Thomas's gutsy win proves a welcome distraction

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The Independent Online

Charlene Thomas did not quite kiss the Union Flag crest but it was clear how much it meant to the Wakefield Harrier not just to wear a Great Britain vest on the second and concluding day of the European Team Championships in Stockholm yesterday, but also to surge to victory in it. "Ooooooh, I'm so excited," she said in the wake of her 1500m win, bouncing up and down on the steps of the 1912 Olympic Stadium like a West Yorkshire version of Tigger.

There had been a similarly anima-ed celebration when Thomas upset the form book to beat Steph Twell and Hannah England to win the 1500m at the 2009 World Championships trials in Birmingham. "I was off me head then," she said. "I'm off me head now. I'm so excited."

We had kind of noticed. Still, after a weekend spending as much time monitoring Twitter for the latest developments in the spat between Charles Van Commenee and the absent Phillips Idowu, it was great to see a Great Britain athlete rising to the occasion of the European Team Championships and glorying in their performance.

There was a blast of "Rule Britannia" over the public address system as the 29-year-old Thomas crossed the line after showing her racing pedigree, exploiting a gap on the inside to sprint past the Russian Yekatarina Martynova and clinch victory in 4min 06.85sec. On Thursday, the former design and technology teacher, a full-time athlete since last September, arrived at Manchester Airport to find her flight to Stockholm cancelled. She had to travel via Copenhagen, missing a planned training session.

In following in the footsteps of Kirsty Wade, Kelly Holmes and Helen Clitheroe as only the fourth British winner of the women's 1500m in the 46-year history of the European Team Championship and its predecessor, the European Cup, Thomas became the only female British victor of the weekend. Clitheroe finished third in the 5,000m yesterday and the 4 x 400m relay team, anchored superbly by Perri Shakes-Drayton, were a close second to the Russians.

On the men's side yesterday Andy Turner won the 110m hurdles in 13.44sec, emulating the success achieved by team captain Dai Greene in the 400m hurdles on Saturday. Going into the final event, the men's 4 x 400m relay, Britain had a chance of finishing third in the overall competition but Richard Buck dropped the baton.

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