Student sport: Challenger rises to occasion to lay his Boswell jinx

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The Independent Online
THE HIGH JUMPER Ben Challenger, with a personal best 2.30- metre leap, was flying high last night as he delivered Britain's only gold medal of the World Student Games. Challenger was greeted with a fly-past of Spanish fighter jets as he received his medal at the Son Moix Stadium.

Britain's 4x400m relay teams also took medals, the men winning silver and the women bronze on the final day of the Games. Britain's medal tally at the 10-day multi-sports festival was one gold, two silvers and six bronze.

Challenger had come to Palma rated only the fifth best jumper, but he won the test of nerves against Canada's Mark Boswell. Ever since they first competed at the World Juniors in 1996, where Challenger took the silver, the Loughborough student has always been beaten by Boswell, who came to the meeting with a best five centimetres higher than Challenger's 2.28.

That counted for nothing here as Challenger's cleaner jumping record at earlier heights gave him the advantage on countback throughout the competition, but when Challenger had his third failure at 2.32m, Boswell had a chance to snatch the competition. He seemed to sail over the bar with his last effort, landed, and for a moment the bar stayed in place, only to fall a fraction later.

"Whoever jumped 2.32 would have deserved to win," Challenger said. "I'm absolutely ecstatic with that. I knew that first-time clearances were going to be important, and that's the way it worked out."

The men's 440m relay quartet of Richard Knowles, Jared Deacon, Chris Rawlinson and Geoff Dearman were easily second best behind the United States, but the women's foursome had to battle the whole way. Natasha Danvers handed over a slight lead, but when Dawn Higgins came to pass the baton to Leigh McConnell, congestion in the changeover area nearly ended their challenge.

McConnell, whose individual event is the high jump, had to leap over a fallen Russian to avoid crashing to the ground. She got around her lap safely enough after that, and Sinead Dudgeon brought the team home for bronze behind the Americans and Russians.