Well, at least one resurrection man of British sprinting has given Christophe Lemaitre a run for his money in the chase for European Championship gold here in the capital of Catalonia.
Dwain Chambers was unable to manage it in the 100m final on Wednesday night, finishing out of the medals in fifth place, but his old friend Christian Malcolm pushed the French flier all of the way when it came to the 200m final last night. Or pulled him, to be more precise.
Like a mighty blast from the past, Malcolm shot out of his starting blocks, hared round the bend and entered the home straight in the lead, half a stride ahead of Jaysuma Saidy Ndure of Norway. Lemaitre was back in fifth place at that stage and it took him until 10m from the finish line to draw his tall, leggy frame level with the 31-year-old Welshman. The gold was only snatched from Malcolm's grasp when his 20-year-old rival dipped for the line with the textbook execution of Harold Abrahams, the Great British sprinter who claimed Olympic 100m gold in Paris in 1924: arms thrown back in an inverted "v" shape, chest thrust forward. Even then it was close. Lemaitre crossed in 20.37sec, Malcolm 20.38sec.
Still, it was a truly inspirational run from the forgotten man of British sprinting. It was back in 1998 that Malcolm first announced himself as a serious talent, achieving the 100m-200m double at the World Junior Championships – in Annecy, Lemaitre's home town. It was in the same year that he won his only previous individual medal at a major outdoor championship as a senior: a 200m silver at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
"That feels great, amazing," Malcolm said. "I nearly had him. I told myself tonight, 'If Christophe Lemaitre wants to win here, he's going to have to work hard.' And I make him work."
Malcolm appeared to be on the cusp of a global breakthrough in the senior ranks when he finished fifth in the Olympic 200m final in Sydney in 2000 and in the World Championship 200m final in Edmonton 12 months later. Instead, the Newport man with the featherweight build and the smooth sprinting style has been held back by injury.
Since losing Lottery funding last year, Malcolm has been working under the direction of Dan Pfaff at the UK Athletics High Performance Centre at Lee Valley in North London. The American guided Donovan Bailey to Olympic 100m gold in 1996 and also coaches Martyn Bernard, who took bronze in the high jump on Thursday night.
It might have been different for Malcolm had he persevered with his first sporting love. As a flying right winger, he played for the Nottingham Forest youth team – Andy Turner, winner of the 110m hurdles played across the Trent for Notts County's juniors – until he decided to concentrate on athletics at the age of 16. Once upon a time, he supplied the crosses in the South Wales Schools' team for a scrawny young striker by the name of Craig Bellamy.
As it is, the former No 7 has come in from the wings as a sprinter – in much the same fashion as another of his close long-time friends, Mark Lewis-Francis.
In the 200m last night, behind Lemaitre, Malcolm and another Frenchman, Martial Mbandjock, Marlon Devonish finished just outside the medal frame in fourth. Hattie Dean was also fourth in the women's 3,000m steeplechase final but elsewhere British medals were coming from all quarters.
There were two of them in the men's 400m final. As France's Leslie Djhone ran out of steam halfway up the home straight, Martyn Rooney edged in front in lane one, with British team-mate Michael Bingham closing fast in lane eight. Up through the middle, though, shot Kevin Borlee. The Belgian snatched gold in 45.08sec, with Bingham taking silver in 45.23sec and Rooney bronze in exactly the same time.
Rooney was still celebrating his bronze at trackside when Perri Shakes-Drayton claimed the same reward from the women's 400m hurdles final, finishing in 54.18sec, a personal best, behind Natalya Antyukh of Russia and the Bulgarian Vania Stambolova. "All of my hard work has paid off," the 20-year-old said.
Sadly for Jenny Meadows, the hard work she poured into the women's 800m final was not enough to win her gold. The Wigan Harrier took the lead after 150m and stayed there until the Russian favourite Mariya Savinova swept past on the crown of the final bend. Meadows was also passed by a flying Dutchwoman, Yvonne Hak, who clinched the runners-up spot. Her British team-mate Jemma Simpson finished in fifth.Reuse content