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Commonwealth Games 2002
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Athletics Friday, 26 July, 2002, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Shaw lights up Manchester
Lorraine Shaw celebrates her gold medal
Shaw has been a pioneer in Britain for her event

If you wanted any proof that the athletics at the Commonwealth Games is going to be a success, look no further than the women's hammer.

Watching 14-stone women throwing lumps of metal around might not be your usual idea of a good Friday night out.

Even the athletics cognoscenti can be a little bit sniffy about the hammer.

It tends to pass all but the most dedicated by at major championships, taking place in the corner of the infield against a background of more glamorous track events.

Not in Manchester.

Shaw gets a hug from pre-event favourite Bronwyn Eagles
Shaw gets a hug from pre-event favourite Bronwyn Eagles
The opening night of action brought 38,000 rampant enthusiasts into play - the vast majority of whom greeted any sniff of home success with ear-splitting cheers.

So when England's Lorraine Shaw, born in Gloucester but based in Manchester, took a breath, whirled the hammer round her head twice, pivoted on her heels and flung it way, way into the clear blue evening sky to take a wholly unexpected gold, the place went mad.

That fact that the red-hot favourite she beat, the bruising Bronwyn Eagles, hails from Australia, made it even sweeter.

Forget Hewitt-Henman, the recent rugby league Test or any of the last seven Ashes series.

As far as the crowd at the City of Manchester Stadium were concerned, the hammer was the biggest of all.

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It was nerve-wracking watching Bronwyn taking her final throw
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Lorraine Shaw

Shaw, who at 34 is reaching the sunset of her career, greeted her victory in style.

To a standing ovation she sprinted - as much as a woman of her stately girth can sprint - into the infield, before doubling back to find her long-standing coach Alan Bertram in the stands.

The subsequent bear-hug brought winces from those close by, but was still as tender a thing as you will see all Games.

Shaw has been a pioneer in Britain for her event.

She has been ranked in the world's top 10 for the last four years and took Commonwealth silver in Kuala Lumpur four years ago - but this was her moment.

Shaw claimed England's first gold medal of the Games
Shaw claimed England's first gold medal of the Games
The roar that echoed from the stands when she stepped on to the podium to take her gold wouldn't have been out of place at a World Cup final.

The St George's flags fluttered all around, camera flashes winked from a thousand seats and all the time Shaw beamed away like the happiest woman in town.

"The crowd are absolutely brilliant," she gushed afterwards. "They've been right behind us all the way. It means a lot - this is my home crowd. It's huge thrill.

"It was nerve-wracking watching Bronwyn taking her final throw, but when I knew I was champion it was sweet.

"Early in the season I was struggling big time, but I've come out and broken the record. My family's watching me and I'm just so delighted."

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Lorraine Shaw
"No one could have asked any more from me"
Shaw's coach Alan Bertram
"She's put in so much hard work"

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