England reaps a rich harvest

Kim Collins (No. 920), of St. Kitts and Nevis, wins the men's 100m gold.-AP Kim Collins (No. 920), of St. Kitts and Nevis, wins the men's 100m gold.

THE 17th Commonwealth Games are definitely part of history by now. But then, so much of what we saw in Manchester, particularly in the athletics events of the 11-day event, is unlikely to fade away from our memory quickly.

Simply consider the following:

- Wilberforce Talel outsprinting Paul Kosgei and John Yuda in the last few yards to win the men's 10,000m.

- Jonathan Edwards and Ashia Hansen pulling huge jumps out of the bag when it really mattered to win the triple jump titles.

- Debbie Ferguson doing the 100m and 200m double by a street and adding a relay gold for good measure.

England's Jonathan Edwards celebrates after his third attempt in the men's triple jump final. Edwards won the gold with an effort of 17.86 metres.-REUTERS

- Cathy Freeman defying her husband's illness to claim her fourth Commonwealth gold in the women's 4x400m relay.

- And last but not the least, strictly though on the Indian viewpoint, Anju Bobby George and Neelam Jaswant Singh doing their country proud by winning the nation's first two track and field medals in the women's section at the Games.

Indeed, the absence of any world-record-breaking-effort was a big letdown. But the fact that these Games were to be followed by the more competitive European championships could well be the reason for the athletes checking themselves from searching for far more excellence. However still, for the host Mancunians who filled up each of the 38,000 seats available at the magnificent City of Manchester stadium all through the six days of competition, it was a fairy tale all the way as Team England ended its campaign on top of the medal heap and in a blaze of glory.

England finished far ahead of Australia in terms of gold medals with a tally of 12 which was supplemented by six silvers and 11 bronzes. Compared to that, the Aussies collected only nine golds, an equal number of silvers and 10 bronzes. South Africa was third best with five golds, a silver and eight bronzes while Kenya, Jamaica and Bahamas all ended up with four golds, ahead of Canada and Nigeria which finished with two golds apiece.

Yet, even in the midst of such a triumphant campaign, England was not without its quota of disappointments. And perhaps what hurt the team most was the injuries to its favourites Mark Lewis-Francis and Dwain Chambers in the 100m final, an event which was eventually won by Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis at 9.98 seconds. It was proceeding smoothly till both the English sprinters pulled up some 30m short of the finishing line after Collins (later tested positive for a banned substance but allowed to keep his medal on medical grounds) moved ahead halfway through the dramatic final. Lewis-Francis, 19, was the victim of a torn hamstring while Chambers, who had twice beaten Olympic champion and world record holder Maurice Greene in the early part of the European season, was forced to withdraw owing to cramps.

South Africa's Okkert Brits cleared 5.75m for a new Games record in pole vault.-REUTERS

The English duo had the fastest qualifying time and, in the absence of defending champion Ato Boldon of Trinidad & Tobago and veteran Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, was considered to stroll through the race and help England to a memorable 1-2. But if fate intervened and finally let Collins, a 100m finalist in both the World championship and the Sydney Olympics, to bask in delight, Fredericks found himself on a 'high' as he returned from three years of injury to repeat his 200m victory in the 1994 Victoria Games. The 34-year-old Namibian, the owner of the second best time in the world in both the 100m and 200m this season, was clocked at 20.06s as he left behind Marlon Devonish and Darren Campbell, both of England, to fight it out for the silver.

Michael Blackwood kept up the Jamaican tradition in the 400m after being engaged in a tough duel with Shane Niemi (Canada) and Avard Moncur (Bahamas) at the back straight, almost in the same manner by which Mblulaeni Mulaudzi (South Africa) took the 800m title at the expense of Joseph Mutua (Kenya) and Kris McCarthy (Australia). Finally, it was Mike East who, emulating the deeds of his famous predecessors Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram, brought home the first track gold for England with a graceful performance in the 1500m. Incidentally, East's gold at 3:37.35, ahead of Kenyan William Chirchir and Australian Youcef Abdi, was the first major middle-distance title for England in the last 12 years.

