Depleted Britain achieve dream win

European Cup Athletics: Late protest fails to prevent home men capitalising on first-day successes while women avoid relegation
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The Independent Online

Eleven years after Linford Christie brandished the European Cup aloft here, a somewhat bulkier figure in a British tracksuit clambered onto the rostrum in the evening sunlight yesterday to claim the prize once again.

Eleven years after Linford Christie brandished the European Cup aloft here, a somewhat bulkier figure in a British tracksuit clambered onto the rostrum in the evening sunlight yesterday to claim the prize once again.

As discus thrower Bob Weir clasped the silverware with an expression that bordered on bemusement, his team-mates erupted into celebration of an improbable and famous victory - by just half a point over Germany - in the wake of an unprecedented number of withdrawals by key athletes.

Spectators and competitors were kept waiting 37 minutes after the concluding men's 400m relay for the official result to be announced, after a protest from the Russians and French over the earlier 110m hurdles race in which three were disqualified.

The delay was too great for the Duke of Edinburgh who, having presented Russia with the women's trophy, had to leave for his next engagement before he could hand out the men's prize.

When the news came through, however, it confirmed that Britain, who trailed Germany by 4 1/ 2 points going into the relay, had taken the prize by finishing five places ahead of them in second place.

It was appropriate that the stadium Tannoy should play David Bowie's "Heroes" while the result was pending. Despite the fact that 16 athletes had made their excuses in the fortnight since the British team was announced - two of them, Katharine Merry and Jason Gardener, having to pull out half an hour before their events - those who gathered under the Union Jack here did themselves and their country proud. While the men took the honours, the women were also required to operate above and beyond their expectations in order to avoid relegation.

Saturday's winning performances by Larry Achike (triple jump), Chris Rawlinson (400m hurdles), Darren Campbell, who came in for Gardener at 100m, Jamie Baulch (400m) and the 4x100m team put Britain's men into a two-point lead at the halfway stage which they could hardly have expected given the way their preparations had gone.

Like sprinters approaching the line, the question for Britain's teams on the second day appeared to be one of limiting deceleration as much as possible. The spirit was willing, but the personnel simply did not appear to be there. There was no Colin Jackson, no Steve Backley, no Jonathan Edwards.

As it turned out, there were only two more victories - Christian Malcolm, as expected, in the 200m, and - most unexpectedly - Helen Pattinson in the 1500m. But such was the quality of the supporting cast that no more were required.

Before the competition got underway, Britain's team manager Max Jones had attempted to invoke the spirit of St Petersburg, harking back to the occasion two years ago when Britain's men, led by Roger Black, had unexpectedly secured the trophy with a second-day charge. That seemed a forlorn hope until the concluding stages of this competition. But suddenly it became an absurd possibility. By the conclusion, Jones was comparing his squad to Manchester United's.

"Only three events from the end it suddenly dawned on me we could win," he said. "I suddenly remembered that the Germans were weak in the 400m relay. It was just one of those days when everybody performed either beyond their best or to their maximum. To have 10 of our best male athletes missing and still win is an incredible achievement."

He singled out Campbell and Donna Fraser, who took second place in Merry's place as well as playing a key part in the decisive 400m relay, as typifying the general team spirit. "Psychologically, going into the Olympics it gives us enormous confidence," he added. "But we will reflect on Monday to see if we can avoid having this level of withdrawals for future events."

Britain's men won this trophy for the fourth time thanks to an adrenaline-charged performance in the concluding 400m relay. After Richard Knowles had kept the team in contention on the opening leg, Sean Balcock moved them up to third with a lap of committed running, handing over to the hero of the opening track event, Rawlinson.

By the time Baulch received the baton, he was in second place, and a characteristically extravagant burst of acceleration on the back straight saw him move five metres into the lead. It turned out to be a misjudged effort, as the French runner moved past him with 30 metres to go. But Baulch, it turned out, had done enough.

"I went a bit mad on the back straight, and I didn't realise the French guy was there until too late," Baulch said. "But all in all it's an amazing result, especially when you consider how many weren't here. It just shows that athletics is first and foremost of all sports in Britain."

On a day when Britain's tennis players suffered relegation, that was a contention it was hard to argue against.

"I'm very proud to be captain of a team which has shown such great spirit," said Weir, who took fourth in the discus with 60.78 metres in an event won by Germany's Lars Reidel in 63.30. Weir had double reason for celebration - Adam Nelson, one of the throwers he coaches at Stanford University, had qualified for an Olympic shot putt place after winning the US trials.

Despite the unexpected opening flourish of a victory for Pattinson in the 1500m, the women's team, who were just one place above the two relegation positions overnight, had to beat Ukraine in the final event of the day, the 400m relay, to maintain their position in the Super League.

They did so in fine style, aided by an outstanding third leg from Allison Curbishley, the Commonwealth silver medallist, running her first international event after a two-year absence through injury.

