Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Bing of the Bang


Twenty-eight months have passed since he transferred to compete for Great Britain and a fortnight ago, 400m runner Michael Bingham finally captured his first individual medal for his adopted nation, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 24-year-old North Carolina-born sprinter’s decision to switch allegiance from the United States in the spring of 2008 paid off last month when he sped to one-lap silver in the European championships ahead of combining with his new team-mates to scorch to second in the 4x400m relay in Barcelona.

Reversing the finishing order in which he placed runner-up behind his Team GB rival and friend Martyn Rooney in the European trials, Bingham’s 45.23 clocking in the Spanish city signalled his arrival as an international medallist and came just two-years out from the London 2012 Olympics; an event where the new Brit will seek a career-defining medal on home turf.

Bingham, who was fourth behind Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner of the USA in the Crystal Palace leg of the IAAF Diamond League last weekend in 45.49, said of his performance:

“This year has been a growing experience. I switched coaches, I moved training bases, and I felt the pressure to follow up last year’s success with another strong year. Up until the European Championships, I found it hard to find my rhythm but I think I’m on the right track.”

As his training partner in the US, Kevin Borlee sped to victory in the continental final; Bingham led the British one-two but is disappointed he missed out on the gold;

"I panicked," Bingham reflected, "I think I had the race won, but I knew the others were coming and I panicked. If you panic in the 400m, you lose all technique. Luckily, worst-case scenario, I got a silver. But it definitely should have been a different colour."


Bingham; whose father is from Nottingham, recognised after graduating from Wake Forest University that life as a professional athlete would be tough in the notoriously hard US sprint squad so he instead took a chance on the British system – and luckily for him, he has been welcomed with open arms after a bumpy start.

“I switched to the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team because I felt compelled to run for the country of my father, and now, the country of mine as well,” Bingham explained.

“I genuinely and wholeheartedly wanted to run for the Great Britain and my dreams came true and thankfully I’m running decently. The entire team supports me and they have completely accepted me. I’m happy that the media has now accepted me as well. I think people were a little skeptical at first, but eventually they accepted me and supported me. I enjoyed hearing the cheers while I lined up for each race in Barcelona.”


After gaining a degree in political science and economics, Bingham joined the roster of the Universal Sports Performance Management group, run by 400m record-holder Michael Johnson and, under the tutelage of Ken Harnden: the former Zimbabwean international 400m hurdler who won bronze at the 1998 Commonwealth Games - Bingham has rapidly progressed in his first year as a pro athlete.

The 2005 US junior decathlon champion, Bingham placed third in the 2008 Olympic trials just a few days after receiving his visa by FedEx in the US and thrust himself into his new team when helping them to finish fourth in the Beijing Olympics. 2009 saw another upward curve for Bingham, as he improved to seventh in the World championship final in lifetime best of 44.74 – his first clocking under the magical 45-second barrier.

“I’m not motivated in the way most athlete’s are,” Bingham explained. “Most get angry and pumped up before training and major races trying to force their goals. My only goal is to progress each year, in most aspects of my life.

I don’t want to train harder, just smarter. I don’t want to lift harder, just cleaner. I don’t want to merely run fast, I want to run easy and do it right. I just can’t run angry, I’ve tried. I’ve never been one to hate my competitors, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take it seriously.”


From May to October, Bingham is based at the UK Athletics High Performance Centre in Loughborough where he trains alongside Rooney. The other half of the year, he spends at the Florida State University track in Tallahassee with Harnden.

His training group in the States includes Borlee and the Belgian runner's identical twin brother, Jonathan, who lined up the clear favourite for the European Championship final but ended up seventh.

“Basically, I have seven hard sessions in two weeks,” Bingham revealed, “On the other days my coach conjures up all sorts of tormenting activities and calls them active rest.

In a typical day, you’ll find me on the sofa, with my face halfway inside a big bag of Thai Sweet Chilli Crisps. Jokes aside, I always forget things so I sometimes rely on my coach, manager and anyone else that takes it upon themselves to drag me to where I need to be. Ken actually started fining me for being late to training. A $1 a minute fine - needless to say, I filled his sweets fund two or three times over!”

The outgoing athlete, who states music and golden syrup as his addiction, competes in the Zurich Diamond League on Thursday before representing Europe in the Continental Cup in Split next month and gave his thoughts on the 400m in Britain:

“The 400m has lulled since Mark Richardson, Roger Black and Iwan Thomas left, but in the past two years we have seen a steady return of the event.

I am very optimistic that we all should be ready by 2011 and experienced to take on the world in 2012. Martyn, Conrad (Williams), Steely (Andrew Steele) and myself all look forward to running quick and making the final. The real tests are championships and the more finals you make, the more you learn, and the better your chances are to medal.”

Friday, 13 August 2010

Hatt's Off


Her performance was one of Team GB’s biggest surprises at the European Championships but 3,000m steeplechaser Hatti Dean was more shocked than anyone after her fourth place-finish and huge personal best in the Barcelona final recently, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 28-year-old Sheffield-based runner ran the race of her life to scorch to an impressive 9:30.19 in the Spanish city; taking more than eight seconds off her lifetime best performance and missing the British record by only one second in the process.

