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  Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Munich serves up athletics treat
Great Britain's victorious 4x100m relay team
Great Britain's victorious 4x100m relay team

So what's the verdict on the 2002 European Championships - unheimlich gut oder nicht so gut?

Early on, with the whiff of heady Commonwealth nights still in the nostrils, there was a sense that the championships might be somewhat anti-climactic.

But from the moment Paula Radcliffe moved to the front of the 10,000m field on Tuesday night, the drama kept on coming in wave after wave.

Take your pick from the great battles - Jose Manuel Martinez pipping Dieter Baumann over 10,000m, Sureyya Ayhan holding off Gabi Szabo in the women's 1500m or Sonia O'Sullivan being overhauled by Marta Dominguez in the 5,000m.

Then there were the outstanding individual performances - 19-year-old Carolina Kluft winning the heptathlon just weeks after taking the world junior title, Wilson Kipketer looking like his old self in edging a brilliant 800m, Kostas Kenteris storming to a sensational gold over 200m.

From a purely parochial perspective, these championships have ended a qualified success.

Four years ago in Budapest, Great Britain won nine gold medals.

This time around they may not have matched that total, but the ghosts of last summer's World Championships have been exorcised.


In Edmonton, Jonathan Edwards' gold and Dean Macey's bronze were the team's only medals.

Macey never made the plane to Munich, struck down by injury, while Edwards' failure to retain his European title was perhaps the biggest disappointment of all.

Daniel Caines wanted more than bronze in the men's 400m, while Kelly Holmes' 800m bronze was overshadowed by her controversial comments about Jolanda Ceplak.

Steve Backley throws for gold
Steve Backley throws for gold

But there were positives aplenty.

At the top end, Ashia Hansen and Steve Backley proved themselves supreme competitors, snatching gold in the triple jump and javelin when all seemed lost.

Both Hansen and Backley crowned themselves unofficial world champions by winning Commonwealth and European titles in the space of a fortnight.

Dwain Chambers, by contrast, had a horrific time of it in Manchester but ran beautifully throughout his entire series of 100m here to take his first major senior title and confirm his world class.

When he anchored the 4x100m team to gold on the final afternoon, his week - and that of comeback kid Darren Campbell - was complete.

Colin Jackson ended his 18-year outdoor career in exactly the style he deserved, with a fourth successive European gold to match Backley's record-breaking feat.

Talking of record-breaking feet - don't take this as insider information, but if Radcliffe doesn't win BBC Sports Personality of the Year after that sensational 10,000m, it'll be a downright scandal.

Then there were the bonuses - Jade Johnson's silver in the long jump, Lee McConnell's bronze in the 400m.

And to wrap it all up, the usual men's 4x400m gold - but then, with Britain unbeaten for 16 years in the longer relay, who ever doubted that one?

Quite spectacular

As a setting, the Olympiastadion was quite spectacular, a 30-year-old wonder of construction whose gleaming steel spider's web roof remains a space-age sight even today.

After a soggy start to the week, the crowds got bigger and bigger as the days went by, culminating in sell-outs from the Friday to Sunday.

The fans knew their stuff, too. German golds were always going to be greeted with a booming Bavarian wall of noise, but the level of interest in and understanding of even the technical events was huge.

It all adds up. Brilliant performances, a large and enthusiastic crowd, British success. Munchen 2002? Einfach klasse.

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