27 July 2010
The Aviva GB&NI team opened their medal account on the first evening session at the European Championships in Barcelona with Mo Farah and Chris Thompson claiming gold and silver respectively in the men’s 10,000m final.
Following their exploits over the same distance earlier in the summer, where the two vied with each other for supremacy in the all-time lists, Farah (Ricky Simms) and Thompson (Mark Rowland/John Nuttall) were tipped going into tonight’s final as potential medallists, but it seemed perhaps a wish too far to see the endurance pair and long time friends and rivals both reach the podium.
As it was it looked to be a race that would play into the hands of the Spanish contingent with a slow opening 5km and the likelihood of a mass sprint finish.
Yet, the field quickly broke apart as both Farah and Thompson took on the pace work during the second half and with two laps to go Farah was away with Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem, leaving just the two likely to battle it out for the title.
Thompson, sitting in third led the second group of three, with Italian Daniele Meucci looking to be most likely to challenge him for the bronze medal position.
Yet on the final lap it was all glorious change with Farah not only galloping away from his Spanish rival, but Thompson - in sprinting towards an expected bronze - began to gain on the failing gold challenge of Lamdassem.
In the thrilling final few seconds not only did Farah take the gold, but Thompson passed Lamdassem and held off the fast finishing Meucci to take the silver and make it the most ultimate of memorable nights for the Aviva GB and NI team and British supporters in the crowd.
The pair were ecstatic for both themselves and each other – having been teammates since their junior days and Thompson pipping Farah for the European U23 5000m title back in 2003.
Earlier in the evening, the team had enjoyed seeing further athletes progress to their respective semis and finals as the 100m, women’s 800m, plus the men’s triple jump and high jump played out.
In the 100m Dwain Chambers (Daniel Plummer) made short work of his first round heat against Frenchman Ronald Pognon with an easy looking win in 10.21. Drawn in lane one, he set about his evening’s work with ease, powering away from the field then appearing to spend the second half of the race easing down.
It was an impressive display by the Brit, who has endured a pressure build up to the championships and declared as the favourite for the 100m title by the other competitors.
“It was comfortable but a bit nerve racking. I don't think about the track, I just concentrate on the gun,” he said.
“I do feel the pressure before a race but when I get onto the track that just clears out of my head and I get on.”
In the fifth heat, Mark Lewis Francis (Linford Christie) put pressure on the impressive young Christian Lemaitre, pushing the French youngster - who is regarded as joint favourite with Chambers - all the way to the line. Lewis-Francis, who has enjoyed a welcome return to form this season and was a late addition to the 100m line up, more than justified his place with a strong second place and a 10.23 time that was just two-one hundredths short of his season’s best; Lemaitre leading the first round qualifying overall with his 10.19 for first.
“First round first run, I'm already excited for the next one,” said a delighted Lewis-Francis.
“Thank god that I'm here. I'm so glad to be back in the mix again. Lemaitre pushed me all the way, no doubt it was good to have him here.”
James Dasaolu (Michael Khmel), running in the fourth of the five heats, also made sure of automatic progression with a third place and 10.40 time, but knew he would have to improve to make it past the next round:
“I don't think I got the best of starts, the main thing though is that I'm through to the semis,” he reasoned straight after.
“There has to be more to come because that run wasn't really cutting it. It wasn't good enough to make the final.”
Tom Parsons (Fuzz Ahmed) and Martyn Bernard (Dan Pfaff) had an evening of mixed fortunes in the high jump but the end result was positive with both progressing to Thursday night’s final.
Parsons, enjoyed a fault free progression through to 2.23m with first time clearances at 2.15m, 2.19m and 2.23m, but endured three failures at 2.26m and was forced to play the waiting game as the competition continued.
Meanwhile, Bernard had a failure at 2.19m, plus two at 2.23m, before clearing 2.26m at his second attempt to demonstrate the range of exchanging fortunes that can be a championship high jump competition. As it was, the pair qualified in seventh and tenth position out of the 12 finalists, but both reflected with disappointment on their evening’s work.
