British duo win gold
Robbie Grabarz insists he is still not surprised by his remarkable transformation into an Olympic contender after kickstarting a superb night for Britain at the European Championships.
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Forty eight hours after Mo Farah retained his 5,000 metres title in Helsinki's Olympic Stadium, Grabarz claimed the first major medal of his career with gold in the high jump on Friday.
Rhys Williams also took gold and effectively sealed his place in London with victory in the 400m hurdles, while there were mixed emotions for Lynsey Sharp, who took silver in the 800m but agonisingly missed out on the qualifying time required to seal her Olympic place.
Grabarz and Lithuania's Raivydas Stanys both cleared 2.31m, but Grabarz took gold on countback by virtue of clearing both of his previous heights at the first attempt.
The 24-year-old from Cambridgeshire lost his National Lottery funding at the end of last year for not reaching performance targets, failing to make the World Championships in Daegu and finishing a lowly 23rd in qualifying at the European Indoors.
However, a few harsh words from coach Fuzz Ahmed and a look at his empty bank balance helped Grabarz refocus on athletics and he is ranked second in the world this year after a personal best of 2.36m in New York earlier this month - a height which won Olympic gold in Beijing.
"I'm still not surprised, it's just another target to tick off the list," said Grabarz, who happily admitted last week that he "looks vacant" all the time because there is deliberately nothing going around in his head.
"It's a solid performance, the one I was aiming for. I told the press I was looking for the title and it's nice to back up your words when it comes to it. I wanted to put pressure on myself beforehand because it's only going to get worse heading into London. If I can apply some pressure to myself and almost make it harder work for me here, it's certainly going to help me in the Games."
In stark contrast, team-mate Samson Oni labelled his own performance "a disgrace" after three failures at 2.20m, his first height.
Less than a week ago, Williams crashed out of the Olympic trials after hitting the penultimate hurdle, leaving him battling team-mate Nathan Woodward for the final place in London.
And although both men are eligible for selection, a European title has surely swung matters in the Welshman's favour when the team is selected on Monday, with Woodward fading to seventh tonight.
"You tell me," Williams said. "If you run a fast time at some random track does that make you a better athlete than coming here running three rounds after a busy weekend, all the pressure on you. You tell me which is harder."
Williams added: "It's a fine line between messing it up, like I did at the trials and fell flat on my face, and really nailing it.
"Now I feel relief more than anything. I've won European bronze, European silver and back in 2003 I won the European juniors and didn't think it would take nine years to finally win a senior title. I wanted to make the most of this opportunity today."
Sharp was a surprise winner at the trials and therefore needed a time of 1:59.90 seconds here to guarantee a place in London, but despite a storming finish down the home straight, she came up short by 0.62s with a personal best of 2:00.52.
Russia's Yelena Arzhakova took gold and Maryna Arzamasava of Belarus looked set to claim silver before stumbling badly 10m from the line, allowing Sharp to burst through and also overhaul Russia's Irina Maracheva on the line.
Britain's Jemma Simpson, who also needed the qualifying time after finishing second in the trials, faded to seventh with a time of 2:02.14.
"I would never have thought I would get a silver medal and I'm so happy with that, but later on I'm going to be frustrated at getting a PB and getting so close to the 'A'," Sharp said.
"I know it's there, I am just a few weeks behind in my training and come the Games I am going to be in the best form of my life.
"It's out of my hands now. I rise to the occasion (in championships) which is a good thing, but I just need to make sure I do the qualifying time in future."
Earlier in the evening, Goldie Sayers also came close to a medal in the women's javelin final.
Sayers was briefly in the bronze medal position after a throw of 63.01m in the second round, but was overhauled by eventual winner Vira Rebryk of Ukraine and had to settle for fourth - the same position in which she finished in the Beijing Olympics.
"It's really frustrating to finish fourth," Sayers said. "I always miss medals by a few centimetres. My aim is to throw a personal best in the Olympic final and hope it's enough."
Richard Buck and Lee McConnell were both fifth in their respective 400m finals, while Chris Clarke and Danny Talbot reached the 200m final and JJ Jegede reached the long jump final, where he needs to jump 8.20m to make the team for London.
Lawrence Okoye and Sophie Hitchon made the finals of the discus and hammer respectively, while Abi Oyepitan narrowly missed out on the 200m final.
However, the 32-year-old's time of 23.05 in winning her heat has effectively sealed her Olympic place in London.