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Gardener`s class shines through

5 March 2007

By David Martin

Jason Gardener brought down the curtain on a glittering indoor championship sprint career in style with a fourth successive European Indoor 60 metres gold medal in Birmingham.

The "Bath Bullet" roared to the top of the European rankings and brought a packed National Indoor Arena crowd to life with the most satisfying success of his lengthy indoor career.

His time of 6.51 seconds silenced the threat of training partner Craig Pickering by a healthy 0.08sec, with France's European record holder Ronald Pognon third in 6.60sec.

After a frustrating build-up to the championships, Gardner said: "I feel fantastic. I needed to dig deep to win that one, but I've got a wealth of experience and I've been pushing really hard in training. I've been through a tough time recently. It means so much to me with the difficult season I've had.

"But I trusted in myself and always believed in what I could do. I just wanted it so much - it meant more to me than the first one."

Since last summer Gardner has had to fight back from a serious back problem, an operation on his wrist which affected his starting ability and then a debilitating bout of flu.

The dramatic victory by the 31-year-old Olympic 4x100 metres gold medallist is good news for British sprinting, and came from a race which saw team-mate Ryan Scott disqualified for a second false start.

After nearly pulling out of the championships due to a lack of form, Gardener confirmed he will definitely continue his career following a spate of setbacks in the last year.

There was also the massive distraction this weekend of waiting anxiously to hear whether his wife Nancy had given birth to their second child. Gardener continued: "She's going nuts - now my immediate priority is to support my family and be with my wife at the birth. Then I shall sit down and seriously consider what happens next."

Pickering, who has beaten Gardener three times this year, admitted his mentor on the track is still the better performer when fully fit. The 20-year-old, who is also coached by Colin Jackson's former mentor Malcolm Arnold, explained: "He's got loads to give and his presence always helps me."

Martyn Bernard exceeded all expectations by winning the bronze medal in the high jump, confirming he is one of the country's brightest hopes for the future. His placing behind defending champion Stefan Holm and fellow Swede Linus Thornblad was Britain's first high jump medal since Dalton Grant's victory 13 years ago.

The 22-year-old is enjoying a major learning curve and said: "If I had done certain things slightly better, I could have perhaps grabbed a different medal - but it was my first major indoor championship."

The contributions of Gardner, Pickering and Bernard enabled the Norwich Union Great Britain side to better by one the previous best figure of nine medals in 1989.

Kelly Sotherton was runner-up in the pentathlon on the first day, before Phillips Idowu and Nathan Douglas were first and second in the triple jump. Nicola Sanders won her 400m title and Robert Tobin ran beyond expectations to win 400m bronze.

Those displays were also complemented by both the men and women's 4x400m relay teams, who respectively won gold and bronze.

Tobin, Dale Garland, Philip Taylor and Steve Green were awarded victory after Germany were disqualified. The women matched their performance in Madrid two years ago, thanks to Sanders' outstanding second leg contribution of 50.60sec. The quartet of Emma Duck, Sanders, Kim Wall and Lee McConnell posted a British record of three minutes 28.69sec.

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