GATESHEAD RESULTS

MEN

100m: 1 D Campbell (GB) 10.09sec; 2 R Nemeth (Hun) 10.19; 3 A Colombo (It) 10.23; 4 A Ryabov (Rus) 10.31; 5 A Pavlakakis (Gr) 10.36.

200m: 1 C Malcolm (GB) 20.45; 2 A Cavallaro (It) 20.48; 3 K Kenderis (Gr) 20.48; 4 C Cheval (Fr) 20.59.

400m: 1 J Baulch (GB) 46.64; 2 A Attene (It) 46.71; 3 J Laursen (Swe) 46.93; 4 A Semyonov (Rus) 47.10.

800m: 1 M Baala (Fr) 1:47.90; 2 N Schumann (Ger) 1:47.94; 3 B Koranyi (Hun) 1:48.52; 4 A Longo (It) 1:49.01; 5 A Donaldson (GB) 1:49.17.

1500m: 1 M Baala (Fr) 3:41.75; 2 J Mayock (GB) 3:42.32; 3 V Shabunin (Rus) 3:42.44; 4 P Stroubakos (Gr) 3:42.95.

3,000m: 1 D Maazouzi (Fr) 7:58.7; 2 V Shabunin (Rus) 7:59.0; 3 A Whiteman (GB) 8:01.0; 4 J Arndt (Ger) 8:02.2.

5,000m: 1 M Essaid (Fr) 13:47.44; 2 D Maksimov (Rus) 13:48.43; 3 S Hallmann (Ger) 13:49.95; 4 G Di Napoli (It) 13:51.34; 5 A Papantonis (Gr) 14:01.01; 6 K Bowditch (GB) 14:03.10.

3,000m steeplechase: 1 B Tahri (Fr) 8:27.28; 2 D Kallabis (Ger) 8:29.16; 3 G Maffei (It) 8:34.47; 4 G Giannelis (Gr) 8:34.80; 5 V Pronin (Rus) 8:45.69; 6 H Skoog (Swe) 8:47.64; 7 S Stokes (GB) 8:53.90.

110m hurdles: 1 F Balzer (Ger) 13.52; 2 E Pizzolo (It) 13.54; 3 R Kronberg (Swe) 13.67; 4 D Greaves (GB) 13.80.

400m hurdles: 1 C Rawlinson (GB) 48.84; 2 R Maschenko (Rus) 49.19; 3 F Mori (It) 49.98.

High jump: 1 S Holm (Swe) 2.28m; 2 W Kreissig (Ger) 2.25; 3= S Klyugin (Rus), L Papakostas (Gr) 2.20; 6= I Bernasconi (It), B Challenger (GB) 2.15.

Long jump: 1 V Shkurlatov (Rus) 8.22; 2 K Prah (Ger) 8.15; 3 P Haggstrom (Swe) 8.08; 7 N Morgan (GB) 7.57; 8 T Margl (Hun) 7.51.

Triple jump: 1 L Achike (GB) 17.31m; 2 F Donato (It) 17.17l; 3 S Lenis (Gr) 17.01.

Shot: 1 P Dal Soglio (It) 19.99; 2 M Mertens (Ger) 19.71; 3 J Nordin (Swe) 19.46; 8 M Edwards (GB) 17.59.

Discus: 1 L Riedel (Ger) 63.30m; 2 R Fazekas (Hun) 62.15; 3 V Sidorov (Rus) 60.91; 4 R Weir (GB) 60.78.

Hammer: 1 C Epalle (Fr) 78.51m; 2 A Papadimitriou (Gr) 77.64; 3 K Kobs (Ger) 77.55; 7 P Head (GB) 67.75.

Javelin: 1 S Makarov (Rus) 89.92m; 2 K Gatsioudis (Gr) 84.56; 3 B Henry (Ger) 82.83; 5 M Hill (GB) 80.24.

Pole vault: 1 Y Smiryagin (Rus) 5.85m; 2 T Lobinger (Ger) 5.75; 3 P Kristiansson (Swe) 5.70; 6 T Thomas (GB) 5.40.

4x100m relay: 1 Great Britain 38.41; 2 Greece 38.67; 3 Italy 39.17; 4 France 39.40; 5 Germany 39.52; 6 Sweden 39.82. Dnf: Russia. Disq: Hungary.

4x400m: 1 France 3:04.50; 2 Great Britain 3:05.24; 3 Hungary 3:05.88; 4 Greece 3:05.89; 5 Italy 3:06.02; 6 Sweden 3:06.35; 7 Germany 3:07.15. Disq: Russia.

