On a night when an almost full Nehru stadium thunderously appreciated an Indian clean sweep in the women’s discus and men’s and women’s victories in the 400m relay semi-finals, Abi Oyepitan and Steven Lewis earned silver medals in the 200m and pole vault respectively and 22-year-old Max Eaves made a breakthrough to take bronze behind Lewis.
For Oyepitan, a 30-year-old from Brent whose career has been seriously undermined by injuries, it was a welcome return to the higher reaches of athletics.
Tonight Oyepitan showed the form of the athlete who reached the 2004 Olympic final as she chased home Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Isles to record a season’s best of 23.26sec, with the gold medallist recording 22.89.
Joice Maduaka finished one place out of the medals in 23.57.
“It has been an amazing Games,” said Oyepitan. “This is beyond what I thought would happen.”
Asked to comment on the late postponement of final from the previous night because of a protest from a Cypriot athlete over her disqualification – which was upheld – Oyepitan said: “We did not know that the race was postponed until we got on the track. It was annoying, but it made no difference to me.”
When it came to looking ahead to the London 2012 Games, however, Oyepitan was understandably cautious: “Life has taught me never to make plans. Athletics can be too cruel for plans.”
Lewis, a bronze medallist four years ago in Melbourne, went one better with a season’s best vault of 5.60m to secure second place behind his training partner, Australia’s world and Olympic champion Steve Hooker, who won with 5.60.
“This is the perfect ending to a less than perfect season,” said Lewis. “It showed me a little sparkle of what can happen and has given me the taste that will drive me on. My coach tells me that within 12 months I will be consistently hitting 5.80.”
Eaves, a former England under12 judo champion who now works as a playcare assistant in Warton, Lancashire, produced a personal best effort of 5.40 in his first Commonwealth Games appearance.
“Sharing the stage with Steve Lewis and Steve Hooker has given me a glimpse into the future. I can see where I’m going and it’s onwards and upwards.”
Australia’s Sally Pearson, retrospectively disqualified from Tuesday’s 100m final along with Laura Turner, gained her expected consolation prize in her specialist event as she set a Games record of 12.67 to win the 110m hurdles.
Pearson’s removal from the listings promoted Katherine Endacott from fourth onto the podium, and the 30-year-old teaching assistant from Plymouth will be watching developments carefully following today’s news that the woman who moved up ahead of her from silver to gold, Osayemi Oludamola, has tested positive for a banned stimulant.
Emma Jackson and Hannah England narrowly missed a place on the podium in a race won by Kenya’s Olympic champion Nancy Lan’gat in 2min 00.01sec.
India’s Tintu Luka, to loud approval, led from the start, but Lan’gat had moved past her by the time the finishing straight arrived and 60 metres from the line the home runner was swallowed by the chasing pack, with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin taking silver in 2:00.05 and Diana Cummins bronze in 2:00.13.
Jackson finished fourth in a personal best of 2:00.46, with England one position and one hundredth of a second behind her.
India’s clean sweep in the women’s discus – where England’s Jade Nicholls took sixth place with 57.62m – had a full stadium reaching the kind of volume last experienced at the Opening Ceremony, and the noise rose again as India’s women’s 4x400m runners won their semi-final in 3min 32.52 to reach tomorrow’s final as fastest qualifiers.
England’s quartet of Kelly Massey, Joice Maduaka, Nadine Okyere and Victoria Barr were second in the other semi-final behind Botswana, clocking 3:36.68 and becoming sixth fastest qualifiers.
England’s men finished second to Kenya in their semi, with the quartet of Nick Leavey, David Hughes, Rick Yates and Graham Hedman clocking 3:05.34. Kenya’s subsequent disqualification leaves England as fastest qualifiers.
Andrew Baddeley and Tom Lancashire safely reached tomorrow night’s 1500m final with times of 3:41.25 and 3:40.78 respectively.
Richard Mateelong led a predictable Kenyan clean sweep in the 3000m steeplechase, winning in 8:16.39, with Stuart Stokes fifth in a season’s best of 8:32.24 and Luke Gunn seventh in 8:40.44.
But Kenya were frustrated once again in the 10,000m final, where Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro completed a 5000/10,000 double in 27:57.39. Chris Thompson was eighth in 28:50.47.
“I could have done the Europeans and gone away thinking I’m something I’m not,” said Thompson, who took European 10,000m silver. “But I came here to race the Kenyans and to learn.”
Happy to relate, the men’s 4x100m relay team made it through safely to tomorrow’s finals. “We’re going for gold,” said Marlon Devonish. That task became significantly easier when Trinidad, Nigeria, Australia, Bahamas and Cayman Islands were all disqualified after protests.