On the final day of the European Championships in Gothenburg, the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team won five medals, increasing the medal tally to eleven and elevate the team to fourth on the placings table, behind Russia, Germany and Spain. The team medal haul surpassed the original stretch target of ten set by Performance Director Dave Collins earlier in the season.
The first event to get underway was the Men’s marathon. Dan Robinson (Stroud AC), Bronze medallist at the Commonwealth Games, was the first Briton home in 16th place. He suffered from a fast start, deciding not to follow his usual tactics: “I am very disappointed, the last lap of the course was hard. I went for it at the start and probably could have run a minute quicker had I not started so fast.” Huw Lobb (Bedford & County) was pleased with his run, finishing 20th in 2:17.17. He said: “I made a big decision not to go with the team at halfway. It worked out well and I caught them 5K later. I had a good finish.” Briton’s third finisher was Thomas Abyu (Salford Harriers), making his international debut. He clocked 2:20.45 for 27th place, coming through strongly in the last five kilometres having suffered from a bad stomach earlier in the race. He said: “I am very proud to represent Great Britain, I hope to run better next time.” Peter Riley (Leigh Harriers), who made his marathon debut in London this year, dropped out at around 14 miles, suffering from bad stomach cramps that worsened during the race.
Women’s 4 x 100m was the first relay of the afternoon and it turned out to be the first of five medals for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Anyika Onuora (Liverpool Harriers) got the team off to a good start and handed the baton to Emma Ania (Shaftesbury Barnet). Emily Freeman (Wakefield & District) ran a solid leg but the chance of a medal only looked possible as Joice Maduaka (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies) stormed into the home straight. Maduaka was a clear third, but didn’t give up on the chance of Silver as she stormed through the final 50m and passed the Belarusian in the final few strides, to stop the clock at 43.51 seconds. Russia won in 42.71 seconds. A delighted Maduaka said: “I knew the girl from Belarus was in sniffing distance, I just had to be patient and get there. We were really positive today, I just said to the girls, let’s go out there and we can win a medal and we did.”
The Men’s 800m final featured two young British athletes making their championship debut in Sweden. In another tactical race, Michael Rimmer (Liverpool, Pembroke & Sefton) moved up the closely packed field at the bell and moved to third down the back straight. At 200m to go, the pace wound up and Rimmer found himself moving back to fifth place. Sam Ellis (Barnsley AC) moved outside and seemed to be full of running, the Gold was still anyone’s. Coming into the home straight, the battle was on and Ellis found a gap through with only 40m remaining. He fought through and crossed the line in third place. Cheered on by his family sitting in the stands, 24 year old Ellis had taken a surprise Bronze, clocking 1:46.64, whilst Rimmer was disappointed to finish eighth in 1:47.66. The race was won by Bram Som (Netherlands) in 1:46.56.
After a shaking start in the first round, Ellis was over the moon, he said: “It’s brilliant, I can’t believe it. There was no pressure on me; I was just so pleased to make the final. With 30m to go, I saw the gap and went for it. I’m really glad to get a medal for the team.”
The Men’s 4 x 100m began with a false start, but when the gun fired the second time, Dwain Chambers (Belgrave Harriers) gave the British team a solid start and handed the baton to Darren Campbell (Sale Harriers). Marlon Devonish (Coventry Godiva) ran a good bend and the British quartet were on for Gold, as Devonish handed over to Mark Lewis-Francis (Birchfield Harriers) and took the lead after two strides. Half way down the home straight, Lewis-Francis started to pull away and sealed a fine victory, saluting the crowd as he crossed the line. The time was 38.91 seconds, ahead of Poland in 39.05 seconds and France third in 39.07 seconds. A jubilant Lewis-Francis said: “We were under a lot of pressure, but we have been really organised and focussed. Michael Khmel (Sprint relay coach) has been great, we have worked really hard. He can take us all the way.” Chambers said: “It was a defining moment, it was hard but we’ve come a long way,” referring to his open discussions and apology to the team members a few days ago.
The women’s 1500m was won in a Championship record by Russian Tatyana Tomashova in 3:56.91. Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers) couldn’t stay with the early pace and finished a disappointing 11th in 4:09.73.
There were high hopes for a medal in the women’s 4 x 400m, but on the day the team of Lee McConnell (Shaftesbury Barnet), Emma Duck (Team Southampton), Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet) and Nicola Sanders (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) could only finish fourth. Russia won in 3:25.12, Belarus took second in 3:27.69 and Poland were third in 3:27.77. Britain clocked 3:28.17. Nicola Sanders said: “I was gained on them, I’m chuffed with my split (49.8 seconds). But really gutted that we didn’t medal today.”
The long awaited Men’s 5000m started with a slow 3,000m as the athletes took it in turn to lead the race, Mo Farah (Newham & Essex Beagles) sat in the group smiling and looking relaxed. Alastair Cragg (Ireland) wound up the pace with three and a half laps remaining and then dramatically pulled up injured, leaving Mo Farah with the choice of taking it on or sitting back. He took up the front running with 800m left and struck for home, chased by a group of three athletes. Meanwhile, Nick McCormick (Morpeth Harriers) was back in twelfth place. Farah, silver medallist at last summer’s European U23 Championships, still had some work to do as he approached the bell, with two Spaniards and the Turkish athlete hanging on. The crowd roared them on, as Farah kicked again round the top bend, only to be followed by the two athletes on his shoulder. Jesus Espana (Spain) edged passed Farah in the home straight, in a nail biting finish, as Farah fought all the way to the line, he looked up to the screen and his team mates in the stand. Farah clocked 13:44.79, only nine hundredths behind Espana. McCormick finished twelfth in 14:06.18. Farah said: “It was close, but not close enough. I am really disappointed; I wanted to win the Gold. I saw the gap and had to wind up and wind it up again. I gave it everything.”
The final race of the night was the Men’s 4 x 400m, France started as favourites and lived up to the expectation, taking Gold in 3:01.10. The British quartet of Rob Tobin (Basingstoke & Mid Hants), Rhys Williams (Cardiff AAC), Graham Hedman (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies) and Tim Benjamin (Belgrave Harriers) sealed silver with a solid performance. Benjamin took the baton in third place and clocked a sensational 44.5 second split. He came through strongly to steal Silver, dipping through the line to clock 3:01.63. Poland finished third in 3:01.73. Goldie Sayers (Belgrave Harriers) finished a disappointing 12th in the javelin final, with a best of 54.70m. Sayers said: “My body didn’t hold up after qualifying yesterday. In warm up, I pulled my adductor and I knew I wouldn’t be able to throw properly.”