It was back in April 2002 that Chris Tomlinson first made a name for himself as a raw, leggy long jumping talent.
Competing at a low-key meeting at Tallahassee in Florida, watched by his coach at the time, Peter Stanley, and his hero-turned-training partner, Jonathan Edwards, the 20-year-old Teessider leapt 8.27m. In doing so, he soared into the British record books, removing Lynn Davies' 34-year-old mark of 8.23m.
Since then, Tomlinson has struggled to kick on. In 2007 he improved his national record to 8.29m, at a meeting in the track and field backwater of Bad Langensalza in Germany. In terms of advancement, that has been it: just 2cm in eight years. And the British record is no longer his. He lost it to Greg Rutherford by 1cm in the qualifying round at the World Championships in Berlin last summer.
The Middlesbrough man did win a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia two years ago, missing out on the gold by 1cm to Godfrey Mokoena of South Africa. He also finished fifth in the Olympic final in Athens back in 2004 but he went into the European Championship final last night still seeking his first podium finish in a major outdoor championship after 10 previous attempts.
This time, at the 11th time of asking, Tomlinson was in a medal position all of the way through the competition. He jumped 8.18m in the first round, which put him second behind Frenchman Salim Sdiri, then dropped to third when Christian Reif of Germany took the lead – and ultimately the gold medal – with a third round effort of 8.47m.
In a see-saw contest Tomlinson moved up to second with his fourth round jump, 8.23m, but then lost the silver medal in the sixth and final round, when Kafetien Gomes of France jumped 1cm farther. Still, the 28-year-old Briton hung on for the bronze, and a place on an outdoor podium at last.
"I've got to look at that and say it's some of the best jumping I've ever produced," Tomlinson reflected. "It's my first outdoor medal to go with my world indoor silver, but I know there's a lot more to come. I'm still a work in progress but there's something to build on there."
It was a medal winning success not just for Tomlinson but for Frank Attoh too. The former Great Britain triple jump international who guided Trecia Smith of Jamaica to World Championship triple jump gold in Helsinki in 2005, has been coaching the north-easterner since he moved down to London three years ago to be with his girlfriend, Lucia Rovardi, whom he married in Italy in 2008.A Miss England finalist in 2006, Rovardi is a successful West End actress, having starred in the long-running Buddy.
While she was celebrating her husband's bronze last night, Christophe Lemaitre was basking in the role of star of the championships. Having already completed the sprint double, the 20-year-old claimed his third gold as the French quartet pipped Italy by 0.06sec in the 4x100m relay. "Of all the medals, this one feels the most precious because it was a team effort," Lemaitre said. By a ironic twist, it was Darren Campbell who presented the medals in the event. At the last European Championships in Gothenburg four years ago, he refused to join his victorious British relay colleagues on a victory lap, in protest at the selection of the former doping offender Dwain Chambers.Reuse content