“That was rubbish,” said Parsons.
“It felt so easy at first and I felt 2.28m would come easily as the first few jumps were great. Then I just got it wrong, perhaps I didn't attack as well as I could.
“The fast surface makes you feel so good but then you tend to bound a bit in your run up which knocks your rhythm. Hopefully I'll have more tone in my legs for the final.”
Bernard said: “It was stressful! I was looking round at Tom clearing on his first attempts. But I'm through which is the main thing but I took too many jumps to get there.”
In the women’s 800m it was a two out of three success rate, with both Jemma Simpson and Jenny Meadows looking impressive on their way to the final, but unfortunately Marilyn Okoro struggled to join.
Okoro (Ayo Falola) was the first of the 800m women to take to the track in the opening heat. Holding her nerve and refusing to go off over the opening 200m at the same pace as the rest of the pack, she worked her way to the front to take the bell in 59.51.
The2009 world 800m finalist, who has endured a year of injury breakdown but recently begun to rediscover her fitness, kept the lead through to 600m where she was overtaken. Despite suffering in the home straight she crossed the line in fourth in 2:01.33 – outside the automatic top two qualifying spots - to endure a long wait to see if she would progress in one of the two fastest loser places. As it was, it was not to be, but the Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier should take solace in her progression since returning to track action following a lost season to injury in 2009.
Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter) went in the second heat, and despite her recent frustrations with a niggling Achilles injury, which interrupted her summer for the best part of four weeks, the Wigan ‘pocket rocket’ qualified automatically, sending a message out to those who had written her off this summer.
Moving to the outside following a conservative first 350m she was sixth through the bell but well positioned and moved gradually through the field. She was third through 200m and eventually onto the shoulder of Russian Svetlana Klyuka who battled alongside her down the home straight. Crossing the line in second, Meadows demonstrated she was clearly back to her best with a time of 1:58.90, one hundredth behind the Russian, but her second fastest outdoor clocking of 2010.
After she said: “It felt good and I'm really relieved to get to the final - I hate the first round. It's nice to have got the first race out of the way!
“We've got two Brits in the final! Jemma looked very good, she was my secret tip coming into the championships! Although I don’t want her to be obviously but it's nice that she's stepped up this year.
“I want to be British number one but I don’t want it to be easy!”
In the third and final heat Jemma Simpson (Mark Rowland) took to the track knowing that first two was the only option for certainty. Ensuring she never strayed from the top two positions she powered down the straight for an impressive first place in 1:59.20. It was another great run from a GB athlete, and one which showed her 1:58.74 of last week in Monaco was in no way a flash in the pan.
“I was quite nervous because it's the first round of the championships. It feels good to get it out of the way,” she admitted.
“I wanted to win it just to secure my place in the final. Monaco was good because I proved to myself that I could do it.”
Also making their final – that of the triple jump on Thursday evening- were Phillips Idowu (Aston Moore) and Nathan Douglas (Aston Moore), who qualified with just one jump a piece; Idowu through with 17.10m and Douglas progressing with 16.80m – both easily in excess of the automatic 16.75m qualifying mark.
For Douglas, the defending silver medallist, it was a delight to get the first round done and dusted so comprehensively:
“It was needed and I'm really glad I did it. It's nice to be able to get out there, save my body, save my energy.
“I didn't really know what to expect so I was nervous. I don’t know if I'll jump 16.20m, 17.20m or what to be honest!”
Idowu was happy to have gone through first time and set his sights on getting ready for the final.
“From here there are no nerves, no pressure just go away and come back on Thursday. Hopefully I'll do enough to win the gold, that's all I'm aiming for,” he confirmed.
Tomorrow morning’s action with GB & NI interest begins at 10.30am local time with Kate Dennison (Steve Rippon) in the women’s pole vault.