Medal joy for Britain as record smashed in Zurich

Great Britain's (left-right) Desiree Henry, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Asha Phillip celebrate winning the women's 4x100m relay final.
Great Britain's (left-right) Desiree Henry, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Asha Phillip celebrate winning the women's 4x100m relay final.
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Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford starred as Great Britain ended a record-breaking European Championships with a flourish, topping the medal table after winning five golds on an incredible last day.

The British team will return home from Zurich with 23 medals following six wonderful days of athletics at the Stadion Letzigrund.

That haul surpasses the previous record of 19 from Barcelona four years ago, while the 12 golds blew away the previous best of nine set in Budapest in 1998.

There were eight British medals in all on the final day, five of which were podium-topping displays as the team finished top of the medal list for just the third time in the championships’ history.

The men’s 4x400m relay team got the ball rolling in the Swiss sun, before London 2012 stars Farah and Rutherford triumphed either side of the men’s 4x100m team.

Asha Phillip, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry added a fifth gold of a wonderful Sunday for the British team, romping to victory in the women’s sprint relay in 42.24 seconds – breaking the national record in the process.

“It was an incredibly special Sunday,” British Athletics performance director Neil Black said. “To see Mo flying around the track after all that stuff was brilliant; to see the relays converting and the girls setting a British record and to understand the effort, the pain, the trials and tribulations behind that to get these guys, to get these guys slick, has not been easy.

“They should be really happy and enjoy it for a few hours, for a few days and just think ‘we smashed it’.”

Jo Pavey, a month shy of her 41st birthday, got these medal-laden championships under way by rolling back the years to win 10,000m gold on the opening night, which Farah followed up the next day by winning the men’s event.

The 31-year-old Briton completed the European double in the final session in Zurich, putting a wretched 2014 behind him by impressively adding the 5,000m.

“This means a lot to me, particularly with everything I’ve gone through this year with the London Marathon (finishing eighth) and getting ill before coming here,” Farah said.

“It would have been nice to go into the season without any problems, but that happens in life and you just have to get on with it.”

Rutherford – another star of ‘Super Saturday’ at London 2012 – has enjoyed a better time this year, breaking the British long jump record before winning the Commonwealth and European titles in quick succession – not that this success means any less.

“It’s fantastic,” he said after a winning leap of 8.29m. “It’s great to go out there and put out a couple of half decent jumps and have another title.”

The individual success of Farah and Rutherford was capped by the marvellous performances of the British relay teams.

The men’s 4x400m team kicked things off as Conrad Williams, Matthew Hudson-Smith, Michael Bingham and Martyn Rooney broke the three-minute barrier on the way to gold.

The women’s quartet won bronze, as did Chris O’Hare in the 1500m and Andy Vernon in the 5,000m, before both of Great Britain’s 4x100m teams topped the podium.

First up were the men and, despite being without 100m champion James Dasaolu and fellow sub-10 sprinter Chijindu Ujah, were deserved victors.

Strong legs from James Ellington, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Richard Kilty gave Adam Gemili the opportunity to power home in a European-leading 37.93secs.

“These guys did all the work so it was easy for me to hold them off,” Gemili said after adding the relay crown to his individual 200m crown.

“It’s great to get another gold medal here and I hope we can be in the mix with the US and Jamaican sprinters next year. We came as the favourites and we practised a lot.”

The women, by contrast, were not considered favourites, yet performed fantastically to not only take gold but the national record as well.

In the last event on the track, Philip, Nelson, Jodie Williams and Henry crossed the line in a European-leading time of 42.24s.

Blustery conditions slowed some of the track times at the Northern Under-17 and Under-15 championships at Wigan over the weekend.

English schools champion George Armstrong (Leeds City) was in great form adding another title to his collection with 57.02 in the U17 discus. In the same age group George Davies (City of York) was in a class of his own in the javelin with a throw of 64.07.

In the women’s events Barnsley’s Toni Buckingham excelled in the shot with a win throwing 15.01 while Maggie Okul (Kingston upon Hull) continued the fine tradition of Humberside hammer throwers with a superb win in 53,18.

On the track Ella Barrett had a sprint double in the U17 200m (24.71) and the 300m (39.40). Sister Alicia took the 80m hurdles in 11.10 but suffered a rare defeat in the 100m finishing runner-up Charlotte Paterson (Kingston upon Hull) who clocked 12.14.