While a top-eight finish was a strong possibility, few expected the Bud Baldaro-coached athlete to get so close to the medals, especially as her 2010 season came two-years after her last attempts over the barriers before conceding to injury.
A glittering example of how to bounce back from adversity, Dean did not even win the British trial prior to Barcelona but rose to the occasion when it mattered most in scintillating style.

In last position on the first lap, Dean gradually moved up the field to settle into sixth place with four laps to go before finding an extra gear on the final circuit. Still clearly overwhelmed with excitement after failing to get a medal by only 0.37 seconds, the Oxford-born runner exclaimed:

“I still can’t believe it. The time was a real confidence boost and it was great to raise my game and not be fazed by a major competition. I have never raced in front of that size of crowd before.

I’m really happy; a bit surprised and very satisfied. A bit annoyed that I just missed out but not disappointed in myself at all. It's made me want more though, and I want to run even better now. Barcelona as a trip was a great experience, the whole team did so well and there was a very positive atmosphere which motivated me even more to run well. I really enjoy going to the stadium and watching live athletics as well so I had a brilliant time after my race.”


Her genuine surprise is of little wonder, too, for the Hallamshire Harrier missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics through injury and the Berlin World Championships last summer; the results of a couple of rollercoaster years for the Sheffield Hallam MA graduate.

After taking her first national title on the track in 2006 ahead of finishing eighth in the continental championships in the same year, Dean exited the heats of the World championships in Osaka - after breaking the national steeplechase record three times in the build-up and missing the final by less than one second – before placing eighth in the European cross-country championships during the following two years.

For Dean, who played lacrosse for England in her youth, the lowest point came in the summer of 2008 when tragedy struck - a stress fracture forced her to withdraw from the Olympic squad; shattering her Olympic dream in the process.

But now, Dean, who works flexible hours as a statistician for the civil service, is on cloud nine at last and may be able to train full-time from the autumn, should UK Athletics decide to fund her on the back of her recent international breakthrough.

“I’m really, really pleased with my performance at the championship and I was fairly tired when I first got back but I’m excited to race again. My season has been up and down - I got injured in late May and had to have two-three weeks off running, but after I started running again, training has gone really well,” Dean explained as she recalled her turbulent summer.

“I did have to go into the trials having done only a few running sessions and no hurdle work but I surprised myself there and have been surprised by each race since then.”


Further testament to Dean’s success after injury is her commitment to travelling from Sheffield to Birmingham twice each week to train with Budaro’s top-class group – in addition to frequently training alone in the Yorkshire hills.

Her next appearance on the track will be on home turf in the ‘homecoming’ for Team GB at the London IAAF Diamond League meeting in Crystal Palace this Saturday, following outings in Brussels and Croatia; the latter where Dean will have the honour of representing Europe in the Inter-Continental Cup.

Evidently thrilled with her form and hungry to tackle the international stage as often as possible, Dean quotes her latest ‘Hatt’s off’ run as her biggest achievement so far:

“The Europeans steeplechase final is definitely up there and just in general this whole season as I've come back from a slight injury and raced really well despite possibly not the best preparation, and I'm pleased that I've cross-trained really hard and kept my fitness.”

Kept her fitness she has and in the countdown to 2012, Team GB may well have found a diamond in the rough; eager to hone her sparkle with a little more experience and step up into medal class where she clearly has the potential to belong.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Welsh Wonder


Part of an historic Welsh one-two in the European 400m hurdles final earlier this month, Rhys Williams’ silver medal was all the more spectacular considering his resurgence back onto the international scene after years of crippling injury woes, writes Nicola Bamford.

For the 26-year-old Cardiff man, 2010 was his comeback year. Full of confidence and fuelled with the same talent and determination which took him to continental bronze four years earlier, Williams crafted a string of eight sub-50-second performances on the European circuit this summer before revising his four-year-old personal best – from his bronze medal-winning run in the Commonwealth Games - to run 48.96 for second in the Welsh extravaganza in Barcelona.

Coached by Malcolm Arnold; the man who moulded Colin Jackson into a world record-breaking 110m hurdler and who guided Uganda’s John Akii-Bua to 1972 400m hurdles Olympic gold – Williams even took to the long-jump run-way on two occasions for his club last month; leaping to a respectable 5.99m to hone his speed ahead of his big Spanish test.

Plotting Revenge

The sacrifice did not quite pay off as he expected, though; for Williams had to settle for silver behind his training partner and the hot pre-race favourite, Dai Greene, who obliterated the field to win in a time of 48.12.

“I’ve got mixed emotions if I am honest,” Williams explained. “I'm happy to have set a personal best and won a medal, however I really, really wanted to win. My season is progressing nicely and I know I can run some faster times still. My performance was my fastest to date, however I am still making stupid and basic mistakes.

I had a great time in Barcelona; the team was great and our preparation camp was great. It’s horrible getting back to normal after living in a bubble for a few weeks, but I've been busy planning ahead and for the Commonwealth Games.”

In a relationship which has been documented as a professional rather than friendship-based partnership during Williams’ occasional visits to Arnold’s Bath training base, Williams was not bitter in falling to the hands of his rival’s success; instead leaving him to do his lap of honour alone around the 1992 Olympic stadium and preferring to focus his energies on plotting revenge in October’s Commonwealth Games in New Delhi – where the duo will each pull on the Welsh national vests to do battle once more.

