03 March 2007
Sanders storms to brilliant victory
Nicola Sanders thrilled the Birmingham crowd in the NIA this afternoon, with a fantastic run to claim gold in the 400m.
The 24-year-old, running in lane six, led from the start and finished in 50.02 seconds, almost a second ahead of second placed Ilona Usovich of Belarus.
The British athlete came into the event as hot favourite but seemed to thrive on the pressure with a time that was the fastest in the world this year and the fourth fastest in history. Sanders also set new British and Commonwealth records, becoming the first Brit to win the title since Sally Gunnell in 1989. Olesya Zykina of Russia took the bronze.
“I knew if I didn’t win everybody would be on me,” said the new European Indoor 400m Champion. “I tried to ignore the pressure but it does get to you eventually and I’m absolutely thrilled to have won despite all that. The time was really good and it’s close to my target for outdoors. It’s good for me personally and it’s great to get another medal for the team. The Brits are looking better and better. The noise from the crowd today was just awesome. It was on another level.”
Meanwhile in the men’s 400m, Britain's Robert Tobin grabbed the bronze medal on the line behind defending champion David Gillick of Ireland in the 400m.
The 23-year-old Tobin finished strongly in the last five metres to just edge Swede Johan Wissman for bronze, crossing the line in 46.15 seconds. Bastian Swillims of Germany took silver.
“I could not get round (Wissman) on the last bend because it was too tight,” said Tobin. “At the end I felt I had done enough to get the bronze medal but I was a little disappointed with the final. However, for me these Championships are only a stepping stone for the outdoor season,” he added.
Elsewhere, Helen Clitheroe just missed out on a medal when she finished third in the women’s 1500m. The race was won by Poland’s Lidia Chojecka who crossed the line in 4:05.13, with Russian duo Natalya Pantalyeva and Olesya Chumackova. In the men’s 3000m, Mo Farah finished fifth in a race won by Italy’s Cosimo Caliandro.
In the men’s 60m semi-finals, Jason Gardener’s dream of winning a fourth successive European title is still a possibility after he raced to victory in the first of the two races. Fellow Briton, Craig Pickering was the winner of the second race.
Ronald Pognon finished second to Gardener, with Ryan Scott ensuring that Britain will have three representatives in the final tomorrow by coming home third. Ireland’s Paul Hession finished fourth to also qualify. Italian champion Fabio Cerrutti, European outdoor 100m champion Matic Osovnikar and Mikhail Yegorychev of Russia all finished behind Pickering to complete the line-up.
“I didn't have the greatest morning in the first round,” said Kwakye. “I had a word with my coach and he told me to just go out there and not to be complacent. Funny things happen in front of a home crowd. This week, I wanted to get to the final and compete when I got there. I know that I can do well but a medal will be a bonus.”
Britain’s Marilyn Okoro ran a gutsy race in the women’s 800m to claim a place in the final with third place in a personal best of 1:59.87, whilst Britain’s Jenny Meadows will join her compatriot after finishing second with a time 2:00.79. James Thie made sure there was home nation interest in the men’s 1500m by qualifying from his heat.
Sunday’s men’s 800m final his boiling up to be a thrilling affair after emphatic semi-final wins from Spain’s Miguel Quesada and the Netherlands’ Arnaud Okken.