Swimming: British duet in tune for synchronised harmony: Shacklock and Vakil hold off the Italians to take bronze in European Championships in Sheffield

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KERRY SHACKLOCK and Laila Vakil earned Britain their first medal of the European Championships in Sheffield yesterday when they finished third in the synchronised swimming duet final behind Russia and France.

The success was particularly satisfying for Shacklock, a 21-year-old from Camberley, who finished fourth in the duet at the 1989 Europeans and two years ago was fourth in the team event in Athens.

For a while it looked as though her frustration might continue after Britain, with Shacklock included, again finished fourth in yesterday's team final, but she finally broke the sequence.

Vakil, a 19-year-old student from Farnborough, and Shacklock were awarded 176.298 for their four-minute routine which was enough to edge out their main challengers for the bronze, Italy.

'We've often come fourth and so it's good to break the tradition, as it were,' Shacklock said. 'We were a bit disappointed with our performance in the prelims but I think we rose to the occasion this afternoon.'

Shacklock could collect a second medal in today's solo event, where she stands third after the figures competition.

Simona Koch, of Germany, overcame the challenge of her two Russian rivals to win the women's one-metre springboard final which gave Germany their second diving title.

Koch emulated her compatriot, Peter Bohler, the men's one-metre winner on Saturday, by capturing the gold, but it was a much closer contest.

She trailed the former champion, Irina Lashko, by just under two points going into the fifth and last series in the final but overhauled her Russian rival to win by a narrow 2.7 points.

Vera Ilina, three-metre silver medallist at the 1991 European championships, finished less than a point back in third place and left Germany's defending champion, Brita Baldus, fourth and last but under two points further adrift.

Baldus, beaten by Lashko for the gold in 1989 but the winner ahead of the Russian in 1991, appeared to have set up another battle with her perennial rival after they amassed the highest scores in the semi-finals.

But 25-year-old Koch had other ideas and seized the lead with her first dive in the final, held a challenging second place for the next three dives and plunged to victory on the last.

Koch had never won a medal at a major international championship but showed no sign of being overawed by Lashko and Baldus, silver and bronze medallists respectively on the three-metre board at the World Championships and Olympics.

Second behind Ilina in the lower- scoring second semi-final, Koch kept her nerve and sealed the title with a reverse 11 2 twists with 11 2 somersaults which earned her 60.06 points.

'The competition was of a very high standard. Anyone could have won,' Koch, who earned 278.94 points in the final, said.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 27

(Photograph omitted)