Uplifted Grant rises to occasion

English athletes hit the heights
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The Independent Online
PERSISTENCE, THAT under-rated virtue, earned a golden pay-off for three English athletes here yesterday. Dalton Grant, in the high jump, Jo Wise, in the long jump, and Julian Golding, in the 200m, all claimed first major titles at the end of a season in which all three have struggled against adversity.

Their efforts contributed to a day in which the English medal tally reached nine, with Wales - for whom the world junior champion, Christian Malcolm, finished runner-up to Golding - collecting another.

For Grant, now 32, this was the first outdoor gold of an international career which began at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. Two months ago, hindered by a knee injury, his form was dismal. But by his own admission, Grant is an athlete who needs the big occasion to draw the best out of himself.

His career is dotted with instances when he has gambled audaciously, coming into competition at ambitious heights and frequently clearing them - but until yesterday, the only gold he had to show for his efforts was the one he won at the European indoor championships in 1994.

Now he has another, thanks to a 2.31 metres clearance which proved too much for his England colleague Ben Challenger, who took silver with 2.28m, and Australia's defending champion, Tim Forsyth, third with the same height.

This was a relatively steady performance from Grant after his rush of blood to the head at last month's European Championships, where he had to settle for silver after skipping the height of 2.36 which Artur Partyka of Poland subsequently cleared to win.

Grant's uninspiring performance at last weekend's World Cup in the cold of Johannesburg was a false indicator. "When you come to a major championship you've got to go for it," he said.

"I always seemed to have come fourth in the past. This is the first time outside where I can stand and see the flag go up just for me."

In a year where Britain's Olympic bronze medallist, Steve Smith, has been lost to injury, the senior partner has come good to fill the void. European silver, Commonwealth gold - and Grant has not finished there.

"I've got three more years left, and I'm going to go out with a bang," he said.

Golding earned his 200m win with a personal best of 20.18sec which made him the third fastest Briton of all time behind Linford Christie and John Regis. The latter took the bronze here in 20.40sec behind Malcolm, whose time of 20.29 was a UK junior record.

Golding, a 23-year-old from Blackheath whose athletic talent is matched by his ability as a keyboard player in the local church gospel band - reclaimed his year after two juddering disappointments. In March, he failed to live up to his position as favourite at the European indoor championships; and last month he was bitterly disappointed at winning only a bronze in the European Championship.

The 200m here was diminished by the decision of the three 100m medallists, Ato Boldon, Frankie Fredericks and Obadeleh Thompson, not to contest it. But as Golding pointed out, he could do no more than beat the field assembled. Scotland's European champion, Doug Walker, was never in contention, hampered by a knee problem and a virus. But Golding showed the elegance which has flashed fitfully all year to move smoothly away from the field, finishing a metre clear with both arms in the air.

"I was determined not to make the same mistake I had in the European Championships," Golding said. "I was going to run my own race here even if I was last coming off the bend. But at 50m out I knew no one was going to come past me. At the Europeans, I was asleep. Now I am awake. And I sincerely believe there is more to come." There will be more, too, from Malcolm, who has been rewarded for extending a season which peaked a month ago with two world junior gold medals.

For Jo Wise, yesterday's achievement - a personal best of 6.63m to wrest the title from the Australian holder, Nicole Boegman - marked the high point of a career which had been all but ended by injury. The 27-year- old computer software saleswoman made a comeback to the sport in 1996 after a three-year absence during which she had three knee operations. Another knee operation was required at Christmas, and she was unable to start sprinting until May.

"The aim at the start of the season was just to get into the team," Wise said. "I'm a bit overwhelmed by the victory. Coming here I thought I could get a medal but I wasn't expecting gold."

Lisa Kehler contributed England's first medal of the day, a bronze in the 10km walk. In the javelin, Karen Martin and Kirsty Morrison took silver and bronze with personal bests of 57.82m and 56.34 respectively. And in the 800m, Diane Modahl won a precious bronze in 1min 58.81sec - her best time for eight years.

Games results, page 14