The Kenyan pride, so dented in both the middle-distance events, received a major boost as Sammy Kipketer led compatriots Benjamin Limo and Willy Kiptoo to a 1-2-3 finish in the 5000m with a Games record to boot. Kenya had another clean sweep in the 3000m steeplechase through Stephen Cherono, Ezekiel Kemboi and Abraham Cherono. But it was Wilberforce Talel who stole the thunder by winning the 10000m title with such poise and grace ahead of countryman Paul Kosgei Malakwen and Tanzanian John Yuda with a fabulous finish. Talel, 22, won in a new Games record time of 27:45.39 even as Yuda denied Kenya a third clean sweep by taking the third spot behind Paul Kosgei.

Kenya's Wilberforce Talel (right) bursts past compatriot Paul Kosgei to clinch the 10,000m gold.-AP

Another Tanzanian, Francis Naali, struck it rich in the marathon by staving off the challenge from Joshua Chelanga (Kenya) and Andrew Letherby (Australia), while Claston Bernard did Jamaica proud by winning the gruelling decathlon gold. Jamaica almost had a third gold as it was dead-heated along with England at 38.62s in the 400m relay but was forced to settle for the silver as the photo-finish gave a slight edge to the home team quartet of Jason Gardener, Marlon Devonish, Allyn Condon and Darren Campbell. England's ultimate win ahead of Wales in the longer relay also came by the closest of margins with Jared Deacon, Sean Baldock, Chris Rawlinson and Daniel Caines returning in 3:00.40 against the time of 3:00.41 clocked by the Welsh team.

It was thus a second gold for Chris Rawlinson, who had earlier won the 400m hurdles in 49.14s. But more than Rawlinson's victory, what made headlines worldwide was the upset win that South Africa's Shaun Brownes pulled off against the Welsh world champion, Colin Jackson, in the 110m hurdles. Jackson had won the event in 1990 and 1994 and had so dearly wanted to regain the title before he retired. But having slammed the first hurdle, Jackson was unable to catch up with the South African, who himself was quite surprised with his victory.

Jackson, eventually, took the silver at 13.39s - four hundredths of a second behind Brownes - finishing marginally ahead of Jamaican Maurice Wignall (13.62s).

Justin Anlezark (middle) of Australia took the men's shot put gold with a 20.91m heave.-AFP

Besides the stunning gold scooped up by Brownes, South Africa had two other golds in the same section through Okkert Brits and Frantz Kruger, who emerged victorious in the pole vault and discus throw respectively with a Games record height (5.75m) and distance (66.39m). Kruger who had earlier erased the previous mark in the qualifiers was well in control right from the start before improving upon his Kuala Lumpur silver to gold in style. Canada's Jason Tunks was placed second with England's Bob Weir claiming the bronze. Weir's success came 20 years after he was crowned hammer throw champion.

The rest of the field events, barring the high jump won by Canadian Mark Boswell (2.28m) and shot put taken by Aussie Justin Anlezark (20.91m) ahead of favourite Janus Robberts (South Africa), were dominated by the English led by Jonathan Edwards. The world record holder in the triple jump was almost caught napping by team-mate Phillip Idowu's initial burst of 17.68m before he roared back into action and touched 17.86m, also the season's best effort so far and a new Games record.

Nathan Morgan of England, winner of the long jump, was the lone jumper to go beyond 8.00m. And if it proved to be a great disappointment, team-mate Steve Backley made it up somewhat with a brilliant effort and in the process recapturing the javelin throw gold. The victory also gave the 33-year-old Cambridge thrower a hat-trick of titles, having won in 1990 and 1994 before finishing second in Kuala Lumpur. The veteran Englishman won with a first-round throw of 86.81m. Second-placed Scott Russell from Canada was nearly eight metres behind with a throw of 78.97m, while England's Nick Nieland finished third with a 76.83m-effort. England picked up a surprise gold when Mick Jones won the hammer throw with a mark of 72.55m. Defending champion and favourite Stuart Rendell finished outside the medal bracket as Philip Jensen of New Zealand squeezed himself into the second spot and Paul Head, Jones' team-mate, seized the bronze.

Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas is all smiles after winning the women's 100m gold. Debbie also took the top prize in the women's 200m.-REUTERS

Australia's Nathan Deakes too had the cameras trained on him as he walked off with a grand double. The 24-year-old was a facile winner in the 20km walk and then collected his second gold with another effortless victory in the 50km walk. Deakes, en route to his win in the longer event, also broke the existing Games record by a staggering 18 minutes, crossing the line in 3:52:40. "I'm lost for words," was his initial reaction before adding, "It's a great feeling to win and to win two in the same Games is a dream come true."

It was memorable also for Debbi Ferguson, undoubtedly the star performer in the women's section. The Bahamas sprint queen had it easy in both the 100m and the 200m, powering herself to a record-breaking victory at 10.91s in the shorter event and 22.20s in the longer distance. And what more, she picked up a third gold by leading her country in the 400m relay in the company of Tamica Clarke, Sevathed Fynes and Chandra Sturrup. The three golds made Ferguson the first athlete since Australia's Raelene Boyle in the 1970s to win the 100m, 200m and the shorter relay at the Games.

Aliann Pompey gave Guyana a deserving gold with her win in the 400m, while Mario Mutola (Mozambique) successfully defended her 800m title with an impressive final sprint. The 29-year-old Olympics and World champion over the distance, Mutola, comfortably kept up with the fast early pace before outkicking the rest of the field to finish in 1:57.35. That effort from the Mozambique athlete also shaved off three-tenths of a second off her own previous record.

The medal winners in the women's discus event (from left): India's Neelam Jaswant Singh (silver), New Zealand's Beatrice Faumuina (gold) and England's Shelley Newman (bronze).-AP

The 1500m saw England's Kelly Holmes emerge victorious but what sent the crowd into raptures was the success of the never-say-die Paula Radcliffe in the 5000m. The 28-year-old was a runaway winner in the end as she rewrote the Games record and won her first major track gold in the ninth attempt. Eight times earlier, she had faltered with her sluggish opening laps, but this time Radcliffe seemed to be well prepared as she kept up pace with the lead bunch and then opened up to finish beyond the reach of Kenyan Edith Masai and her compatriot, Iness Chenonges. Radcliffe was timed at 14:31.42 but that was irrelevant to her as she summed up, "I had to win this race."

Salina Kosgei helped Kenya prove its prowess in the 10000m by leading team-mate Susan Chepkemei to a 1-2, a feat which was duplicated by the Jamaican pair of Lacena Golding-Clark and Vonette Dixon in the 100m hurdles. The 400m hurdles saw Jana Pittman (Australia), world junior champion in both the 400m and 400m hurdles two years ago, announce her arrival at the senior stage as much in an impressive fashion through which team-mate Kerry McCann led an Australian clean sweep in the marathon. The Aussie gold medal tally received a boost when Jane Saville won the 20km walk on a canter (helping herself to ease the memory of her heartbreaking disqualification in the Sydney Olympics) and Jane Jamieson left behind fellow-Australian Kylie Wheeler in the heptathlon. Tatiana Grigorieva was another Australian who lived up to her pre-Games billing with an easy win in the pole vault. The golden girl of Australian athletics took gold after clearing 4.35m, leading compatriot Kym Howe to another 1-2 for her adopted country.

