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Page last updated at 10:07 GMT, Saturday, 31 July 2010 11:07 UK

Lewis-Francis accepts blame for 4x100m relay disaster

European Athletics Championships 2010
Venue: Barcelona Dates: 27 July - 1 August
Coverage: Watch live on BBC HD, BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Sport website (UK users only); Live coverage on BBC Radio 5 live; Full highlights on iPlayer and highlights of the biggest events on demand online (UK only) Full details

Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis

GB 4x100m relay team botch handover

Mark Lewis-Francis accepted the blame after his error saw Great Britain exit the 4x100m relay in the first round at the European Athletics Championships.

Lewis-Francis, who won silver in the 100m, failed to collect the baton cleanly from Marlon Devonish and GB could only finish fifth in their heat.

"This is my fault, I've let the guys down," an emotional Lewis-Francis told the BBC. "Wow, it's such a big blow.

"I apologise sincerely to all the guys, I just cannot believe that happened."

Lewis-Francis was on the final leg of the relay and GB, heavily tipped to win a medal in Barcelona, were in a strong position after good runs from Leon Baptiste, Craig Pickering and Devonish.

Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis

Lewis-Francis shoulders blame for relay blunder

But Lewis-Francis could only grab at thin air as he tried to take the baton from Devonish and by the time he could collect it, GB had slipped from first to fifth. Their eventual time of 39.49 seconds was not good enough to secure a fastest losers' place in the final.

"I just didn't react," said Lewis-Francis. "We had a good spirit in the camp and I've got to take this on my shoulders, I just did not get out at all.

"I really feel it for the guys, they have been waiting for two weeks for this run."

Devonish added: "I thought there was no-one around me when I came round the bend. Let's do a proper analysis later, but there's no hiding from it that that was a bad changeover.

"We expect to medal at the Euros, of course we do because we pick up medals at the Worlds a fair bit. I'm bitterly disappointed, but let's not put it all on Mark's head. We're here as a team."

BBC Sport pundit Michael Johnson was left stunned by GB's failure to progress. "It's a very simple thing at the end of the day," said Johnson.

"We've had the same problem in the US, but it's just unbelievable. In the early stages of a competition, the handouts should all be done safely."

606: DEBATE

It is not the first time British sprinters have squandered chances of medals in the relay. There were dropped batons at the Olympics in Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000), as well as the World Championships in Edmonton (2001), along with a disqualification at the last Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

GB's women fared no better, two poor handouts costing them dearly as Joice Maduaka, Montell Douglas, Hayley Jones and Laura Turner could only finish sixth in their heat in a time of 44.09 seconds as they also failed to qualify for the final.

In the other women's 4x100m heat, legendary sprinter Merlene Ottey became the oldest athlete to compete at the European Championships at the age of 50.

Ottey, a naturalized Slovenian of Jamaican origin, surpassed the record previously held by 47-year-old French marathon runner Nicole Brakebusch-Leveque as she anchored the Slovenian team to a time of 44.30 seconds that saw them finish seventh.

Afterwards Ottey declared her ambition to qualify for the worlds in South Korea next year and did not rule out trying to make the London Olympics in 2012.

"I don't see the end at the moment," she said. "My goal now is to try to qualify for the world championships. As for the Olympics, ask me after the worlds.

KATHARINE MERRY'S BLOG

"This is right up there with all the medals I have won. I don't know if there's any athlete over 40 competing out here in sprinting, so to be competing at 50 is great."

The smiles returned to Britain's relay runners as the men's and women's 4x400m quartets comfortably progressed to Sunday's finals.

With silver and bronze medallist winners Michael Bingham and Martyn Rooney rested, Conrad Williams, Graham Hedman, Richard Buck and Rob Tobin cruised through with a time of 3:04.09 ahead of the Polish, Dutch and French teams who also qualified.

The women's team of Nicola Sanders, Vicki Barr, Marilyn Okoro and Lee McConnell finished second in their semi behind an impressive Russian team.

Ireland's Derval O'Rourke lost out on gold in a thrilling women's 100m hurdles final by a mere two-hundredths of a second behind Turkey's Nevin Yanit, who ran 12.63secs.

O'Rourke's 12.65 was a new national record. Carolin Nytra, of Germany, clocked 12.68 for bronze.

France's Myriam Soumare added gold to the bronze she won in the 100m when she ran 22.32secs - the fastest time in Europe this year - to claim the women's 200m title.

The Ukraine's Yelizaveta Bryzhina was second in 22.44, narrowly pipping Aleksandra Fedoriva, of Russia, who was given the same time. Another French woman, Veronique Mang, was disqualified for a false start after she stormed off having barely settled into the set position.

In the women's marathon the 31-year-old Zivile Balciunaite of Lithuania took gold in a time of two hours, 31 minutes and 14 seconds to earn her first major triumph.

Nailya Yulamanova of Russia won silver in 2.32:15 and Anna Incerti of Italy bronze in 2.32:48.

Britain's Michelle Ross Cope finished 14th in 2.38:45 minutes, Susan Partridge was 16th in 2.39:07, Holly Rush was 20th and Helen Decker 21st, while Rebecca Robinson and Jo Wilkinson were 24th and 25th respectively.

Norway's Olympic and world championAndreas Thorkildsen successfully defended his javelin title with a throw of 88.37 metres. Matthias De Zordo of Germany could only get as close as 87.81m, with Finn Tero Pitkamaki's 86.87m enough for bronze.

Belarus's Andrei Mikhnevich justified his favourite tag when he threw 21.01 metres to edge Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski, of Poland, by a centimetre to win the shot put gold.

Defending champion German Ralf Bartels (20.93m) was third, while Blackpool's Carl Myerscough placed last in the 12-strong final with a throw of 18.19m - well below his personal best of 21.92m.

As expected, France's world champion Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault. The 23-year-old's vault of 5.85 metres bettered silver medallist Maksym Mazuryk, of the Ukraine by five centimetres, while Pole Przemyslaw Czerwinski (5.75m) claimed bronze.

Saturday's results in full from European Athletics

Latest medal table



see also
Turner leads GB Euro medal haul
30 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Ennis extends lead in heptathlon
30 Jul 10 |  Athletics
European Athletics day four photos
30 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Euro Champs day-by-day guide
26 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Euro Athletics predictions
26 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics


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