“I’m not one of these athletes who will go out of their way to play mind games and give attitude to other athletes, it has never made me run faster,” revealed Williams. “All any athlete wants is respect from their fellow athletes and most athletes are very respectful, but not all.

It’s a great event at the moment; other great runners are about and progressing, whereas there are great juniors and other athletes who are currently injured waiting to break through. I believe it’s the best strength in depth event in the UK at the moment; definitely no reason to be complacent.”

Now with a bronze and silver from the European championships, many would assume the Loughborough university graduate would target going one better in the next edition but, as the Helsinki championships fall just weeks before the 2012 London Olympic Games, Williams has no hesitation about where his priorities will lie.


Should his sharp progression continue for the next two summers, Williams’ Olympic debut on British soil could well provide a fitting reward for the man who has bounced back from several stress fractures and operations during his track career.
Since capturing the 2003 and 2005 European junior and under23 titles, the tall Welshman burst onto the British senior scene as number one ahead of taking his European and Commonwealth medals, before though, having to miss most of the following two seasons with chronic physical issues.

His lowest point was being forced to withdraw from the Beijing Olympic Games due to a stress fracture in his right foot; a problem which flared up days earlier after attempting to win the trials in a last-gasp attempt after a year out with the problem.

Remaining motivated and keeping his head during such a rollercoaster of emotions and levels of fitness, Williams managed to reach the heats of the World championships in Berlin last summer but it was not for another twelve months that surviving such adversity paid off to fruition.

“It would be difficult for me to say and for most people to understand how 2009 went for me,” explained Williams. “I went from having a good season in 2006 to hardly being able to jog, let alone sprint for two years due to a series of injuries. Missing the Olympics was tough to accept.

Finally in 2009, I fixed my injuries and got back racing, however I was rusty and found the training and racing tough going. I was proud to be back racing and representing Britain, but I did not run as quick as I know I can. In hindsight, 2009 was a good year. I know it may sound cheesy, but overcoming my injury through perseverance is my biggest achievement to date. I learnt a lot about myself in that short space of time.”

Strong Focus

The son of rugby union legend JJ Williams, the one-lap hurdler was also a promising rugby player in his youth as well an international swimmer until aged 18 but now, for the sport which has brought him the most satisfaction, he divides his time between training in Cardiff and Bath in his quest for perfection.

“My father, despite being over 60 years of age now, still thinks he can beat me at a sprint race,” Williams exclaimed.

“There are a few Grand Prix races to do; the first of which is the IAAF Diamond League in London’s Crystal Palace this Friday; then Brussels later on in the month. I want to get my world ranking much higher and all this will prepare me well for the Commonwealth Games, which is the next main goal.”

His strong focus to make up for lost time is evident en route to fulfilling his Olympic dream and Williams admits he tries to avoid being all-consumed with the sport to remain concentrated on his goal:

“For me it’s all about switching off, as I have athletics and aiming to be the best on my brain all the time, 24/7. So I do anything it takes not to think of athletics.

I don't watch it on TV or look at results ever, as it makes me want to go out and train even harder, which isn't always conducive to running faster. I follow a lot of rugby and F1 on TV, too. I live a quiet life if I’m honest, as that's the way it has got be in order to get the most out of yourself.”

Monday, 9 August 2010

Euro Athletics - Barcelona (July work continued again)

Men’s 200m:
France’s Christophe Lemaitre stormed to an expected 200m victory; just two-days after being crowned 100m champion. The 20-year-old sprint protégé scorched to a 20.37clocking ahead of Britain’s Christian Malcolm (20.38) and his countryman Martial Mbandjock (20.42).

Overwhelmed and extremely satisfied with his weeks’ work, Lemaitre said afterwards:
“It was a very tight race. My start was not as good as I expected. I had a lack of confidence in the middle of the race. I tried to do my best to pick up well during the last metres. Now I am so glad to be the winner. This is such an important day for France athletics since we won the fourth gold medal. We have very good young athletes in France. I am enjoying this moment.”

Women’s pole vault:
In impeccable fashion, the long-established Svetlana Feofanova of Russia dominated the event with consummate ease. Passing until the height of 4.45, the 30-year-old took first-time clearances at 4m45 and 4m65 before clearing 4m70 on the second attempt and a superb 4m75 on her first.

In second and third place, respectively, Germany continued their fantastic championship with 4m65 clearances via Silke Speigelburg and Lisa Ryzih.

Women’s 400m: Tatyana Firova (RUS) 49.89 EL over Kseniya Ustalova (RUS) 49.82 PB and Antonina Krivoshapka (RUS) 50.10.

Firova – “It’s great that we all made it onto the podium. During the season, we have showed top results. I hope that we will be in this shape at London 2012.”

Men’s 110m hurdles: Britain’s Andy Turner produced a stunning last 30m to clinch the 110m hurdles crown in 13.28 ahead of France’s Garfield Darien (13.34) and Daniel Kiss (HUN) 13.36.

Jumping for joy, Turner breathlessly said: “I’m over the moon with this victory. I never achieved a medal at an international championships so this is just an amazing feeling. I felt good during the race and made less mistakes than the others, which was the key to win the gold medal.”

