Athletics: Rawlinson redeemed by first major title

By Mike Rowbottom
Sunday 08 December 2013 02:49
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English honour was satisfied here last night as Chris Rawlinson lived up to his status as favourite in the 400 metres hurdles to earn his country's third track and field gold of the Games, and the 200m sprinters Marlon Devonish and Darren Campbell profited where their 100m counterparts had lost out to take silver and bronze respectively behind the triumphantly re-emergent figure of Frankie Fredericks.

It was another occasion where hope turned into glory for England as Jade Johnson, with an effort of 6.58m, added to the medal tally with a silver in the long jump, and Ben Challenger, Kelly Morgan and Irie Hill contributed bronzes from the high jump, javelin and pole vault respectively.

The men's 200m provided the evening with an emotional high point which centred upon the figure of Darren Campbell, the flag-bearer for the British team, who had said he would have been prepared to retire at the age of 28 if he could have been guaranteed the 200m title in a stadium just a few miles from where he was brought up on Moss Side.

Campbell, whose participation in these Games was in extreme jeopardy six months after he was forced to pull out of the Trials with a chest infection, did not quite get his wish. After a poor semi-final run, he had to challenge from out in lane eight and faded over the final 30 metres. But after holding his head in his hands shortly after crossing the line, he collapsed forwards on to the track in joyful amazement at the digital news that he had earned a medal ahead of Dominic Demeritte, of the Bahamas, who was credited with the same time: 20.21sec.

Now Campbell shed tears of joy, wiping at them with the St George flag before settling out on a leisurely lap of honour in company with Devonish. The Coventry athlete, having the season of his life, had produced a personal best of 20.19 to win the silver and will go into next week's European Championships as a strong favourite, especially as he won the European Cup earlier this month.

Injuries have undermined Campbell's progress since he took the Olympic silver two years ago, but this was performance that made up for much.

"When you come through what I've been through and get to the Commonwealth Games and get a medal, that's an achievement," he said. "I've had to accept defeats before I could come back and be the champion I am. It's not always about coming out and winning gold medals, it's about coming back from adversity."

Fredericks, too, was overcome after earning the title in 20.06. The 34-year-old Namibian, who won this title in 1994, spent six months in Finland last year recovering from successive Achilles tendon operations that have put his career on hold for two years. "To win this is really special," he said.

As Rawlinson crossed the line to earn his gold his expression spoke of one thing: relief. The 30-year-old Yorkshireman came to this event in the invidious position of being strong favourite given his outstanding early season form, but he feared he might have undermined his hopes by giving himself food poisoning earlier this month after eating a piece of supermarket chicken he had left in his car during the sweltering heat of the European trials.

Two years ago at the Sydney Olympics he underperformed and failed to reach the final, and a year later, at the Edmonton World Championships, he won his semi-final in fine style but could only finish fifth.

This summer represented his opportunity to put that right, but had he managed to sabotage it? The answer, thankfully for him, was no as he took the gold medal with a committed, if technically undistinguished piece of running to cross the line in 49.14 ahead of the fast-finishing Welshman, Matt Elias, who clocked 49.28.

"Having seen some favourites not succeed in the last few days, I was a little bit scared that might happen to me," he said. "It was hard work out there, but I had to be counted today.

"After four years of attempting to win a medal, never mind a title, I can hardly explain how I feel right now. A week ago I was still like Caspar the Ghost. I didn't think I was going to make the start line. I wouldn't have been here had it not been for the medication."

Morgan, whose achievement in breaking the British record three times in the space of the last month raised hopes of her emulating Tessa Sanderson's Commonwealth javelin victory of 1986, had to settle for a bronze after a week in which her preparations had been disrupted by illness and an injured shoulder.

"I'm gutted," said the 22-year-old Army clerk said after seeing her leading first-round effort of 57.09m, well under her mark of 64.87m earlier this month, superseded first by Cecilia McIntosh of New Zealand, who took silver with 57.42, and then Laverne Eve, of the Bahamas, who won the title with 58.46.

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