Rejuvenated Perri Shakes-Drayton fizzes on golden final day for Team GB
Shakes-Drayton recovers from Olympic heartache to lead young team to second in medals table
The Scandinavium Arena
Sunday 03 March 2013
The East Ender with the double-barrelled name would rather have done it in her back yard seven months ago but double gold at the first major event of post-home Olympic year tasted sweet enough to Perri Shakes-Drayton on the closing day of the European Indoor Championships here in Gothenburg yesterday. After the flat beer of London 2012, when a hamstring pull prompted her semi-final exit in the 400m hurdles, it was champagne stuff for Perri to savour. Twice over.
The first serving came in the final of the flat 400m in the morning. The bubbly 24-year-old from Bow produced a tour de force performance, blasting clear in front from the start and storming to the gold medal in 50.85 seconds – the fastest time in the world this year and half a second quicker than the lifetime best with which she started the championships.
It was a stunning performance and it was followed by another in the afternoon session as Shakes-Drayton anchored the British women's 4 x 400m relay team to victory in a championship record time. The men's relay quartet proceeded to win their final, being reinstated after protesting against a disqualification, leaving the British squad with four golds and eight medals in all from the weekend.
That earned them second place in the medals table behind Russia and added up to a satisfactory enough start to Peter Eriksson's tenure as head coach. The native Swede had hoped to match or better the tally of nine from Paris two years ago but nonetheless got off to a better start than his predecessor as head coach, Charles van Commenee having guided his first GB team to four medals at the 2009 championships in Turin.
"I'm delighted," Eriksson said. "It shows that we have strength in depth and that we are building on the momentum of London 2012."
Shakes-Drayton is certainly moving forward from her heartbreaking home Olympic experience. "I wanted to show people what I'm about and that I'm not giving up," she said. "After every disappointment I think you get stronger. That's the case with me."
The young Londoner's individual run elevated her to third on the British all-time ranking list, behind 2007 European Indoor gold medallist Nicola Sanders (50.02) and 2000 Olympic 400m bronze medallist Katharine Merry (50.53). Like Sally Gunnell, who she has now overtaken, Shakes-Drayton is a one-lap hurdles specialist outdoors. She intends to remain so, despite this advance to world-class territory over the flat 400m indoors. "I still haven't fulfilled my potential at the 400m hurdles," she said.
The British team started the final day with two medals in the bag from Saturday's programme, Holly Bleasdale having won the pole vault on a jump-off with a 4.67 metre clearance and James Dasaolu having taken a surprise silver in the 60m with a brisk 6.48sec. The tally doubled after the women's 400m final, Shakes-Drayton's fellow hurdles specialist Eilidh Child claiming silver in 51.45sec.
Mukhtar Mohammed provided medal number five with a bronze in the men's 800m final. The sixth might have come in the women's 800m but after leading much of the way team captain Jenny Meadows found herself with just too little left in the tank following her 18-month injury lay-off, finishing fourth in 2min 01.52sec.
For a brief while it seemed that Nigel Levine might be deprived of the silver medal from the men's 400m final. As Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic strode to victory, the 23-year-old Briton clashed with Russian Pavel Trenikhin in the scramble for second place. The Russian team lodged a protest but it was overturned, leaving Levine with his first medal of the day and Britain's sixth of the championship.
There were two more to come from the relays at the end of the programme. First Child returned to the track to run the lead off leg for the women. She took the lead and Shana Cox and Christine Ohuruogu held it before Shakes-Drayton stretched clear to complete a decisive victory in 3min 27.56sec, a championship record time.
Then came the drama of the men's race. Richard Strachan anchored the GB quartet to a clear victory that was initially annulled. Richard Buck had indeed stepped off the track on the second leg but the York man had clearly been barged off by a Polish athlete. An appeal ensured that gold medal justice prevailed.
Team GB medals
Perri Shakes-Drayton, women's 400m
Team GB, Women's 4x400m relay
Team GB, Men's 4x400m relay
Holly Bleasdale, women's pole vault (below)
Nigel Levine, men's 400m
Eilidh Child, women's 400m
James Dasaolu, men's 60m
Mukhtar Mohammed, men's 800m
Total Eight medals, to finish second behind Russia
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