Women’s hammer: Germany’s Betty Heidler continued her nation’s fine form in the field with a 76m38 effort to push Tatyana Lysenko (RUS - 75m650 and Anita Wlodarczyk (POL - 73m56), respectively, into the silver and bronze medal positions.

Women’s steeplechase: Yuliya Zarudneva (RUS) was determined to not let the home favourite have her way with a solid front-running display to clock 9:17.57. Marta Dominguez; the Spanish golden girl registered 9:17.74 after putting up a strong fight to the end, coming home well clear of Lyubov Kharlamova (RUS) in 9:29.82.

The winner spoke about her pre-race tactics: “Mentally it was really tough. All of the stadium was for Dominguez but it made me angry. Before the championships I thought, it would have been great to defeat world champion Dominguez at home. So I decided to take the lead from the beginning and I didn’t feel Marta’s breathe because of the audience. They were screaming and supporting Dominguez, it actually kept me going faster and faster.”

Men’s 400m: The name Borlee was expected to land atop of the men’s 400m list but it was Kevin rather than Jonathan (who lead the continental rankings and set a national record in the semis) who took the glory today for Belgium in 45.08. Britain claimed the silver and bronze courtesy of Michael Bingham (45.23) and Martyn Rooney (45.23) in a race which provided much tension and nerves.

Women’s 400m hurdles: Natalya Antyukh RUS CR and EL 52.92, Vania Stambolova BUL NR 53.82, Perri Shakes-Drayton PB GBR 54.18.

Women’s 800m: Mariya Savinova of Russia was unstoppable in the women’s 800m; cruising to a scintillating 1:58.22 ahead Yvonne Hak (NED 1:58.85 PB) and Jenny Meadows (GBR - 1:59.39).

Men’s 1500m: The Spanish home crowd erupted in chaos in this final where the rulebook was ripped to shreds, with the three medallists turning out to be the surprises of the night. Evidently inspired by the home support, Arturo Casado sped down the home stretch to a 3:42.74 clocking with his compatriot Manuel Olmedo (3:43.54) in third. Carsten Schlangen (GER) spoiled the red and yellow show; as Spain’s third man Reyes Estevez was in fourth.

Men’s shot put: In a scintillatingly-close contest, Andrei Mikhnevich (BLR) stole the show by a mere centimeter with a 21m01 putt over Tomasz Majewski (POL); with Ralf Bartels (GER) 20m93 in third.

The winner said afterwards: “This feels gold great. After some difficult seasons, I’m back to where I want to be. Barcelona and the stadium, I love it.”

Men’s 800m: Poland achieved a shock 1-3 in the positions with Marcin Lewandowski stealing a last-gasp victory in 1:47.07 over Britain’s Michael Rimmer 1:47.17; the pre-race favourite. Adam Kszcot ensured a second Pole got onto the podium by following through just behind in 1:47.22.

An ecstatic winner revealed: “I am completely happy because I had a lot of pressure before the final as I was the favourite besides Rimmer. However, I managed to beat him. To gain the gold and bronze in the European championships is an unbelievable success for Polish athletics.”

Women’s 200m: Myriam Soumare could not contain her glee after storming to the women’s 200m title in a European-leading 22.32. The Frenchwoman; who was also third in the 100m, leapt and screamed for joy after coming home well clear of Yelizaveta Bryzhina (UKR 22.44 - PB) and Russia’s Aleksandra Fedoriva (22.44).

Men’s 400mH: Britain secured the gold and silver in emphatic style courtesy of David Greene (48.12 European lead) and Rhys Williams (48.96 PB); with Ukraine’s Stanislav Melnykov placing third with 49.09.

Greene; who dominated the proceedings from the outset and stretched clear in comfortable fashion down the home straight said: “I felt pressured being the favourite tonight but the pressure helped me to focus and go faster. My training went well in the build up to these championships. I did not have any particular objective today other than to win the gold medal and I am very pleased to have secured a personal best at the same time. I am now looking forwadr to running for Wales at the Commonwealth Games. “

Women’s 100mH: The most surprising winner of the night was Turkey’s Nevin Yanit in the women’s 100mH in a national record of 12.63. Both Yanit and runner-up Ireland’s Derval O’Rourke (12.65 N.R) screamed with glee and jumped for joy after the race, which also saw Germany continued their impressive championship – with Carolin Nytra (12.68) in third place.

Yanit explained afterwards her immense satisfaction and the eeriness of her winning time: “”This performance is amazing. I could not expect such a victory. I cannot believe what happened. My room number is 1263 and my phone number ends with these digits. Everything in my life here in Barcelona reminds me of this record (12.63). It was like an omen for victory. It is crazy. In 2006 in Gothenberg, I dreamt about the gold medal and tonight I am the European champion.”

Women’s triple jump: In a European-leading distance, Ukraine’s Olha Saladuha captured the women’s triple jump title with a fantastic leap of 14m81 in the fifth round. Italy’s Simona La Mantia took silver with 14m56 and Belgium’s Svetlana Bolshakova took the bronze with a jump of 14m55.

Women’s heptathlon: Britain’s Jessica Ennis added the European heptathlon crown to her World indoor and outdoor titles in a closely-fought contest with her arch rival, the Ukraine’s Nataliya Dobrinska. Ennis’ 6823 European-leading score and championship record was 45-points clear of the runner-up and Germany’s Jennifer Oeser (6683) took the bronze.

