Perri Shakes-Drayton dominated the women’s 400m final to earn Britain’s second gold of the 2013 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Göteborg a personal best of 50.85, the fastest time in the world this year.
She was followed home by fellow Briton Eilidh Child, who claimed silver with a personal best of 51.45 ahead of home runner Moa Hjelmer, who earned her place on the podium with a national record of 52.04.
Shakes-Drayton’s Olympic ambitions in the 400m hurdles misfired last summer after she had earned a victory at the London Samsung Diamond League meeting which appeared to have established her as a medal contender.
But the 24-year-old Londoner was hitting dead centre of the target here, as she had demonstrated the day before in winning her semi-final in 51.03, the fastest time of the season in Europe.
With Shana Cox also qualifying, Britain had half of the field in this final, with Helmer and the Czech Republic’s pair of Denisa Rosalova, the defending champion, and Zuzana Hejnova, the Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medallist, in opposition.
As the field broke from the lanes approaching the 200 metres mark, Shakes-Drayton moved across into a clear lead, with Child and Cox settling in behind her. For a hundred metres or so there were echoes of the 1986 European 800 metres final as the three Brits moved in a medal echelon around the track, but as they approached the final bend Cox dropped back and the Czech runners began their push for the line.
There had never seemed any doubt that Shakes-Drayton would hold on to win – the only question appeared to be how much faster she would go than the previous day, and she duly finished comfortably ahead of her team-mate as, 20 metres behind her, Hjelmer won her battle with Hejnova to reach the podium, Hejnova had to settle for fourth place in 52.12, with Rosolova finishing fifth in 52.71.
“I managed to finish my season on a high,” said Shakes-Drayton. “I’m really happy with that. Everyone had expectations of me getting gold and in my heart of hearts that’s what I wanted. To be able to deliver and run a world lead – I didn’t expect that. I’m going to take that, it gives me confidence and hopefully I can transfer it over to the hurdles.
“I still want to achieve over the 400m hurdles and I haven’t fulfilled my potential so to me I’m still a 400m hurdler and I think that gave me an advantage because I’m used to running over ten hurdles in a 400m so I’m a lot stronger.”
Shakes-Drayton had set out on a victory lap without a flag, but carried a waistcoat with a Union flag design. As she came round to the finish line she was urgently ushered back up the track to the waiting photographers, for whom she donned the waistcoat and stood with arms raised. Then she was urgently moved on to a second rank of photographers before being allowed to leave the track. The whole process seemed a lot more taxing than the previous business of setting a world-leading time…
Hjelmer commented after providing another home medal following the gold and bronze they had secured the previous day: “This can’t get any better. It feels fantastic – I am super-happy. Of course I can go even faster at the World Championships in Moscow. I will continue training and doing what I do.”
Child, who reacted with joy as she saw her time come up on the big screen, added: “It was a very hard competition for me. I loved the way the crowd in the arena shouted so much.”
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