OVERALL

1 Britain 101.5pts 2 Germany 101 3 France 97 4 Italy 96.5 5 Russia 88.5 6 Greece 88.5 7 Sweden 75 8 Hungary 62

WOMEN

100m: 1 E Thanou (Gr) 10.84; 2 C Arron (Fr) 11.02; 3 M Levorato (It) 11.13; 4 A Philipp (Ger) 11.15; 5 I Pukha (Ukr) 11.23; 6 M Tradenkova (Rus) 11.24; 7 M Richardson (GB) 11.47.

200m: 1 M Hurtis (Fr) 22.70; 2 N Voronova (Rus) 22.81; 3 A Philip (Ger) 22.88; 4 M Levorato (It) 22.89; 5 V Fomenko (Ukr) 23.03; 6 D Fraser (GB) 23.14.

400m: 1 S Pospelova (Rus) 50.63; 2 D Fraser (GB) 51.78; 3 U Rohlander (Ger) 52.17; 4 V De Angeli (It) 52.85.

800m: 1 I Mistyukevich (Rus) 2:02.52; 2 L Kisabaka (Ger) 2:03.88; 3 P Djate (Fr) 2:04.44; 4 T Blake (GB) 2:04.71.

1500m: 1 H Pattinson (GB) 4:12.05; 2 Y Zadorozhnaya (Rus) 4:12.20; 3 K Da Fonseca (Ger) 4:13.11; 4 F Yvelain (Fra) 4:13.97.

3,000m: 1 G Szabo (Rom) 8:43.33; 2 G Bogomolova (Rus) 8:43.45; 3 H Tullett (GB) 8:45.39; 4 L Zaituc (Ger) 9:03.20.

5,000m: 1 T Tomashova (Rus) 14:53.00 (NR); 2 I Mikitenko (Ger) 14:54.30; 3 Y Belkacem (Fr) 14:57.05; 4 M Viceonte (It) 15:18.80; 5 E Fidatov (Rom) 15:25.42; 6 H Yelling (GB) 15:36.27.

100m hurdles: 1 L Ferga (Fr) 12.93; 2 M Shemchishina (Ukr) 12.95; 3 Y Graudyn (Rus) 13.08; 4 K Maddox (GB) 13.15.

400m hurdles: 1 T Tereshchuk (Ukr) 54.68; 2 U Urbansky (Ger) 56.10; 3 M Niedsdtatter (It) 56.33; 4 K Maddox (GB) 56.36.

High jump: 1 M Dinescu (Rom) 1.93m; 2 Y Lyakhova (Rus) 1.91; 3 J Jennings-Steele (GB) 1.86; 4 A Mensah (Ger) 1.83.

Long jump: 1 O Rublyova (Rus) 6.87m; 2 O Shekhovtsova (Ukr) 6.79; 3 F May (It) 6.74; 4 S Tiedtke (Ger) 6.46; 5 C Athanasiou (Gr) 6.29; 7 J Johnson (GB) 6.15.

Triple jump: 1 T Lebedeva (Rus) 14.98m; 2 O Govorova (Ukr) 14.31; 3 B Lah (It) 13.86; 4 A Gavrila (Rom) 13.85; 5 S Domain (Fr) 13.54; 6 N Herschmann (Ger) 13.51; 7 M Griffith (GB) 13.50.

Shot: 1 A Kumbernuss (Ger) 18.94m; 2 K Ouzouni (Gr) 18.16; 3 J Oakes (GB) 18.08.

Discus: 1 N Grasu (Rom) 63.35; 2 I Wyludda (Ger) 62.45; 3 A Kelesidou (Gre) 62.30; 4 O Chernyavskaya (Rus) 62.20; 5 N Robert-Michon (Fr) 57.74; 8 S Drew (GB) 52.74.

Hammer: 1 M Melinte (Rom) 70.20; 2 O Kuzenkova (Rus) 70.20; 3 K Munchow (Ger) 68.31; 5 L Shaw (GB) 67.44 (NR).

Javelin: 1 A Termure (Rom) 63.23; 2 T Shikolenko (Rus) 60.41; 3 M Tzelili (Gr) 57.84; 8 K Martin (GB) 51.08.

Pole vault: 1 S Feofanova (Rus) 4.35 (CR), 2 Y Buschbaum (Ger) 4.30; 3 F Dolcini (It) 4.20; 4 J Whitlock (GB) 4.10.

4x100m relay: 1 France 42.97; 2 Russia 43.38; 3 Germany 43.51; 4 Greece 43.76; 5 Ukraine 43.89; 6 Italy 44.00; 7 Romania 44.42. Disq: Great Britain.

4x400m relay: 1 Russia 3:25.50; 2 Germany 3:27.70; 3 Great Britain 3:28.12; 4 Italy 3:23.23; 5 France 3:33.16; 6 Romania 3:34.65. Disq: Greece & Ukraine.

OVERALL

1 Russia 123pts 2 Germany 110 3 France 86 4 Romania 80 5 Italy 78 6 Britain 77 7 Ukraine 70 8 Greece 55

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