A delighted Ennis revealed: “I had a brilliant last year and these championships were amazing. Yes, I was 8 points short of my goal (British record) but I was so glad to win, especially with the 800m at the end and the way I won it, which was mainly to prove a point that I really am World no.1. My highlight disciplines were the javelin, long jump and the 800m. Now I will compete in some individual events and then finally go on holiday.”

Men’s pole vault: France’s Renauld Lavillenie stole the show with a first-time clearance at 5m80 then 5m85 to win the men’s pole vault by 5cm. Ukraine’s Maksym Mazurk (5m80) and Poland’s Przemyslaw Czerwinski (5m75) took the minor medals.

The winner said afterwards: “I expected this victory. I was testing myself from the beginning. I felt very good after 5m75. At this moment, I knew I’m on the right track to gold. I’m very happy. My goal is to remain this high level and go for the world title next year.”

Men’s 5000m: Britain’s Mo Farah secured a distance double by taking the men’s 10,000m this evening in impeccable style. In a time of 13:31.18, Farah beat Spain’s Jesus Espanya into second place (13:33.12) and Azerbajan’s Hayle Ibrahimov took the bronze in 13:34.15in a thrilling race to end day 5.

Men’s javelin: Norway’s Andrea Thorkilsden took the javelin crown with a throw of 88m37 in the second round; pushing Matthias De Zordo (GER – 87m81 PB) and Tero Pitkamaki (FIN – 86.67) into second and third, respectively.

Men’s marathon report
Switzerland's Viktor Rothlin became men's marathon European champion after winning the gold medal in Barcelona this morning.

The 35-year-old clocked 2:15.31 seconds to finish more than two minutes ahead of Spain's Juan Martinez (2:17.50) and Russia's Dimitri Safronov (2:18.16) in third.

The winner took control of the race from the 30km point after reaching the half-way point in 67:43, in a race suffering from 27-degree heat and 70% humidity.

A delighted Rothlin said afterwards: “This was my 19th marathon and it felt like the first. I hoped to compete well but was not sure ahead of the race. My careers might as well have been over after today. But the only thing I can say now is that I’m back!! It feels great. During the race, I was not sure if I can make it. I just kept going. I like to run in the heat. Compare to Osaka 2007, this was cold.”

Martinez led the home team to the gold medals, whilst Russia pipped Italy to team silver.

Men’s 4x100m: France scorched to European-leading 38.11 to take the men’s 4x100m relay final over close rivals Italy (38.17) and Germany (38.44).

In helping his nation to glory, Christophe Lemaitre became the first man ever to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in these championships.

After a collection of flawless baton change-overs and a storming anchor leg to out-dip Germany at the line, the squad said afterwards:

“We worked very well together. Of all the medals we have, this one feels the most important because it was won as a team effort and in the true sense of solidarity. We panicked a little bit in the last few metres when we saw the Italians right on our tail. They were running very fast but Martial (Mbanjock) did an excellent job for us and we so happy to win this medal as a very united team.”

Women’s 4x100m: The Ukrainian women’s 4x400m squad caused the first upset of the final evening when storming to gold in a world-leading 42.29. Pre-race favourites France grabbed the silver in 42.45, with Poland (42.68) coming home for third place.

The elated winners revealed: “We have been working together for many years and training hard on passing the baton. Barcelona was the perfect stage to prove how good we really are. Clocking the world lead is unbelievable. We expected the Russian team to climb the podium.”

Men’s 3,000m steeplechase: France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad and Bouabdellah Tahri stormed way ahead of the field from the outset; establishing a 50m lead by the second lap, which they maintained until the end to collect the gold and silver, respectively.

In times of 8:07.87 (championship record) and 8:09.28, the duo gave a masterful front-running display of team-work to continue their nation’s impressive haul in these championships. Spain’s Joes Luis Blanco gave the home crowd plenty of excitement; crossing the line in 8:19.15 to snatch third.

Women’s 5,000m: From the gun, a group of six sped off to quickly establish a 80m lead, which included 10,000m winner Elvan Abeylegesse (TUR) and Portugal’s warm favourite Jessica Augusto.

Four of the group stayed bunched until the final 200m, where Alemitu Bekele (TUR) strode to a superb 14:52.20 championship record ahead of her team-mate Abeylegesse (14:54.44) and Portugal’s Sara Moriera (14:54.71 PB).

Men’s discus: Just 20cm separated gold and silver medal winners Poland’s Piotr Malachowski and Germany’s Robert Harting. The former threw a championship record-breaking 68m87 whilst Harting registered 68m47. Hungary’s Robert captured the bronze with a 66m43 throw.

The winner declared shortly afterwards: “Finally I won the gold at a big championships. I’m satisfied after having lost to Harting last year in Germany. It was not my best performance but sufficient for tonight.”

Women’s 1500m: In a thrilling race when it could have easily have been anyone’s race in the final 100m, Nuria Fernandez gave the home crowd plenty to roar for as she registered a fine personal-best-beating 4:00.20 en route to victory.

Behind, was France’s Hind Dehiba (4:01.17) and a second Spaniard, Natalia Rodriguez; clocking 4:01.30 for third.

