Lorraine Shaw yesterday became England's first gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games in circumstances that must have surpassed her wildest dreams.
The 34-year-old Gloucester-born hammer thrower, competing here for local club Sale Harriers, went one better than the silver medal she won in Kuala Lumpur four years ago with a third-round effort of 66.83 metres, a Games record, which regained the lead from the event favourite and Commonwealth title holder, Bronwyn Eagles of Australia, who managed 65.24.
Shaw, who had been the leading qualifier with 66.10, heard rather than saw her gold medal confirmed as Eagles, taking the penultimate throw of the event, sent her hammer clanging into the surrounding cage. There was a momentary pause before she was acclaimed by the huge appreciative audience.
Shaw, after over-excitedly putting her own final throw into the netting, then charged out to the infield, a tiger uncaged, her hair covered in a George Cross bandanna and her right arm pumping the air. The stadium was in uproar as she ran in a crazy semi-circle before returning to embrace the silver medallist.
Then, after tearfully embracing her coach, Alan Bertram, she set off on a thunderous lap of honour, jumping over the advertising boardings to get closer to the crowd.
It was a perfect moment for an athlete who was almost lost to the sport in 1996 when she had a disc removed from her back which caused her to miss nearly two years of competition. She now competes with four pins and a metal sheet in her back. ''It's absolutely wicked,'' said Shaw. "I'm on top of the world. My family watched me win and the crowd were brilliant. It was also my coach's first gold medal in the sport after more than 25 years,'' she said in her bubbling West country burr.
Meanwhile, England's sprinters Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis are safely through to keep alive the prospect of a riveting race in today's 100 metres final. Lewis-Francis goes into this evening's semi-final as the fastest qualifier after winning his second round in 10.13sec, 0.04 faster than Chambers' earlier effort. England's third man, Jason Gardener, also made it through, albeit narrowly as he took the fourth and final qualifying place in his heat in a time of 10.33.
The task of succeeding the absent Ato Boldon as Commonwealth 100m champion became appreciably easier just after 9am yesterday when it was announced that Frankie Fredericks, twice an Olympic silver medallist at the distance, was not taking up his place in order to concentrate on the 200m here. Obadele Thompson of Barbados, the Olympic bronze medallist will also miss out, having carried an injury into these Games and was unable to continue after qualifying from his opening heat.
Chambers was full of confidence after his second race of the day, although he acknowledged that he had been glad to get the first race over without mishap after finishing last in the AAA 200m final suffering from a calf cramp. "My confidence was never knocked and I came here still as a major contender for the gold medal,'' he said. "But I haven't run a 100 in almost a month and I was glad to get it out of the way. I got a poor start in the opening heat but I'm not worried. I'm not going to change anything at this point.''
Britain's veteran discus thrower, Robert Weir, yesterday put himself within range of earning a Commonwealth medal 20 years after winning the hammer event at the Games of 1982.
The 41-year-old Birchfield Harrier, who took a break of almost a decade in the middle of his career in order to play American football in the United States and Canada, goes into this evening's discus final as the fourth-highest qualifier.
Rob Denmark's last major championship track race in a 10,000 metres event he won in Victoria eight years ago ended when he ran onto the infield to remonstrate with a thoughtless television cameraman, who had cut in front of him as he set out for his final lap in order to get pictures of the Kenyan gold and silver medallists, respectively Wilberforce Palel and Paul Malakwen.
It was an unfortunate end to a distinguished international career for Denmark, whose father and coach David died unexpectedly earlier this year, after finishing twelfth in 29 min 08.59 sec, he was eventually accompanied from the track by Scotland's Glen Stewart.
The medals were decided in a bewildering final 30 metres which saw John Korir Cheruyiot lose what looked like a decisive lead and eventually stumble into fourth place as the man who took on the pace for much of the race, John Yuda of Tanzania, came through for tangible reward.
Talel's winning time of 27:45.39, just 0.07 sec ahead of the silver medallist, was a Games record. All four men finished within less than half a second of each other.
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