Martina turns the clock back for the Netherlands
|Charundy Martina of the Netherlands celebrates after winning the
men's 200m gold at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki.
Not that Churandy Martina is complaining. Drawn in lane three, he could not afford to take any chances with the tight bends on the remodelled Helsinki track.
So as in the preliminary rounds he took his time round the bend before unleashing his sprint.
But once he had turned on the afterburners, the gold was never in doubt and he won as he pleased in 20.42.
It was the slowest winning time for 14 years, but given the conditions it was hardly surprising.
Nor was it a surprise that the Dutchman should win. After all, he had a best time of 19.94 set this season in the New York Diamond League, almost four tenths of a second faster than his closest competitor in the line-up, Belgium’s Jonathan Borlée.
But as the camera panned across the eight lanes, there was one man who appeared the most confident of all the finalists: Britain’s Daniel Talbot.
And credit to the man. He gave it all he had. Not for him any of this gingerly taking the bend.
The Brit went for it gung-ho and as they got away at the first time of asking, Talbot scorched out of his blocks.
By the 80m mark there was only one man in it, and that Talbot. Treating the bend as though it hardly existed he straightened up, set this sights on the finish and went for broke.
With 100m to go he still had a clear lead, but this is where Martina entered his domain.
With a visible hunching of the shoulders, the burly Dutchman got down to work and changed the whole complexion of the race.
Dragging compatriot, Patrick van Luijk, with him and pursued by Belgium’s Jonathan Borlée who had looked a medal bet through the rounds, it seemed as though they would swallow up the Briton.
But Talbot did not lose his nerve and hunkered down for a scrap – and it worked.
With Martina away and out of touch and Luijk edging ahead, Borlée scented a medal, but Talbot fought back and stayed ahead of the Belgian to the line.
It was a one-two for the Netherlands – not since 1934 have they won two medals in the 200m at these championships so they were turning back the years.
In 1934 gold went to Christian Berger followed four years later by Martinus Osendorp repeating the feat. 74 years later, it was gold again.
“I'm very happy to finish second. I had some problems on the curve, but after that it was perfect,” said van Luijk.
“I told Churandy that I want to do beautiful things with him here, and we did!”
Talbot was maintaining a more recent tradition. Since 1998, a Briton has never failed to win a medal at 200m in the Europeans. And in 1998 they set the summa cum laude of all feats with a unique treble.
“It feels amazing, I didn’t even get a medal at the UK champs, so to come here and get a medal it’s fantastic,” said Talbot.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever run in a senior championships, so I was just hoping to make the final, maybe even the top five so to get a medal, I’m elated.
“The times weren’t really fast at all the whole weekend. I think that’s probably down to the track and tonight it rained a lot. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to go into a championship final, run your best, and that’s what I did and I was fortunate enough to come out with a bronze medal.
“It was a huge honour to be out here and represent Great Britain, so if I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity in the 200m (at the Olympics), I’ll be over the moon and at the same time if I get the opportunity to run in the relay, that’s probably even better.
“Realistically, I wouldn’t be challenging the Americans and Jamaicans for a medal, but in the relay we’ve got a great tradition in it and hopefully I can be a part of it.”