An elated winner exclaimed: “I am crying as I cannot believe what I have done. I have been fighting for this for fifteen years and finally, at 33, got it. I dedicate this title to everyone that has been supporting me during my long career and when things didn’t go well. Winning at home is like a dream come true.”

Women’s high jump: Breaking the championship best and taking the European lead, pre-event favourite Blanca Vlasic of Croatia leapt to a magnificent 2m03 on her second attempt to push Sweden’s surprise package; Emma Green (2m01 PB) into the runner-up position.

Germany’s Ariane Friedrich failed to grab the gold she so wished but captured the bronze medal, nevertheless, in 2m01.

Vlasic remarked: “This is not an easy season for me. I’m not myself this year. I had zero confidence tonight and was struggling hard to achieve a good jump. Luckily, it was enough to win.”

Men’s long jump: Germany’s Christian Reif was the shock of the night; taking the men’s long jump crown in impeccable fashion. Annihilating his personal best, the German leapt to a world-leading and championship record-breaking 8m47 in the third round to amaze the crowd and his rivals in the process.

France’s Kafetien Gomis (8m24) and Great Britain’s Chris Tomlinson (8m23) took the minor medals.

Women’s 4x400m: In their usual fashion, Russia stormed to a world-leading 3:21.26 from Germany (3:24.07) and Great Britain (3:24.32).

Men’s 4x400m: Again, Russia dominated the 4x400m proceedings with a superb victory in 3:01.14 over Great Britain (3:02.25) and surprise bronze-medallists Belgium (3:02.60).

Euro Athletics - Barcelona (July work continued)

Farah cruises to First-ever British men’s 10,000m title -

Britain's Mo Farah took revenge for losing the 2006 title by a fraction of a second with a resounding victory here in Barcelona last night.

Closing with a sizzling 57 second final lap, 'Fly Mo', as he is affectionately known, took an expected victory in the tactical 25-lap race; reaching the line in 28:24.99, and striding away in comfortable fashion.

“The first (outdoor) European gold feels great,” said the 27-year-old, who is also captured the 2009 European indoor 3000m and 2006 cross-cuontry title.

“It was many years of hard work to achieve this goal. Each year I feel I have been thinking about it, so to get the gold - I just can't believe it. I have made a lot of sacrifices and it means a lot to me to win the gold," he said.

On the expected but still mind-blowing British 1-2 with his slightly older team-mate, Chris Thompson, Farah continued:

"I'm really happy - I'm chuffed with the race and I'm really happy for Chris as well because we go way back. I hope we have made everyone back home proud."

Farah's was the slowest winning time at these championships since East German Manfred Kuschmann's 28:25.8 victory in 1974 but the former Somalian will need fresh legs in the 5000m on Saturday, where he'll face a significantly stronger challenge.

“I need to recover fast,” explained Farah, "but I’ve got it going on.”

With Farah’s win secure, the thrilling tussling for the remaining medals began.

Thompson, who improved to 27:29.61 this year, began to make up ground on the fading Lamdassem (of France); reaching the line in virtual inseparable fashion. Both were credited with a 28:27.33, with the photo reading giving Thompson the silver.

“This is the first season in a long time that I have competed without injuries,” Thompson revealed. “And for me, being second behind Mo Farah, is like a gold medal. He’s an incredible athlete and no one could beat him tonight."

After years of being plagued with injury, the USA-based runner said of his renaissance:

"That took all my energy to get to the second place it really did. I'm reading Steve Redgrave's book at the moment for inspiration and he talked about a race in 1987 when he thought he was gone at halfway but just dug in and won.

"I was just thinking - four laps, three laps, two laps. I told myself to be positive about everything I was doing and just wanted to keep pushing really hard."

Billed as a showdown between Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and Briton Dwain Chambers, the men’s 100m final was last night decided in comfortable fashion.

20-year-old Lemaitre – fresh from his scintillating 9.98 arlier in the month – sped to a sure-fire victory over a resurgent Mark Lewis-Francis; another Briton who was not expected to feature highly.

Indeed in a race full of surprises which held the crowd on tenterhooks, France’s Martial Mbandjock snatched the bronze; leaving Chambers reeling in a disappointing fifth.

Blasting through the pack from the 80m point and adding to his world and European junior titles, Lemaitre revealed his opinion on his 10.11 clocking; the slowest in this championship in 16-years:

“After a brilliant year, my objective was gold. I didn’t have a good start but picked up very well on my speed. It was a brilliant final and I’m very, very happy tonight,” he said.

Behind him, a blanket finish for the remaining medals ensured a nail-biting wait for the outcome to be delivered. Remarkably, 2nd to 5th place were all credited with a 10.18!

Yet for Lewis Francis, whose career has been blighted by long term injury issues since taking Olympic 4x100m relay gold in 2004, it was a moment of pure joy, having been added to the individual 100m slot following a clear display of form at the Aviva preparation camp in Monte Gordo, and justifying that call by literally taking home the silverware.

“I’m European Silver medallist – wow!” was his initial reaction.“I got to the final on a lucky star and I got to these championships on a lucky star. 2010 is my year I am the happiest man in the world I cannot complain – I said I’d take fourth place before the final and I ended up with second.

