Idowu lives up to his billing on good night for British hopefuls

Mike Rowbottom
Saturday 26 July 2008 00:00
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Christine Ohuruogu and Phillips Idowu restated their contention for Olympic glory last night as they achieved satisfactory victories in the 400m and triple jump respectively in the London Grand Prix – even if Ohuruogu appeared less than satisfied.

Kelly Sotherton, heptathlon bronze medallist at the Athens 2004 Games, also had a profitable evening as she produced an unexpected personal best of 6.79m in the long jump before being involved in a bizarre 100m hurdles race that had to be re-run at the end of the evening after a misplaced row of hurdles caused comic scenes.

Earlier, the Commonwealth and world 400m champion had seen off the challenge of the woman who took silver to her gold at last year's World Championships, fellow Briton Nicola Sanders, in what was their first meeting of the season, and Ohuruogu's last race before Beijing.

But the former netball international described her winning time of 50.80sec – more than a second outside her personal best – as "rubbish." She conceded afterwards that she was not unhappy in leading home a British 1-2-3, with Scotland's Lee McConnell following Sanders home, but added: "I just wanted to run faster. I just compare this race to my pre-World Championship meet, which was a bit faster. But it's OK." Now bring on Sanya Richards.

Sanders, whose early season preparations were hampered by a knee problem, indicated by winning last month's European Cup 400m that she had caught up with her form.

"I would like to have won, but this will not affect my confidence for Beijing," Sanders said after clocking 51.27sec, with McConnell recording 51.53.

Idowu, meanwhile, lived up to his billing as Britain's Olympic favourite – if one dare use that combination of words at such a sensitive time – by winning with the three best performances of the night, culminating in a final effort of 17.42m. Encouragingly, fellow Brits Nathan Douglas and Larry Achike bettered 17m in second and third place respectively.

Idowu's first decent effort – 17.09m – occurred during a presentation by UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner to the recently retired and much missed decathlete Dean Macey. Every supporter of British athletics will hope that Idowu does not emulate the injury-prone Macey in terms of being an athlete who never quite reaps the benefits of his vast natural talents.

Sotherton, one of Britain's most realistic Olympic medal prospects, got her evening under way in encouraging fashion in a four-event challenge which concludes with a shot putt and 200m today as she produced a long jump which, by her own admission, she had not expected.

Following her recovery from a kidney infection which cost her three weeks of training, this was a very timely turn of events for the world bronze medallist. "It was one of those jumps where you just get everything together. I admit it's taken me completely by surprise," she said. "I didn't expect to be jumping that well until three weeks' time. I have had so many issues this year with injury and illness so I am delighted. This is a real confidence booster."

That confidence was jolted during the 100m hurdles, however, as Sotherton, who started well, bridled at the third obstacle like a distracted Grand National challenger before leaping high over it as if she had not expected the obstacle to be where it was. She hopped and jogged down the rest of the course, clearly unhappy, and she did not seem to be the only one.

The incident was unhappily reminiscent of the more serious timing mechanism error which occurred here in the 100m five years ago when Dwain Chambers was wrongly credited with a time almost half a second inside the world record and the first five finishers were eventually credited with 10.00sec each.

"It was a genuine mistake," said meeting director Jon Ridgeon. "The hurdles were misplaced. We confirmed that the athletes were happy to re-run the race, and apologised to them for any difficulties it had caused them."

Sotherton eventually finished fourth in 13.66sec in a race that passed off without any further cause for comment – or indeed embarrassment.

Another of the domestic hopes for Beijing glory next month, Andy Baddeley, gained a similar boost in the Emsley Carr mile as he finished second, ahead of Olympic favourite Bernard Lagat.

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