britain's European 400m gold medallist has to settle for third place despite putting in a fighting finish
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The Independent Online

There have been some notable one-lap hurdling performances before in this particular neck of the sporting woods.

Back in July 1866, the 18-year-old WG Grace won the 440 yards hurdles in the National Olympic Association Games here. His time, 70 seconds, was nothing remarkable but, then, it was achieved while he was officially on fielding duty for England against Surrey at The Oval.

Having rattled off a record 224 not out with the bat the previous day, the regal cricketing great was allowed to nip away to the South London Palace by the England captain, VE Walker. Dai Greene had a while longer to prepare for the 400m hurdles on the opening night of the two-day Aviva London Grand Prix last night.

Ever since he won the European Championship final in emphatic fashion at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium a fortnight ago, the Swansea Harrier has been waiting to take on the world at the big, sold-out homecoming meeting for Britain's Barcelona heroes.

Having pulled up level with David Hemery in the UK all-time records with his run of 48.12 seconds in the Catalan capital, Greene was hoping to get closer to the 48-second barrier – and Kriss Akabusi's 18-year-old British record of 47.82 – against the global competition gathered for a Diamond League event.

As it happened, the damp track was not conducive to fast times and the gulf between the best in Europe and the best in the world was clear to see. Greene produced a fighting finish in the home straight to claim third place in 49.09 but he was a good way behind the first two.

Bershawn Jackson, the American who heads the world rankings with 47.32 and who goes by the nickname Batman, did not exactly fly to victory but claimed it in 48.12 - just 0.05 seconds ahead of Javier Culson, the World Championship silver medalist from Puerto Rico. Rhys Williams, the silver medalist behind fellow Welshman Greene in Barcelona, finished fifth in 49.85.

It was Mo Farah, of course, who got the gold rush rolling for Britain in Barcelona, with his victory in the 10,000m on the opening night. The Somali-born South Londoner went on to win the 5,000m, too, but last night he had Kenyans to face as he stepped down in distance to the 3,000m: Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Micah Kogo and Mark Kiptoo, an impressive 5,000m winner in the DN Galan Diamond League meeting in Stockholm last week.

As it was, he finished ahead of both, but could still only manage second place behind Bernard Lagat, the Kenyan-born American who achieved the 1,500m-5,000m double at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.

It was at 3,000m that Farah sparkled so promisingly during the 2009 indoor season, smashing the British record and winning the European indoor title in Turin. Last night, he was happy to settle back in the pack as the Kenyan pacemaker Suleiman Simotwo charged ahead of the field without any takers. Coming down the home straight for the penultimate time, Farah moved up to the front but then Australian Collis Birmingham stole a march on the main players, who had to work hard to reel him in.

Off the final bend, Lagat burst ahead. Farah moved into second but couldn't match the finishing speed of the two-time Olympic 1,500m medal winner, finishing 0.29 seconds down on Lagat in seven minutes 40.75 seconds, with Kiptoo in third and Chris Thompson, the Aldershot man who took 10,000m silver behind Farah in Barcelona, sixth in 7:43.34, a personal best.

Poor Oscar Pistorius must have been cursing his luck when the heavens opened with a vengeance before the start of the action. The South African Paralympian had to run in South Yorkshire monsoon conditions on his only previous Grand Prix appearance on these shores, in Sheffield in 2007. Try as he did, he could not keep his carbon fibre prosthetics within his designated lane and his big race ended in disqualification.

Happily, by the time the 23-year-old triple Paralympic champion settled into his starting blocks, the rain had relented. Still, the damp track did not bode well for prospects of achieving a Commonwealth Games qualifying standard in the 400m B race.

Pistorius had finished a tantalising 0.07 seconds shy of it when running a lifetime best of 46.02 at Lignano in Italy last month but he never got close to it last night.

He did pip Graham Hedman for seventh place but, in a time of 46.93, with South Londoner Conrad Williams the victor in 46.09. Still, it was good Grand Prix experience for the young man known as the Blade Runner.

Pistorius was born without fibulae and both of his legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. It was only two years ago that he won his fight to take part in mainstream competition with his J-shaped Cheetah Flex Feet attachments. He also had to overcome a speedboat accident last year that left him suffering from broken ribs and a fractured jaw.

He will be back in action at Crystal Palace today, competing against fellow Paralympians in the T44 400m race.