Jamaica's Elva Goulbourne won the long jump with a leap of 6.70m denying English hope Jade Johnson (6.55m) while Anju Bobby George landed India's first ever track and field medal in the women's section by taking the bronze with a last-gasp effort of 6.49m. It was also India's first athletics medal in 24 years after Suresh Babu had won a bronze in the men's long jump, way back in 1978. However, Anju's team-mate, Bobby Aloysius, was not that lucky as she was forced to settle for the fourth place in the countback for the bronze in the high jump.

That event was effortlessly won by South African Hestrie Cloete, who, last year, had won the world title to add to her silver in the Sydney Olympics. Cloete justified her status as pre-competition favourite with a Games record leap of 1.96m, while Susan Jones took silver and Canada's Nicole Forrester the third spot. Both Forrester and Bobby Aloysius had cleared an identical 1.87m, but in the countback it was the Canadian who came out smiling having cleared the height on her first attempt. Bobby Aloysius could clear the same height only on her last effort.

India's Anju Bobby George in action in the women's long jump. Anju took the bronze medal with a 6.49m effort.-AP

England's Ashia Hansen was another athlete who retained her title of four years ago. Hansen was in the lead right through before Cameroon's Francoise Mbango sought to give a dramatic twist to the triple jump final with a last effort of 14.82m. But Hansen, who was next up, responded in stunning fashion as she jumped 14.86m to take the gold with a new Games record. It was a sensational effort from the English athlete, who was lifted by Mbango's reaction after she had taken the lead. "Because she started waving to the crowd like she'd done it, it made me want it even more. Fortunately, everything fell into place and it was just fantastic."

However, in sharp contrast, Beatrice Faumuina was hardly even forced to break sweat as she won a second successive discus title with a throw of 60.83m. The New Zealander did not have to produce anything like her best as none of her rivals came close to threatening the gold medal. India's Neelam Jaswant, a bronze-medallist in the 1998 Asian Games, did one better than her long jumper team-mate, Anju Bobby George, by winning the silver with 58.49m while Shelley Newman of England collected the bronze with 58.13m. The other throw events saw Vivian Chukwumeka of Nigeria take the shot put title, Laverne Eve of Bahamas striking it rich in the javelin and Lorraine Shaw, 34, adding one more to the English tally by winning the hammer, despite being the oldest competitor at the event.

Nonetheless, the cheers seemed to be reserved for the one and only Cathy Freeman, the heroine of the Sydney Olympics, as she helped Australia win the 1600m relay title with effortless ease. Freeman, who had been keeping away from the international stage for some time now, agreed to compete only after husband Sandy Bodecker, who was diagnosed two months ago with an inoperable throat cancer, persuaded her to make the trip to Manchester. In the event, it was a dream medal for the Olympic champion. "It's a bonus. I did not come to these Games with any hope of a medal. I was more concerned with my own level of fitness. Now I'm going back home and will think about a third world title." It was a magic moment and this was what made Manchester all the more memorable.

The results:

Men: 100m: 1. Kim Collins (Skn) 9.98s, 2. Uchenna Emedolu (Ngr) 10.11s, 3. Pierre Browne (Can) 10.12s. 200m: 1. Frankie Fredericks (Nam) 20.06s, 2. Marlon Devonish (Eng) 20.19s, 3. Darren Campbell (Eng) 20.21s. 400m: 1. Michael Blackwood (Jam) 45.07s, 2. Shane Niemi (Can) 45.09s, 3. Avard Moncur (Bah) 45.12s. 800m: 1. Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (RSA) 1:46.32, 2. Joseph Mutua (Ken) 1:46.57, 3. Kris McCarthy (Aus) 1:46.79. 1500m: 1. Mike East (Eng) 3:37.35, 2. William Chirchir (Ken) 3:37.70, 3. Youcef Abdi (Aus) 3:37.77. 5000m: 1. Sammy Kipketer (Ken) 13:13.51 (GR), 2. Benjamin Limo (Ken) 13:13.57, 3. Willy Kiptoo (Ken) 13:18.02. 10000m: 1. Wilberforce Talel (Ken) 27:45.39 (GR), 2. Paul Kosgei Malakwen (Ken) 27:45.46, 3. John Yuda (Tan) 27:45.78. 110m hurdles: 1. Shaun Brownes (RSA) 13.35s, 2. Colin Jackson (Wal) 13.39s, 3. Maurice Wignall (Jam) 13.62s. 400m hurdles: 1. Chris Rawlinson (Eng) 49.14s, 2. Matthew Elias (Wal) 49.28s, 3. Ian Weakley (Jam) 49.69s. Long jump: 1. Nathan Morgan (Eng) 8.02m, 2. Gable Garenamotse (Bot) 7.91m, 3. Kareem Streete-Thompson (Cay) 7.89m. High jump: 1. Mark Boswell (Can) 2.28m, 2. Kwaku Boateng (Can) 2.25m, 3. Ben Challenger (Eng) 2.25m. Triple jump: 1. Jonathan Edwards (Eng) 17.86m (GR), 2. Phillips Idowu (Eng) 17.68m, 3. Leevan Sands (Bah) 17.26m. Pole vault: 1. Okkert Brits (RSA) 5.75m (GR), 2. Paul Burgess (Aus) 5.70m, 3. Dominic Johnson (Lca) 5.60m. Shot put: 1. Justin Anlezark (Aus) 20.91m (GR), 2. Janus Robberts (RSA) 19.97m, 3. Carl Myserscough (Eng) 19.91m. Discus throw: 1. Frantz Kruger (RSA) 66.39m (GR), 2. Jason Tunks (Can) 62.61m, 3. Robert Weir (Eng) 59.24m. Javelin throw: 1. Steve Backley (Eng) 86.81m, 2. Scott Russell (Can) 78.98m, 3. Nick Nieland (Eng) 78.63m. Hammer throw: 1. Mick Jones (Eng) 72.55m, 2. Philip Jensen (Nzl) 69.48m, 3. Paul Head (Eng) 68.60m. 3000m steeple chase: 1. Stephen Cherono (Ken) 8:19.41, 2. Ezekiel Kemboi (Ken) 8:19.78, 3. Abraham Cherono (Ken) 8:19.85. 20km walk: 1. Nathan Deakes (Aus) 1:25:35, 2. Luke Adams (Aus) 1:26:03, 3. David Rotich (Ken) 1:28:20. 50km walk: 1. Nathan Deakes (Aus) 3:52:40 (GR), 2. Craig Barrett (Nzl) 3:56:42, 3. Tim Berrett (Can) 4:04:25. Decathlon: 1. Claston Bernard (Jam) 7830 points, 2. Matt McEwen (Aus) 7685, 3. Jamie Quarry (Sco) 7630. Marathon: 1. Francis Naali (Tan) 2:11:58, 2. Joshua Chelanga (Ken) 2:12:44, 3. Andrew Letherby (Aus) 2:13:40. 4x100m relay: 1. England (Jason Gardener, Marlon Devonish, Allyn Condon, Darren Campbell) 38.62s, 2. Jamaica, 38.62s, 3. Australia, 38.87. 4x400m relay: 1. England (Jared Deacon, Sean Baldock, Chris Rawlinson, Daniel Caines) 3:00.40, 2. Wales, 3:00.41, 3. Bahamas, 3:01.35.