“We stuck to the plan in training for the individual and I was able to run it. I knew it was going to be tough to go out there and do anything crazy. I just wanted to go out there and enjoy the moment.”

Women’s javelin: Thursday evening provided a thrilling session of athletics, mostly courtesy of a trio of inspired Germans. In the women’s javelin throw, the event favourite Barbara Spotakova (CZE – 65m36) was upstaged by two resurgent throwers sporting the black, red and yellow colours in scintillating fashion.

Firstly, Christina Obergfoll (65m58)spoiled the Czech party, before her compatriot Linda Stahl produced a superb personal-best performance with a giant throw of 66m81 in the fifth round to claim the continental title in impeccable and shocking style.

An elated Stahl revealed her feelings on her surprise victory: “It’s an unbelievable feeling. Right after my throw, I didn’t even realise how far I threw the javelin. I didn’t expect it at all. It was not easy to throw due to the wind, so I focused on throwing not too high. I’m happy to share the podium with Christina.”

Obergfoll graciously returned the favour with praise for the winner: “I have suffered from muscle cramp during this competition. Then Linda achieved a great throw in the fifth round. It is a shame for me to get the silver medal. However, I am happy to get any medal.”

Women’s 100m: The happiest athlete award of the night must go to Germany’s Verena Sailer; the popular winner of the women’s 100m final.

Blasting to a 11.10 personal best, the shocked athlete capitalised on having the fastest reaction in the field to scorch to victory ahead of two French sprinters; Veronique Mang and Myriam Soumare.

Eyes and mouth wide open is disbelief and elation, Sailer commented shortly afterwards: “Wow, I’m the European champion. It feels great. I can’t believe it, the race was amazing.”

Dancing around in celebration, the silver and bronze medallists also spoke of their shock after additionally registering lifetime best marks:

“I had a good feeling during the run. When you are here in Barcelona in the European championships, you only want to give your best, I did. The run was fantastic. I have really enjoyed this particular moment of my career. I love being here. It is like a dream,” explained Mang.

Soumare continued: “After a difficult beginning to this season, I put everything in this race. I cannot believe what I achieved, I am so happy to win the bronze medal. I have put all my strength in this run. It was fantastic when I saw my name on the screen. It is just happiness.”

In another thrilling night of action, the Olympic stadium was kept on their toes with baited breathe once again as the three men’s finals of Thursday produced outstanding performances.

Men’s high jump: Aleksander Shustov lead a Russain one-two with his 2m33 clearance at his first attempt ahead of 24-year-old Ivan Ukhov (2m31) and Britain’s Martyn Bernard in third place (with a 2m29 season’s best).

Shustov was delighted with his winning display in less than ideal conditions: “From the beginning, it was not going well because of the rain bit then I found the courage to jump higher. I talked to my coach and gave my best. Sincerely, when Ukhov cleared 2m31, I was thinking to skip my third attempt, but the coach insisted not to do it. So it was the right decision because I jumped 2m33 first and finally won the gold.”

Men’s decathlon: Exciting would not sum up this contest enough, as Frenchman Romain Barras narrowly captured the decathlon crown by 17 points last night. With a consistent series a very impressive displays in most events, Barras registered 8453-points ahead of the Netherland’s Eelco Sintnicolaas (8436) and Andrei Krauchanka (BEL – 8370).

After celebrating with his twenty other finishers, Barras revealed: “The competition was very tight. At the beginning of the last race, only five points were between me and the Dutch, Sintnicolaas. The competition was open and everything was possible. I had to win the 1500m to be sure to win the decathlon.”

The silver medallist was nevertheless a happy man, also: “It was an outstanding competition. All the while, I was fighting with my main rival, Romain. I thought I could catch him during the 1500m discipline but at the 1,000m point of the race, he accelerated and it was then that I realised it was impossible. My objective was to improve on my personal best and I achieved that.”

Men’s triple jump: The reigning world indoor champion, Phillips Idowu (GBR) posted his most consistently high display of jumps for years when it mattered most yesterday. With a best of 17m81 from the fourth round, Idowu’s new personal best was a clear 30cm ahead of runner-up Marian Oprea (ROU) and his main rival for the gold; an under-performing Teddy Tamgho (FRA – 17m45).

Idowu explained afterwards: “It feels fantastic to have jumped my personal best. My build up to the championships was not great but I am very happy to have been able to jump consistently today. I am a good athlete with the world and European championship titles now under my belt. I am just missing one title – the Olympics.”

Euro Athletics - Barcelona (July work)

Van Commenee’s Team GB are “ready to go”

On the eve of the European championships, Charles Van Commenee; the Head coach of Team GB spoke about his squad’s chances.

Positioned in the centre of the top table at this afternoon’s press conference organised by UK Athletics at the team hotel, the Dutchman was flanked by three athletes with genuine gold medal chances here in Barcelona, yet it was the 52-year-old that stole the show instead of rushing off for a siesta.

In determined and confident mood, Van Commenee (joined by 100m man Dwain Chambers, 400m runner Martyn Rooney and 400m hurdler Dai Greene) joked with the international press about how he is accustomed to relenting to the so-called ‘official team medal target’ which the media apparently conjure up for themselves, yet the bespectacled ‘athletics magician’ gave an inclination as to how he actually feels his team will perform this week:

“We have a strong team here and we’ve had a terrific last few weeks out in at the preparation camps in Monte Gordo, Portugal and for the distance runners, out in Font Romeo, in the Pyrenees,” Van Commenee explained.

