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Mo Farah wins GB's first European indoor gold in Paris

EUROPEAN INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Venue: Palais Omnisports, Paris Date: 4-6 March Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button and BBC Sport website (UK only); listen live on BBC 5 live sports extra - Full coverage details

European indoor gold medallist Mo Farah

Fantastic Farah storms to indoor gold

By Tom Fordyce

Mo Farah confirmed his place as the continent's premier distance runner with a masterly display to retain his European Indoor 3,000m title.

The European outdoor 5,000m and 10,000m champion went to the front with nine laps to go at the Palais Omnisports and looked untroubled until Hayle Ibrahimov put him under sustained pressure with 200m to go.

But a last lap of 27.3 seconds held the Azerbaijani at bay as Farah crossed the line in 7 minutes 53 secs to win Britain's first gold medal of these championships.

Farah will move to the USA to work with new coach Alberto Salazar when he leaves Paris, and he revealed afterwards that he will also make his half-marathon debut in New York on 22 March.

"American life beckons - it won't be easy starting a new life, but as an athlete you have to make sacrifices," Farah told BBC Sport. "Alberto just said, 'Let's see what you can do for the half, let's see where we are'."

The move up in distance reflects Farah's ambitions as a runner after a brilliant last year.

Mo Farah in action
Farah was pushed hard by Ibrahimov in the closing stages

Here in Bercy he clocked 4:09.80 mins for the first half of the race and then 3:43.2 for the second, the latter fast enough to have got him through the 1500m heats earlier.

He said: "It was tough - I had to work for it. I knew Hayle was a danger. I had to dig deep and work my way through. But as an athlete this is what you train for."

On a good day for the British squad, Richard Buck took 400m bronze as France's Leslie Dhjone delighted a packed stadium with a beautifully paced run for gold.

Buck's team-mate Richard Strachan went out hard and led early before Dhjone made his move and glided into the lead at the bell, and was then overtaken in the final few strides by silver medallist Thomas Schneider and a battling Buck.

Buck said: "I've been desperate to get a medal for so long, so I'm thrilled to get one, but I'm bitterly disappointed not to get gold. I didn't get what I wanted, but Leslie ran a great race."

Jenny Meadows may yet add another gold to her country's tally after leading from gun to finish line to win her 800m semi-final in dominant fashion.

Meadows, world indoor silver medallist a year ago, ran a near-perfect race to clock 2:00.65 and underline her credentials for her first major title.

Jenny Meadows after winning her semi-final
Meadows is in excellent form in the 800m

The 29-year-old said: "I know I'm a strong athlete now, and the rounds suit me.

"I just thought I'd put myself at the front to go through the bell in 59 seconds dead and then to run 2.01. I did that and felt really comfortable.

"I definitely want to get on the podium and it would be great to get gold. I'm not sure how I'll run it in the final - I'll have a few words with my coach [husband Trevor Painter] and see what tomorrow brings."

Her team-mate Marilyn Okoro produced a season's best of 2:02.65 secs to join her in Sunday's final after coming through in third place from the second semi. "I didn't panic, and I'm so pleased to be in the final," she said. "I had to get myself a new focus after Friday and really want it."

Teenage sprint tyro Jodie Williams delivered on her rich promise by qualifying from her 60m semi-final in a personal best of 7.21.

The 17-year-old, reigning world youth and world junior champion over 100m, had to request a week off school to make her senior GB bow here in Paris but now stands sixth on her country's all-time 60m list after another precocious performance.

A delighted Williams said: "I'm in absolute shock. I was in the hardest of the semis, but I'm so happy to get through - I literally threw myself at the line. I'll get ready for the final and do what I can do."

Dwain Chambers had another poor start in the 60m semi-finals but, as in his heat on Saturday morning, had the power and speed to come through and win in 6.61.

Dwain Chambers in action
The Chambers/Lemaitre match-up is the highlight of Sunday's action

The 32-year-old, reigning European indoor champion, admitted that his training this winter has been geared to the summer's outdoor campaign and that was evident in the effort he had to exert to come from behind.

"It took that heat to wake me up, but I feel a lot better now," he said. "It's not getting any easier at my age, but I'll have to be at my best in the final. It's going to be a tough one."

The greatest threat to Chambers' title is likely to come from home favourite Christophe Lemaitre, 12 years the Briton's junior but 100m and 200m champion outdoors in Barcelona last summer.

Lemaitre's 6.55 in winning his semi-final was the best time in Europe this year, although his countryman Martial Mbandjock and another veteran Francis Obikwelu will also fancy their chances of medalling.

Andrew Osagie matched Meadows' performance as he won the first of the men's 800m in 1:49.02.

The 23-year-old, hotly tipped as a youngster, has found his progression through the senior ranks slowed by injury but responded to every move before pulling away in silky-smooth style.

"I've got so close so many times, but I deserved to make it this time," he told BBC Sport afterwards.

"I had a game plan - I put myself in a good position all race. I'll get a good night's sleep tonight. It's the first time I've been able to relax and give my all."

While Farah, Meadows and Williams all impressed, there were disappointing first-round exits for sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and 1500m runners Colin McCourt and Nick McCormick.

McCourt in particular was furious with himself after trailing home last in his 1500m heat. "I came here to win a medal and I've embarrassed myself," he said. "It's pathetic. I didn't justify my lottery funding with that."

French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie sent his home crowd wild by setting a new personal best and national record in winning gold in a dramatic competition.

Lavillenie's first-time clearance at 6.03m, having failed twice at 5.91m, puts him third on the global all-time list and sealed a French one-two with his compatriot Jerome Clavier taking silver.

A fascinating men's high jump final was won by Russia's charismatic Ivan Ukhov after a splendid tussle with Jaroslav Baba.

The Czech athlete produced a season's best of 2.34 but when Ukhov, the defending European Indoor champion, cleared 2.38 at his first attempt the outsider had no answer.

Ukhov, unbeaten throughout the indoor season, then had a crack at Javier Sotomayor's 22-year-old world indoor record of 2.44m but narrowly failed to disturb the Cuban great's long-standing mark.



see also
Ofili takes Euro hurdles silver
04 Mar 11 |  Athletics
Chambers may consider ban appeal
04 Mar 11 |  Athletics
Ennis pulls out of Euro Indoors
28 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Lewis-Francis suffers injury blow
22 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Wilson makes GB Euro indoor squad
22 Feb 11 |  Athletics
UKA chief confident over GB hopes
21 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Farah & Idowu shine in Birmingham
19 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Injuries hit Brits in Birmingham
19 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics


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