Oyepitan lone light as British sprinters falter

British sprinting encountered the harsh reality of world athletics here last night as Darren Campbell and Christian Malcolm failed to reach today's 200 metres final and Abi Oyepitan finished equal last in the women's 200m final, which was won by Veronica Campbell of Jamaica in 22.05sec.

Oyepitan had already surpassed expectations by becoming the first British woman to reach an Olympic sprint final since Kathy Cook in 1984, but she was never in contention as Campbell was followed home by the 18-year-old US runner Allyson Felix in a world junior record of 22.18sec, with Debbie Ferguson, of the Bahamas, taking bronze in 22.30.

The Briton was unable to reproduce the form that had seen her reduce her personal best to 22.50 in the earlier rounds, but at least by her presence she had ensured that media statements suggesting no British sprinters would reach finals here was, strictly speaking, incorrect.

"I was more fatigued than I thought I would be but I can work on that,' said Oyepitan. "There has been nothing quite like this and hopefully next year in the World Championships I can be even stronger."

No one would have thought a year ago, or even a month ago, that the 24-year-old Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier would be the only UK athlete to make a sprint final here. But her male counterparts have been ravaged by illness or injury in their preparations for these Games. It is fair to say the sprint relay hopes are looking fragile.

Darren Campbell was clearly labouring because of the hamstring injury he suffered a week before the track and field programme got underway, finishing last in 20.89 in a race won easily by Shawn Crawford of the United States in 20.05.

Afterwards, the 2000 Olympic silver medallist reacted strongly to criticism of the British sprinters' preparation made on BBC TV by Colin Jackson and Michael Johnson.

"To be ridiculed like that is disgraceful," he said. "I tore my hamstring but I don't know how to give up. If they want to see the scans they can ­ I don't lie and I don't quit. I spoke to my girlfriend after the first round of the 200m and I was in tears on my bed, and she told me to come home, but I thought I would try the second round, and I made it through to the semis.

"I have been having treatment from 8.30am until 12.30am just to get me on the track and it is only thanks to the medical team that I was out there today. I was hoping to make this my last championships but after a bad Games I cannot leave it like that. I am going to have to re-think and come back in four years."

Malcolm, who had to spend five days in hospital with kidney failure before travelling to Athens, had also done as much as could be expected of him in the circumstances by reaching this stage, and his exit was just as predictable. He finished seventh in 20.77sec.

Allen Johnson, the world 110m hurdles champion, brought his illustrious Olympic career to a crashing conclusion after stumbling on the penultimate barrier in his heat and diving through the last one like a performing dog.

The former Olympic champion, who has also won five world titles in the last nine years, remained prostrate on the track in contemplation of his unfortunate fate, although he looked as if he was struggling to qualify after hitting three previous hurdles. Johnson clattered his way to gold in Atlanta in 1996, running through rather than over most of the barriers. But at 33 he must soon acknowledge an unavoidable truth ­ every dog has his day.

Fani Halkia delivered the Greek nation their Cathy Freeman moment, rising to home expectation and delivering track gold just as the Australian did at the Sydney Games.

Halkia won the 400m hurdles in 52.82sec after pulling away over the final 30 metres from a field which included the desperately struggling world champion, Jana Pittman. The Australian was competing just 17 days after a knee operation after which she was offered only a one per cent chance of reaching the Games by her surgeon. She finished fifth after flagging in the home straight. The packed 70,000 crowd, meanwhile, were flagging madly in their own blue and white fashion.

Halkia's rapid improvement this season ­ she began with a best of 56.40sec ­ raised numerous media queries after her race, but she responded by saying the last winter had been her first injury-free training period since 1998.

Earlier in the evening, the Games were assured of their climactic Olympic confrontation as Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj, champions here already, made certain of their progress to Saturday's 5,000 metres final, where the Ethiopian's immoveable power and the Moroccan's irresistible acceleration are set to meet in earnest.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before