“It all went very well and now everyone’s in shape and ready to go. I’ve no complaints – we’ve selected the best squad through a tough selection criteria (the same as that for the World championships). It may be harsh qualifying but it fits in with our (UK Athletics) policy to prepare for London 2012; the athletes will need to live up to expectations and deal with immense pressure so we are displaying the same approach now. UK Sport has set us a target of 10-15 medals in this championship and I am very confident that we can achieve that.”

Undeniably, the GB squad will have many tricks up their sleeve; leaving Van Commenee and Co to gatecrash the Spanish party with a sparkling fiesta of their own.

Dwain's "doing it for his kids"

Dwain Chambers may be the hot favourite for 100m gold here in Barcelona, but the 32-year-old; although in positive mood, is having to deal with more expectation than most; from his three young children back home in the UK.

The World indoor 60m champion explained at this afternoon’s Team GB press conference from the team hotel that not a day goes by without him regularly contacting his brood during his stay in the Spanish city:

“I miss my family, of course” explained the father of three, “but we have Skype in the team hotel so I can talk to them every day. I’m sure that they want daddy to bring a gold medal home for them so I really want to do that.”

Inspired by a motivational poem from the 1992 Olympic 100m champion, Linford Christie in the team hotel last week, Chambers revealed the impact his countryman had on his mental preparations for the coming week:

“Linford’s win was 18-years ago and it’s inspiring to know we’re going back to the same stadium where he took the gold and it is a great chance to or me to recreate history. I hope I do him proud and this may be my last European championships.

I’m optimistic – I’ve got strong competition coming from (France’s) Christophe Lemaitre and a strong field but I just need to try my best and keep a cool head. It’s my ambition to win gold and to do that, I need to use my experience. I think he (Lemaitre) will be full of confidence coming into these championships but I want to win.”

Chambers was pushed to a sub-10 clocking in order to win the European Cup (in 9.99) last month over Lemaitre and ran well on the Barcelona track a fortnight ago and admitted he may need to run sub-10 to win continental gold.

Despite his years of championship experience, the British sprinter also confessed that nerves still bother him come competition time but with extra motivation back home, Chambers will surely not let his children down.

Barcelona track passes Rooney’s test

Earlier this morning, British 400m man Martyn Rooney took a trip to the track where he will attempt to win European gold later this week.

Ranked third on the continental rankings with a 44.99 clocking, Rooney spoke out about his liking for the surface at the Team GB press conference this afternoon and is evidently bubbling over with excitement:

“I’m in good shape so I’m excited and I’ve got a great feeling from seeing the track this morning. It’s a great, impressive stadium – just like the one in Beijing (where Rooney placed 6th in the 2008 Olympic final).”

The British one-lapper remains cautiously optimistic, though; giving credit to his fiercest rivals this week:

”It’s a very competitive event. (Jonathon) Borlee’s very talented, as is (David) Gillick and (Michael) Bingham – we’re all there to win so it will be fun. My last race (at the Gateshead IAAF Diamond League) was a kick up the arse and I made mistakes but I’ve had three weeks to work on that and I’m feeling in good shape and I’m in a good frame of mind now!"

Opening Ceremony report

At 9:30pm on Monday evening in front of Barcelona’s Font Magic on Avenida Maria Cristina, the B10 opening ceremony took place.

Combining elements of local identity, arts and culture, the free of charge event lasted 75-minutes and attracted thousands of the local public and athletics enthusiasts.

Although two large television screens were positioned at each side of the stage, due to the sheer mass of the crowd, your editor was pretty far back and had to take photos on tip-toe! So many of the public and B10 ticket holders were there in fact, that dozens of them resorted to climbing the podiums and architecture to get a glimpse of the action.

The ceremony began with the same classical music which continued throughout the show (it would have been nice if the music was changed throughout) and a countdown clock to introduce the start of the championships.

To the left of the area, 6 aerial acrobats fell spectacularly from a building before launching into dance moves to the music. The stage and the fountain water, too, adapted their colours and shape to the music while dancers took to the stage with the rim of a replica Olympic stadium roof gradually fell in the backdrop.

It was truly a great spectacle to see so many of the public and athletics fans; although staging the ceremony in public meant that a lot could not see all of the event and particularly, many of the elite athletes stayed away for security reasons - it was great promotion for the championships and for our sport.

It was a great idea that the opening ceremony was taken to the people but athletics fans would have been disappointed with their view unless they hot the early; especially as they will be used to having a seat in the stadium like they will have for the closing ceremony on Sunday evening – your editor’s feet hurt a lot last night!

The music was beautiful but it didn’t hold the attention of many of the crowd, as the majority left half-way through. In alphabetical order, the nations with their flag bearers entered the stage to huge cheers – especially the Spanish squad and the Italians but some nations like team GB had no representatives on the night.

The finale included the Catalonian and Spanish national anthems and a few dignitaries on stage to give a speech – most left then, unfortunately but a fitting end was provided with the European Athletics anthem being played and the EA flag falling down over the fountain and stage before the B10 mascot Barni was introduced ahead of a huge firework display to upbeat music.