Rawlinson vaults first hurdle in medal campaign

One of Britain's medal hopes was in impressive form on the fourth day of athletics action in Athens yesterday. Chris Rawlinson qualified for the semi-finals of the 400 metres hurdles as Dean Macey continued his improbable bid for a medal in the decathlon.

One of Britain's medal hopes was in impressive form on the fourth day of athletics action in Athens yesterday.

Chris Rawlinson qualified for the semi-finals of the 400 metres hurdles as Dean Macey continued his improbable bid for a medal in the decathlon.

Rawlinson was disappointed to finish third in his heat, but a time of 48.94sec indicated he was in good shape to challenge for the medals.

"My aim was to qualify first but I made a bit of an error off the eighth hurdle," said the 32-year-old from Rotherham.

"I looked across with 20 metres to go and could not see anybody but then they just came through and it was too late to react.

"It was a bit of an error but I don't mind if I get drawn in lane one in the semi-finals, I won the Europa Cup from there. I'm feeling good and I'm used to the temperature.

"I haven't raced for a few weeks so it was a case of blowing away the cobwebs. This is a really strong event. In 2000 only one guy ran under 49secs in the heats but there are a lot more doing it now."

The favourite, Felix Sanchez, who has not lost over the distance for more than three years, won his heat to ease into the semi-finals and Rawlinson added: "Felix is an incredible athlete but he is going to have to run a brilliant race to win here."

The Londoner Matt Douglas was unable to join Rawlinson in the semi-finals after finishing sixth in his heat, but was pleased to have raced at all after tearing his calf muscle earlier this month.

"I've been off the track for two weeks so I haven't done any preparation. To be honest I'm really happy to have just made the start line," he said.

Of the injury, he added: "I tore it the first day I arrived in Cyprus and again last Monday so the medical team have worked wonders.

"This is the most important show on earth so I just wanted to run. I couldn't hurdle warming up and then I hit the first hurdle which didn't help but my number one priority was just to run. To miss out on the Olympic Games is the most disappointing thing that can happen to an athlete."

In the boxing, Amir Khan's coach, Terry Edwards, insists that the British public have "not yet seen the best" of Khan. Edwards believes there is more to come, despite the brilliance of the youngster's win over Dimitar Stilianov in the last 16.

The 17-year-old faces South Korean Jong Sub Baik today in Athens for a place in the last four and a guaranteed bronze medal, the consolation prize for both losing semi-finalists.

Khan has grown in stature during the past week, overcoming a nervous start against Marios Kaperonis, of Greece, to stop him in the third round.

The young Briton's next opponent wasStilianov, a respected counter-puncher from Bulgaria. But Khan produced a performance of the highest quality, nailing his opponent almost at will in the last two rounds to secure an emphatic 37-21 points win.

"Stilianov is a clever boxer but he had to change his tactics in the fight and that suited us," said Edwards. "Amir took control of the bout and took him apart in the end. Amir's got fast feet and fast hands and the power came through in that fight. We upped the pace and Stilianov couldn't cope with that."

Khan, who is Team GB's only boxing representative in Athens, is thoroughly enjoying the whole Olympic experience and that is helping him to relax between fights.

"We're having a ball," added Edwards. "He lives for boxing and is enjoying the whole experience here. His confidence his high, but he's a level-headed young man who won't get carried away. He's just a 17-year-old with the world at his feet - and we have not yet seen the best of him at these Games. He's relishing the chance to fight again."

In the hockey competition, Great Britain were consigned to their worst finish at an Olympics for 36 years after a dreadful 8-2 defeat to Pakistan.

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