Night of high drama for Aussie athletes - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Night of high drama for Aussie athletes

By John Salvado 25/03/2006 10:55:10 PM Comments (0)

Australia has emphatically reclaimed the title of top athletics nation in the Commonwealth, but not before a night of high drama at the MCG.

Craig Mottram bit the dust in the 1500m, as did the gold medal hopes of the men's sprint relay team after a botched final baton change when in front.

Off-track combatants Jana Pittman and Tamsyn Lewis put aside their differences long enough to play key roles in the unlikeliest of victories in the women's 4x400m relay.

But the gold went Australia's way only after a protest from Lewis saw initial winner England disqualified.

Individual 400m champion John Steffensen then delivered on his promise to win a second gold when the Australian 4x400m men's team went one better than their shock Olympic silver medal in Athens.

Shortly afterwards, Kym Howe completed her domination of the women's pole vault by breaking the Commonwealth record with a clearance at 4.62m.

Australia ended the meet unchallenged atop the medals tally with 41 medals, including 16 gold.

And perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was that not one of them was delivered by Mottram.

After finishing a heroic second behind rising Kenyan superstar Augustine Choge in the 5000m five days ago, the stage was set for Mottram to finally claim gold in the 1500m.

Instead he was left sprawling on the track after English runner Andrew Baddeley was pushed over and clipped Mottram's legs.

"That's just a racing accident ... it's the highs and lows of sport for you," said Mottram after the most disappointing moment of his running career.

"I started on Monday night with a great result and finished unfortunately tonight with not such a good one."

Mottram's coach Nic Bideau compared the significance of the crash to the 1990 Commonwealth Games 1500m final in Auckland, when Kiwi great John Walker was brought down by Australian Pat Scammell in his final race.

If that was high drama, the relays - as is so often the case - were more like high farce.

It started with Australia winning bronze in the women's 4x100m, despite butchering the final baton change.

Only four teams finished the race.

Matt Shirvington bemoaned his status as the "unluckiest man in track and field" after he failed to take the baton from Adam Miller, just when the Australians looked set to give the Asafa Powell-led Jamaicans a run for their money.

The women's 4x400m gold medal went Australia's way only after a protest when Lewis alerted officials that English runner Natasha Danvers Smith had taken up the wrong position - Lewis' position - for the second changeover.

The race officials upheld the protest, although Pittman seemed almost apologetic afterwards to have won the gold in such circumstances.

"As far as we're concerned they're the gold medallists and we got it by default," said Pittman.

"Ultimately they're the champions but if we get it, we've got to take it humbly."

It would probably have all been academic anyway had the highly-favoured Jamaicans not somehow contrived to drop the baton behind the photo-finish camera early in the race.

The men's 4x400m gold came in more conventional circumstances, although it was made more comfortable after Jamaica fouled up one baton change and fellow Caribbean powers the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago failed to finish.

At least there were no question marks over Howe's victory in the pole vault.

Silver medallist Tatiana Grigorieva strung the competition out with one failure at 4.45m, 4.50m and 4.55m after her last successful effort at 4.35m.

But Howe was in a class of her own, ending the competition by breaking her own Commonwealth record with 4.62m.

She even had time for one crowd-pleasing attempt at 4.70m before calling it a night.

Australia's other final-day medals came from Mark Fountain, who won the bronze medal in the men's 1500m, William Hamlyn-Harris and Oliver Dziubak (silver and bronze in the javelin) and Alwyn Jones, who was third in the triple jump.

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