Long wait for John's silver

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JASON JOHN earned Britain's first medal of the European Indoor Championships here yesterday with silver in the 60 metres final, controversially postponed from Friday night

But for an excruciating turn of events in the women's shot putt, Britain would have had a second medal. Judy Oakes, who won a bronze at these championships 17 years ago, saw Valentina Fedyushina of the Ukraine send the very last throw of the competition to 18.90m to displace the Briton from third place. "I didn't need to see it hit the sand," Oakes said.

For John, however, there was cause for celebration as he claimed his first individual medal at a major chapionship with a time of 6.64sec, 0.02 behind the German winner, Marc Blume.

Before the event began, attention was on another Jason as the sprinter most likely to head Britain's challenge for a title won on the last three occasions by Linford Christie, Jason Livingston and Colin Jackson.

Jason Gardener's early season time of 6.55sec raised many expectations, but when he went out in the first round after being put off by a false start, it was Jason from Birmingham, rather than Jason from Bath, who found himself the centre of interest.

"I needed this," John said. "I am 24 now and I don't want to be just winning relay medals."

Had everything gone according to schedule, John would have been back home yesterday afternoon, catching up with his Leisure Management course at a Birmingham college.

The mix-up over the previous night's semi-final, when the runners completed the race without realising that there had been a false start, caused the final to be rescheduled, at first to later on Friday evening, and then to yesterday. John, who compared the organisation unfavourably to the English Schools Championship, nevertheless found the wait worthwhile.

"My initial reaction was one of disappointment, because I honestly thought I could win. With no disrespect to the others, I thought this was probably one of the easier championships going because a lot of leading competitors were not here."

The same could not be said of Oakes's event, which included the world champion Astrid Kumbernuss and two others from the world's top five this season.

Oakes moved up to the silver medal position with her second from last effort of 18.72m, only two centimetres below her 10-year-old best. It looked as if, at 38, she was about to claim a second medal in these championships. A distance of 19.07 by Irina Khudorzkhina of Russia with the third last throw of the event dropped her down to the bronze medal position. And then the giant figure of Fedyushina strode forward. "To have come so close, and then finished fourth, it is hard," Oakes said.

That sentiment was understandable, but one could argue that Ashia Hansen fared worse than Oakes yesterday after failing to record a single legal effort in the triple jump final. She has failed to qualify in her last three major championships, and appeared to have done the hard part here in reaching the final with some assurance.

With a best of 14.58m this year she seemed well placed to challenge for the title. But her poise deserted her as she faced a third jump needing to register a respectable distance in order to go on and take a further three attempts, and she put her foot over the line. "I know I should have moved my jump back," she said. "But I just went for it." And went out for it. The gold went to Bulgaria's Iva Prandzheva in 84.54, four centimetres below Hansen's Commonwealth record.

Dalton Grant, Britain's defending champion in the high jump, went out of the qualifying after failing to clear 2.19m. He must have wished he had stuck to his original decision to end his indoor season because of hamstring injury. Du'Aine Ladejo, Britain's other gold medallist of 1994 competing here, moved easily through to today's 400m final in 46.74sec. Anthony Whiteman also impressed in reaching today's 1500m final.

The top performance of the day came in the women's 3,000m, Fernando Ribeiro of Portugal winning in 8min 39.49sec, the third fastest ever.

l World record holder Colin Jackson pulled out of the 110m hurdles final at the Australian national championships yesterday after injuring a groin muscle in winning his semi-final.