Macey and Oyepitan raise spirits for Britain

The morning after the night before - after Paula Radcliffe's tearful marathon exit, after Phillips Idowu's failure to get a distance on the board in the triple jump final, after the conspicuous absence of a British sprinter from the men's 100m final - there was a ray of sunshine for the track and field branch of Team GB in the Athenian Olympic Stadium.

The morning after the night before - after Paula Radcliffe's tearful marathon exit, after Phillips Idowu's failure to get a distance on the board in the triple jump final, after the conspicuous absence of a British sprinter from the men's 100m final - there was a ray of sunshine for the track and field branch of Team GB in the Athenian Olympic Stadium.

Dean Macey would have provided a shaft of it by his presence alone, and the charismatic Canvey Islander got to grips with the opening session of the decathlon with typically refreshing zeal - and not a little success. It was the young Londoner Abi Oyepitan, though, who shone brightest in a Great Britain vest in the morning session yesterday.

Britain's male speed merchants might have gone into neutral this summer, if not reverse, but Oyepitan is threatening to take British women's sprinting into the global fast lane for the first time since Kathy Cook hung up her racing spikes in 1986.

Having missed the cut for the 100m final by just one place, the 24-year-old Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier gathered further momentum with a scorchingly quick run in the first round of the 200m.

Competing in heat four, Oyepitan stuck close to the heels of Allyson Felix, the teenage sensation who has been rewriting Marion Jones's age-group records in the United States, and was rewarded with a time of 22.50sec - an improvement of 0.19sec on her previous best, and a performance bettered on the British all-time ranking list only by Cook's 20-year-old national record, 22.10sec.

Only Felix, with 22.39sec, and Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands, with 22.40sec, managed faster times, putting Oyepitan ahead of such sprinting luminaries as Merlene Ottey and Christine Arron. Joice Maduaka also made it through to the quarter-finals, albeit with a more modest 23.15sec.

By the standards Macey set as a medallist at the 1999 and 2001 World Championships, his opening effort in the decathlon was modest, too. Then again, having endured three years on the sidelines with a hamstring injury and scraped into the British team with a last-ditch qualifying score at Hexham, of all places, his 10.89sec 100m run was really something to shout about.

It was half a second faster than the 26-year-old man had managed at Hexham, and it gave him a solid enough foothold in the 39-strong competition, with 885 points in 15th place. It also happened to be bang on the button of Macey's declared target, and it was followed by an even more impressive long jump.

Taking just one of his permitted three attempts, to avoid aggravating the still-troublesome hamstring, he broke the sand at 7.47m and moved up to ninth place overall. Better things were to come, too, in the shot put.

Venturing within 4cm of his lifetime best with a distance of 15.73m, Macey moved up again in the standings. After three events, he was lying seventh with 2,647 points - 140 points behind the medal positions, occupied by Bryan Clay of the United States, Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan, and the world record holder, Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic.

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