Rooney strides to athletics success

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The Independent Online

A rousing victory for England, and one for Rooney too. Following in the footsteps of Hannah England, a winner of the women's 1500m final on Saturday, Martyn Rooney strode to an emphatic success in the final of the men's 400m on the third and concluding day of the Aviva European Trials and UK Championships. In stark contrast to his celebrated namesake out in Bloemfontein earlier yesterday, the 6ft 5in Croydon Harrier made his presence felt here on the north side of Birmingham. He made his considerable talent felt too, showing the sparkling kind of form with which he may well strike gold at the European Championships in Barcelona next month.

To familiar chants of ‘Roon-e-ey, Roon-e-ey," the Loughborough University student pulled clear of his rivals up the home straight, crossing the line 0.68sec ahead of his closest pursuer, Michael Bingham in 44.99sec. The time, the margin of victory and the sheer class of the performance were all impressive from the hugely gifted south Londoner who finished sixth in the Olympic final in Beijing two years ago.

It matched the time with which the 23-year-old shares top place in the European rankings with Jonathan Borlee of Belgium. So at least one Rooney had delivered the goods on the top level sporting stage, it was put to him. "Yeah, I heard the result when I was warming up," the lifelong Crystal Palace fan said. And had proceeded to show those "over-priced prima donnas" a thing or two, it was suggested. "I wouldn't mind a week of their wages," Rooney mused. "That would be beautiful. They've just let themselves down, no-one else really."

Born in Croydon but the son of parents from the Emerald Isle, Rooney was prevented from running for Britain at the World Junior Championships back in 2004 when he turned up at Grosseto in Italy with an Irish passport – causing the kind of confusion which prevailed behind the scenes in Birmingham yesterday following morning reports from Down Under that Jana Rawlinson, twice a world 400m hurdles champion, had approached UK Athletics with a view to switching allegiance from Australia to Great Britain in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The wife of former British 400m hurdler Chris Rawlinson, whom she has married, divorced and re-married, the 27-year-old Sydneysider has a house near Loughborough, where she trains in the European summer. It is understood that she has investigated the possibility of gaining a British passport but Eric Hollingsworth, head coach of Athletics Australia, said last night that Rawlinson had given a verbal commitment to remain competing for her homeland. "She's Australian and she's staying that way," Hollingsworth said.

Rawlinson herself said: "I love Australia. I still wear Australian tattoos on my arms. I do look at what UK Athletics does for their athletes and they are much better supported. I feel like I have been left by the wayside. I have the potential to be an Olympic champion and Athletics Australia doesn't care."