A GLORIOUS and memorable day for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team became an historic one when they celebrated a record-breaking performance at the 29th European Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
Jason Gardener (Wessex and Bath) won gold in the 60m, for the fourth successive time at this Championship, before the men’s 4 x 400m relay team were awarded first place to leave the team with 10 medals - its greatest ever haul.
“Let us keep our feet on the ground,” said Dave Collins, UK Athletics’ National Performance Director. “It has been a superb weekend but we have to take this to the world level.”
Collins had predicted six medals as the aim before the Championships began - but five medals today - with Craig Pickering (Marshall Milton Keynes) winning silver in the 60m, Martyn Bernard (Wakefield Harriers) finishing third in the high jump and the women securing bronze in the 4 x 400m - exceeded all hopes.
Gardener has produced some fine runs over the years but never like today when he was amazing in his speed, power, conviction and determination to add Birmingham to Ghent, Vienna and Madrid as his golden European ventures.
There was disappointment, though, for Ryan Scott (Yate & District), teammate from Bath, where they are trained by Malcolm Arnold, because he was disqualified, going out on the second false-start rule.
But Gardener kept his nerve to win in the fastest time this year by a European.
“I am back in business,” he said. “I am so delighted but I wanted this one so much.
“I knew I could do it if I was right. I had not been well a few weeks ago but now I have shown that what happened then was just a blip.”
Pickering was equally delighted with his silver and said: "If I had been offered a silver medal at the start of the season, I'd have bitten your arm off so I'm happy. But Jason was amazing."
Great Britain knew they had beaten their previous best of nine medals after Steve Green (Newham & Essex Beagles) had led the 4 x 400m relay team home in second place.
But the news broke that the men had been promoted to first following a race of incredible drama.
Robert Tobin (Basingstoke), Dale Garland (Channel Islands) and Phil Taylor (Liverpool Pembroke & Sefton) had put the team into a great position but nobody could have predicted what would have happened with less than 50m to go.
Russia were in front with Artem Sergeyenkov but he was tripped Germany’s Bastian Swillims. By the time that Sergeyenkov had regained his composure, Germany had taken gold from Britain with the Russian recovering for bronze behind Green.
But Russia protested and Germany were disqualified, meaning Britain, in a time of 3:07.04, were the champions.
Green, who ran 46.70, said: “I knew the German was quick so I thought I would just hang on and then go crazy in the home straight.
“When he (the Russian) went down I thought ‘move out of the way’.”
Tobin, who ran the first leg in 46.40, said: “The plan was to get us into the lead and give the chaps a chance.”
Garland, who ran 47.0, added: “I was a bit surprised when the Pole sped past me down the back straight but he tied up in the end.”
Taylor clocked 46.9 and said: “It was absolutely awesome.”
The women’s bronze medal was rather more straight forward but it was a national record run.
The team of Emma Duck (Team Southampton), Nicola Sanders (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Harrow), Kim Wall (Basildon) and Lee McConnell (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) combined to finish third in 3:28.69 as Belarus won in 3:27.83.
But Duck, who ran a first leg of 53.6, was disappointed and said: “There was a great deal of argy-bargy and elbows flying. I lost my momentum a bit.”
Sanders, the 400m champion, was celebrating her second national record of the weekend and added after her leg of 50.5: “I am suffering a little bit, but I just wanted to get the lead.”
After running 53.5, Wall said: “I held off the Russian but she caught me down the home straight.”
McConnell clocked 51.0 and added: “It was my first race since August and that was a big shock to the system. I am glad I have done it.”
Bernard, who had broken his personal best of 2.27m with a clearance of 2.30m in the qualifying competition, had failed at his first attempt in the final at 2.29m when Tomas Janku, of the Czech Republic, retired injured.
It meant there were only three athletes left - ensuring Bernard had won a bronze at least.
But he wanted more. He failed at his next attempt at 2.29m but, backed by vociferous support, he made it over next time to stay in the event alongside Swedish pair Stefan Holm, the Olympic champion, and Linus Thornblad.
It was only the third time that Britain has won a medal in this discipline at these Championships, Bernard joining Geoff Parsons and Dalton Grant.
Bernard was so close at 2.32m, but it was not to be. Holm won with 2.34m and Bernard said: “I proved myself. I wanted a medal and I am delighted.
“You want to do the best you can and maybe even win, but now I hope to improve on what I have achieved here. It is just a pity that I could not clear 2.32m for the crowd. I was close, yet there is always next time.”
Jeanette Kwakye (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) was drawn between defending champion Kim Gevaert, of Belgium, and Greece’s Ekaterini Thanou in the final of the 60m.
But the British sprinter was not overawed and charged through for a fine fourth place - and only her dip lost her a medal.
As Gevaert won in in 7.12, Kwakye clocked 7.20 - the same time as Poland’s Daria Onysko in third.
Kwakye said: “I did not realise it was that close. My coach said I had to dip but I am rubbish at it.
“There is no margin for error. Fourth is the worst place to finish, especially if you have the same time as third. But it has been a fabulous Championship for myself and Great Britain.”
Jo Pavey (Exeter Harriers) has been suffering with flu and though she took the lead almost from the start in the 3000m, she was trailed by Poland’s Lidia Chojecka, with Lisa Dorbiskey (Ashford) was looking good in fourth
The Polish star took the lead with two laps to go and the race was over as the British women finished out of the medals.
Dobriskey came through to run a pb of 8:47.25 in fifth followed by Pavey, sixth in 8:54.94.
“You feel a bit silly trying to make excuses,” said Pavey. “But I have had full blow flu and it was actually unrealistic to be here.
Jenny Meadows (Wigan & District) and Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) battled well in the final of the 800m, but throughout the pace was always too much. Okoro was fourth in 2:00.20 with Meadows fifth in 2:00.25.
“I am growing in self belief,” said Okoro. “Ceplak is a great tactician and she heard me behind her and moved out. But I am not making excuses.”
Meadows said: “I am disappointed because I was only two 10ths off bronze.”
The speed of the 1500m was too hot for James Thie (Cardiff). As Spain’s Sergio Gallardo won in 3:44.51, Thie was seventh in 3:47.00.
Chris Tomlinson (Newham & Essex Beagles) just missed out on a medal in the long jump with 7.89m, finishing fifth, as Italy’s Andrew Howe won with 8.30.
For results please visit the European Indoor Athletics Championships website.