Members of the women's 4x400m gold medal winning Australian team (from left): Tamsyn Lewis, Jana Pittman, Lauren Hewitt and Cathy Freeman.-AP

Women: 100m: 1. Debbie Ferguson (Bah) 10.91s (GR), 2. Veronica Campbell (Jam) 11.00s, 3. Sevatheda Fynes (Bah) 11.07s. 200m: 1. Debbie Ferguson (Bah) 22.20s (GR), 2. Juliet Campbell (Jam) 22.54s, 3. Lauren Hewitt (Aus) 22.69s. 400m: 1. Aliann Pompey (Guy) 51.63s, 2. Lee McConnell (Sco) 51.68s, 3. Sandie Richards (Jam) 51.79s. 800m: 1. Maria Mutuola (Moz) 1:57.35 (GR), 2. Diane Cummins (Can) 1:58.82, 3. Agnes Samaria (Nam) 1:59.15. 1500m: 1. Kelly Holmes (Eng) 4:05.99, 2. Hayley Tullett (Wal) 4:07.52, 3. Helen Pattinson (Eng) 4:07.62. 5000m: 1. Paula Radcliffe (Eng) 14:31.42 (GR), 2. Edith Masai (Ken) 14:53.76, 3. Iness Chenonges (Ken) 15:06.06. 10000m: 1. Salina Kosgei (Ken) 31:27.73 (GR), 2. Susan Chepkemei (Ken) 31:32.04, 3. Susie Power (Aus) 31:32.20. 100m hurdles: 1. Lacena Golding-Clark (Jam) 12.77s, 2. Vonette Dixon (Jam) 12.83s, 3. Angela Atede (Ngr) 12.98s. 400m hurdles: 1. Jana Pittman (Aus) 54.40s, 2. Debbie-Ann Parris (Jam) 55.24s, 3. Karlene Haughton (Can) 56.13s. Long jump: 1. Elva Goulbourne (Jam) 6.70m, 2. Jade Johnson (Eng) 6.58m, 3. Anju Bobby George (Ind) 6.49m. High jump: 1. Hestrie Cloete (RSA) 1.96m (GR), 2. Susan Jones (Eng) 1.90m, 3. Nicole Forrester (Can) 1.87m. Triple jump: 1. Ashia Hansen (Eng) 14.86m, 2. Francoise Mbango (Cmr) 14.82, 3. Trecia Smith (Jam) 14.32m. Pole vault: 1. Tatiana Grigorieva (Aus) 4.35m (GR), 2. Kym Howe (Aus) 4.15m, 3. Bridgid Isworth (Aus), Stephanie McCann (Can), Irie Hill (Eng) 4.10m. Shot put: 1. Vivian Chukwuemeka (Ngr) 17.53m, 2. Valerie Adams (Nzl) 17.45m, 3. Vernoica Abrahamse (RSA) 16.77m. Discus throw: 1. Beatrice Faumuina (Nzl) 60.83m, 2. Neelam J. Singh (Ind) 58.49m, 3. Shelley Newman (Eng) 58.13m. Javelin throw: 1. Laverne Eve (Bah) 58.46m, 2. Cecilia McIntosh (Aus) 57.42m, 3. Kelly Morgan (Eng) 57.09m. Hammer throw: 1. Lorraine Shaw (Eng) 66.83m (GR), 2. Bronwyn Eagles (Aus) 65.24m, 3. Karyne Di Marco (Aus) 63.40m. 20km walk: 1. Jane Saville (Aus) 1:36:34, 2. Lisa Kehler (Eng) 1:36:45, 3. Yu Fang Yuan (Mas) 1:40:00. Heptathlon: 1. Jane Jamieson (Aus) 6059 points, 2. Kylie Wheeler (Aus) 5962, 3. Margaret Simpson (Gha) 5906. Marathon: 1. Kerryn McCann (Aus) 2:30:45, 2. Krishna Stanton (Aus) 2:34:52, 3. Jackie Gallagher (Aus) 2:36:37. 4x100m relay: 1. Bahamas (Tamica Clarke, Sevatheda Fynes, Chandra Sturrup, Debbie Ferguson) 42.44s (GR), 2. Jamaica, 42.73s, 3. England, 42.84s. 4x400m relay: 1. Australia (Lauren Hewitt, Cathy Freeman, Tamsyn Lewis, Jana Pittman) 3:35.63, 2. England, 3:26.73, 3. Nigeria, 3.29.16.