Helen Clitheroe heads GB medal haul with 3,000m gold
Clitheroe wins European 3000m gold
By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport in Paris
Team captain Helen Clitheroe stormed to an emotional 3,000m gold as Britain finished the European Indoor Championships with a rush of medals on the final day.
Jenny Meadows and Dwain Chambers added silvers in the 800m and 60m before both men's and women's 400m relay quartets brought home two more in a breathless finale.
But it was Clitheroe's brilliant run that lit up the Palais Omnisports for the hundreds of British fans on a thrilling, frantic afternoon of athletics.
France's brilliant young triple jumper Teddy Tamgho first broke and then equalled his own world indoor record with two leaps of 17.92 metres to delight the noisy home crowd.
The five medals on the final day made it eight in total for the British squad, their best tally on foreign soil in these championships in 22 years despite having lost possible medallists Jessica Ennis and Mark Lewis-Francis to late injuries.
It's amazing to be part of this experience - I was ranked sixth going into it and I ran as fast as I could, so there wasn't much more I could do
And there was no more popular success within the team than the 37-year-old Clitheroe, who has been without Lottery funding for the past year and until Sunday had just a Commonwealth 1500m bronze from 2002 to show for her years of endeavour in a British vest.
The GB team captain had also finished fourth on four occasions in major finals, and when she went through 2,600m with three of her main rivals lined up behind her it seemed that cruel history might be about to repeat itself.
But Clitheroe is coming off the best winter of her life and gradually turned the screw until only Russia's Olesya Syreva remained on her heels, and then kicked again on the final straight to snatch her first major title by just three hundredths of a second in eight minutes 56.66 seconds.
She said: "I can't believe it - it's what I've been dreaming of but never quite daring to say out loud. Even when they said it was me I thought 'wait wait wait, it can't be me'..."
When victory was confirmed on the giant scoreboard, Clitheroe, who becomes the oldest medallist in this event by a full four years, set off on a lap of honour almost as fast as the opening lap.
"This is what I've been waiting for all these years," she admitted. "I still didn't know even when I crossed the line - I could feel the Russian coming up on the outside. There have been many years of trying, and to have a gold medal? To win a gold medal when I'm team captain? Oh my gosh - I'm going to enjoy this."
When the bell went in the 800m, Meadows was 5m clear of the pursuing pack and looked set to match the achievement of her friend and room-mate Clitheroe.
But she had possibly given too much in that penultimate lap and found herself hauled in by Russia's fast-finishing Yevgeniya Zinurova in the home straight.
Van Commenee 'encouraged' by indoor medals
Meadows had finished fifth and fourth at the last two European Indoors, and while her second place here will give her some satisfaction, her time of 2:00.50 mins was over two seconds off her personal best.
"I'm disappointed not to be champion, especially after what my room-mate Helen did," she admitted. "I felt good on Saturday and wanted to take the pace on again, but it's difficult indoors, and I didn't feel the best today."
Meadows then had just an hour to recover before the 4x400m, but given the baton in second place after solid legs from Kelly Sotherton, Marilyn Okoro and Lee McConnell, she held off the French team to come home second behind a dominant Russian quartet.
A few minutes later, Richard Buck went one better than his bronze in the individual 400m by bringing the baton home in second to the delight of team-mates Nigel Levine, Nick Leavey and Richard Strachan as France took another gold out in front.
Reigning 60m champion Chambers had looked below his best in both heats and semi-finals on Saturday. But he saved his best run of the weekend until last and was just one hundredth of a second off fellow 32-year-old Francis Obikwelu's winning time, the Portuguese coming home in 6.53 secs.
Chambers said: "I dipped but I saw the green vest. I thought maybe my chest had done it but no, it went to the better man. I couldn't get switched on in the heats, but when it got to the final I thought 'let's go for it'. To do this with all my preparation for the outdoors it bodes well."
Chambers thought he might have edged Obikwelu
Precocious sprinter Jodie Williams may be 20 years her skipper Clitheroe's junior, but her fourth place in her first major final - equalling her lifetime best - underlined her enormous potential.
"I'm happy with that," said Williams, who had to take a week off school to compete here in Paris. "It's amazing to be part of this experience - I was ranked sixth going into it and I ran as fast as I could, so there wasn't much more I could do."
Andrew Osagie just missed out on a medal when he was run out of the places in the last few strides of the 800m.
The 23-year-old was burnt off by the kick of the Polish pair of Adam Kszczot and European outdoor champion Marcin Lewandowski but looked likely to hang on for bronze until Spain's Kevin Lopez battled past him at the death.
A disappointed Osagie, who took out his frustration by punching the crash barrier at the end of the 60m straight, said: "I just don't like losing. I really think a medal was there for me today - I missed an opportunity."
But it was triple jumper Tamgho who produced the outstanding performance of the day, first breaking his old indoor mark by one centimetre with a huge leap in the second round before underlining his status as one of the brightest talents in the sport by matching it in the fourth.
Britain's reigning World and European outdoor champion Phillips Idowu chose not to compete at these championships, but the rivalry between the two could light up the outdoor season later this year.
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