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  Friday, 9 August, 2002, 19:30 GMT 20:30 UK
Golden glory for Backley
Steve Backley celebrates with the Union Jack flag after his victory
Backley won it with his fifth-round throw

Steve Backley became the first British athlete to win four successive European titles as he claimed a dramatic victory in the javelin final in Munich.

Backley opened with a traditional long first-round throw of 86.29m and improved his best to 86.37m in the third round.

But he still found himself trailing to Russia's Sergey Makarov, who had led since the first round with 88.05m.

The British veteran, who also won the title in 1990, 1994 and 1998, held his nerve to land a superb winning fifth-round effort of 88.54m.


He has come back with a season's best when it matters
Backley's coach John Trower

It proved enough to give him gold again as Makarov could only foul in a nervous final round.

Makarov took silver with his effort of 88.05m, while Germany's Boris Henry won the bronze with a throw of 85.33m.

Backley said: "There seems to be something special about the European Championships.

"I felt good tonight and I got better and better as the competition went on.

"I knew I still had a good one in me that could challenge Sergey, and it was always going to be tough for him to come back in the final round."

Another potential threat failed to materialise as long-time rival Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic failed to register a throw and was out of the competition after three rounds.

Backley admitted that coming from behind to defeat the favourite Makarov made victory all the sweeter.

Steve Backley launches his javelin in the Munich final
Backley improved through the rounds

"It is more satisying to do it that way," said the 33-year-old.

"You have got to really dig deep and it is a real test of your concentration.

"But as you get older you enjoy the championship atmosphere and I certainly rise to that.

"Everything I do all year is geared to doing well in the championships, and the European title is as good as a World or Olympic title because all the best guys are here."

The only thing missing from Backley's bulging medal collection is an Olympic gold, and he vowed to take his quest to Athens in 2004.

Fantastic shape

"To have four European titles possibly makes up for not having an Olympic gold," he said.

"But I have still got to go to Athens for sure. I can build on that."

His coach John Trower was equally adamant that Backley would continue for at least another two years.

"He is in fantastic shape and it would take a bus to stop him being in Athens," Trower said.

"He has always been a talented boy but he is such a competitor and never wants to lose.

"He has come back with a season's best when it matters."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Britain's Steve Backley
"I knew I had a big throw in me"
Backley's winning throw
Watch Steve win fourth straight European gold

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