Historic ‘triple-double’ for distance runner after 5,000m triumph while team claim five titles on the last day to finish top of the medal table
n the lustrous glow of a Swiss summer’s afternoon, British athletics enjoyed a day in the sun greater than any it had seen.
Little did Mo Farah realise, as he swept to his third European 5,000â€‰metres title, that he was spearheading an extraordinary charge to five gold and three bronze medals to make this officially the country’s most garlanded day in major championships history.
For symbolism of such an achievement, we needed look no further than the figure of young Desiree Henry, anchoring the women’s sprint-relay quartet to an astonishing fifth victory in the space of 2¼ hours.
Where the gold rush had all begun with a rousing triumph in the 10,000m for Jo Pavey, 41 next month and a mother-of-two, it ended with joy for an 18-year-old firmly in the vanguard of the next generation.
The cumulative swag of 12 golds and 23 medals overall was the highest for Britain at any European championships. For only the third time in the event’s 90-year history, after Brussels in 1950 and Budapest in 1998, the team also finished at the summit of the medal table. It felt momentarily as if the British had annexed this genteel residential quarter of Zurich around the Letzigrund Stadium, such was the profusion of Union flags.
From Farah’s fourth distance double in five seasons to the precocious success of Adam Gemili, the former Chelsea academy starlet who won the 200m title in 19.98â€‰seconds at the age of 20, the sense of a renaissance was palpable.
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Adam Gemili continued his rise by claiming a superb 200 metres gold at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.
The 20-year-old, who took Commonwealth Games silver in the 100m, powered through a headwind in 19.98 seconds to beat favourite Christophe Lemaitre into second.
Londoner Gemili, a former footballer, burst on to the athletics scene in time for the 2012 Olympics in his hometown, and has progressed well since taking up track full-time.
In rainy and windy conditions in Zurich, the popular youngster led from start to finish, building up an unassailable gap over Frenchman Lemaitre.
“I used to think the only way I’d be able to hear the national anthem was with the England football team,” said Gemili, who was playing non-league football just three years ago. “It’s a great feeling, it’s the best feeling in the world.
“It was really cold and the track was really wet and I don’t know why the race was on so late.
“I had the big man Christophe in the lane inside of me and I knew heâ€™d be coming, so I tried to just run the bend as I usually do and hang on for dear life.
“I could hear the footsteps coming, and you could probably see the tension in my face, but then I crossed the line and saw a sub 20 seconds and I was gob-smacked.
“To become European champion was a big target for me this year and to achieve it is amazing.”
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Mo Farah had to battle to win back his European 10,000m title as his fellow Briton Andy Vernon snatched a fine silver.
Farah, ill or injured for much of the summer, came good in his second track race of the season to match his team-mate Jo Pavey’s distance gold.
In a slow race a large lead group went through halfway in 14 minutes nine seconds, and with four laps to go seven athletes were in theoretical contention.
Farah went to the front with 600m to go and opened out as always at the bell, but only in the final 60m did he get rid of Turkey’s Ali Kaya before Vernon’s late surge.
The winning time of 28 minutes 8.12 seconds was less relevant than the salvaging of something from a crisis-ridden season.
Farah now has five European golds, one more than Colin Jackson and Steve Backley, and nine medals in major championships – a tally that out-strips Daley Thompson, Jonathan Edwards and Linford Christie.
The 31-year-old double world and Olympic champion will have the chance to win another gold in the 5,000m on Sunday.
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James Dasaolu capped a brilliant night for British athletics as he won European 100m gold to finally convert his rich talent into a major medal.
Dasaolu’s long-awaited breakthrough came after golds for Mo Farahand sprint hurdler Tiffany Porter, with a silver for Andy Vernon behind Farah and bronzes for Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Ashleigh Nelson.
And none will celebrate with more satisfaction than Dasaolu, a sprinter capable of running 9.91 seconds but beset by injuries and never before able to perform at his classy best over three championship rounds.
The 26-year-old was only seventh fastest from his blocks but came through with his trademark mid-race surge to hold off reigning champion Christophe Lemaitre, with Aikines-Aryeetey pipping veteran Dwain Chambers to the podium by two hundredths of a second.
Dasaolu’s time of 10.06 seconds saw him finish well clear of Lemaitre’s 10.13, the time worth more on a cold, wet Zurich night and still the joint third fastest winning time in European 100m final history.
“It’s great to be the European champion,” Dasaolu said after a lengthy lap of honour. “I’m still trying to take it all in.
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Jo Pavey, a 40-year-old mother of two, won a brilliant 10,000m gold to get Britain’s European Championships off to a remarkable start.
Pavey, who only gave birth to her daughter Emily 11 months ago, ran the perfect tactical race to match the gold won by her old friend Paula Radcliffe in Munich 12 years ago.
When France’s Clemence Calvin – 16 years her junior and almost 20 seconds faster this season – went to the front with two laps to go Pavey tucked in behind.
Then, at the bell, the Briton surged into the lead, held Calvin at bay on the back straight and kicked hard again as she came off the top bend to race to her first ever major title.
She becomes the oldest female gold medallist in the championships’ history, and having won Commonwealth 5,000m bronze 10 days ago seals a wonderful summer at an age when most athletes are long retired.
Pavey told BBC Sport: “I just can’t believe it. I was finding it quite a long way – I was thinking, is this the right event?
“I’m really thrilled. I tried to do a controlled last lap, but when I got to the home straight I thought, just give it all you’ve got, so you don’t regret anything.”
The time – 32 minutes 22.39 seconds was irrelevant, Calvin hanging on for silver and her compatriot Laila Traby taking bronze.
British team captain Goldie Sayers had given a speech on the eve of the championships urging her team-mates a simple question: “How would you perform if this was the last time you would ever compete?”
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