Buck and Strachan strike gold in Gothenburg relay
Great Britain landed a superb six medals on the final day at the European Indoor Championships as Yorkshire pair Richard Strachan and Richard Buck struck gold in Gothenburg.
The men’s 4x400m team of Michael Bingham, Buck, Nigel Levine – the individual silver medallist ran a superb third leg to put the team in the lead – and Leeds runner Strachan clocked 3mins 06.96secs to finish over half a second clear of closest rivals Russia last night.
They were disqualified while still on their lap of honour, though, after second-leg runner Buck appeared to step off the track as he jostled for position with Poland’s Rafal Omelko on the first bend.
But the York athlete appeared to be barged by the Pole, leaving him little option but to leave his lane, and the team were reinstated on appeal.
Buck said: “I saw the Polish guy outside me really vying for it and I thought ‘I’m getting there first’. I really put it in and when he came in and landed on me I did the best I could to sit in there, but where else could I have gone?
“I was trying desperately to stay up and I had to drop one foot out to come back in again,” added Buck.
Yorkshire were also celebrating a bronze medal as Sheffield’s Mukhtar Mohammed added bronze in the 800m on a podium-packed Sunday.
Perri Shakes-Drayton celebrated winning double gold.
The 24-year-old followed up her dominant performance in the 400 metres at the Scandinavium Arena by anchoring the relay team to victory with another fine run last night.
Fifteen minutes later there was gold too for the men’s relay squad, while Eilidh Child and Nigel Levine also finished the day with two medals following their silvers in the individual 400m.
It all took Britain’s tally for the three-day event – the first major championships under new head coach Peter Eriksson – to eight, just short of their 2011 total of nine. Indeed, it was only two off their best ever haul and was achieved in the absence of Olympic champions Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford.
And four golds was Britain’s equal best number of that colour at a European Indoors since 1994 and put them second to Russia in the medal standings.
Eriksson said: “I think this was great. We said we were going to do better (than Paris) and I think we did. There were a lot of season’s best and personal bests.
“We had all of the women in finals and only three of the guys didn’t make finals so I think that’s a big success for us.
“We selected a whole team to be potential finalists and that’s important for us going forward because that’s how we are going to get the medals.”
Shakes-Drayton was the undoubted star of the final day with two golds in the space of seven hours.
She led a British one-two to take 400m gold before returning last night to bring the relay team home in a new championship record.
The team, which was led off by Child and also included Olympic silver medal winner Christine Ohuruogu and Shana Cox, led from the very first leg to win in three minutes 27.56 seconds, 0.22secs ahead of the Russians.
That time was also a new British record.
Shakes-Drayton earlier took the individual crown in 50.85s, a second personal best in two days, finishing well ahead of fellow hurdles specialist Child, who lowered her own Scottish record to 51.45.
The Londoner said: “I can feel it in my legs right now but I went out there and did it for the girls. Nobody wants to let anyone down. It has been a great day at the office.
“The hard work I have been doing has paid off and I can look forward to the outdoors now.”
The 24-year-old, who confirmed she would return to the hurdles for the outdoor season, missed out on the Olympic final by just one place last year and admitted: “With every disappointment I think you get stronger and that’s the case with me.”
Ohuruogu added: “I always find the 400m indoors hard, but I couldn’t complain because these girls are on their fourth run today. For me it was just to come in and keep them motivated for one last push and finish the job.”
Levine earlier clocked 46.21 to win silver in the individual event, recovering strongly following a tangle with Russia’s Pavel Trenikhin on the final bend.
Mohammed edged out Anis Ananenka of Belarus by 0.01s to take third in the 800m, despite twice being barged by his rival.
Elsewhere, defending champion Jenny Meadows was fourth in the women’s 800m.
Bingham was fifth and Strachan sixth in the 400m, with Cox sixth in the women’s event.
Steve Lewis finished sixth in the pole vault, Asha Philip sixth in the 60m, Yamile Aldama sixth in the triple jump, Lauren Howarth sixth in the 3,000m and Yorkshire’s Chris Tomlinson seventh in the long jump.
Russia topped the medal table with 14 medals, including four golds, following Aleksandr Menkov’s victory in the long jump.
He edged out Swedish home favourite Michel Torneus by just two centimetres. Germany’s Christian Reif won bronze.
I’m feeling let down by Don Valley closure – Mohammed
Great Britain 800m runner Mukhtar Mohammed has added his voice to the growing criticism of the decision to close Don Valley Stadium, saying he feels saddened and let down by the plan to demolish the Sheffield facility where he trains.
The 22-year-old, who won a bronze medal at the the European Indoor Championship final in Gothenburg, is set to have to relocate to UK Athletics’ high performance centre in Loughborough to continue his promising career after Sheffield City Council ruled the stadium should be scrapped as a cost-cutting measure.
It is also the training base of Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, who has already hit out at the decision, describing the news as “so sad”.
Mohammed, a former Sheffield Wednesday academy footballer, said: “It’s a shame. I am always there, either on the track or in the gym. To hear that story is really sad. I do feel let down.
“I remember the first time I want there at the end of 2006 with a school event. It was Don Valley that brought me to athletics, if not for Don Valley I wouldn’t be here.”
The closure is a blow to the sporting legacy the London Olympics was designed to leave behind, with Mohammed revealing he was inspired by seeing former European 800m bronze medallist Sam Ellis train at the stadium.
But the council said the £29m venue was being sacrificed as part of the their bid to save millions of pounds. The nearby Woodbourn Road track, which was shut down two years ago, has been earmarked as a possible replacement venue although Ennis’s coach Toni Minichiello has already said a move there would represent a “hefty blow” to her Olympic hopes in Rio.
Minichiello’s concern has been echoed by Rotherham-born former Olympic silver medallist Peter Elliott.
Elliott spent the past four years as the English Institute of Sport’s regional director for the north, before recently taking on a new role in senior management, and admitted Ennis’s legacy on young athletes in her home city was in danger of being lost.
“If we want legacy and we want young athletes being there (at the Olympics in) 2020 and 2024 then they have to provide an alternative venue, which I do believe is Woodbourn Road,” Elliott said.
“Currently that is not really fit for purpose. They are going to have to invest money into that stadium to bring it up to a standard that will accommodate an Olympic champion.
“What they do need to do is look at the legacy and they need to look at the fact they have an Olympic champion in the city. They need to invest in Woodbourn Road and make it fit for purpose and ensure our next generation of Jessica Ennis’s have a home to train at.”