Gothenburg face-saver – BY SKIP BANDELE

Great Britain’s athletes narrowly avoided becoming the first team from these shores to return home without a single gold medal in the 68-year history of the European Championships, when the men’s 4×100 metre relay team out-sprinted the opposition on the final day of competition in Sweden.

Returning from a two-year drug ban, which saw Britain stripped of glory in the same event four years ago, Dwain Chambers led Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis to a much-needed victory over Poland and France. In fact, the hitherto meagre six-medal haul was almost doubled in the closing events as further precious metal came Britain’s way in the men’s 5,000 metres, 4×400 metres relay and 800 metres as well as the women’s 4×100 metre relay. The total of 11 medals eventually exceeded the target of 10 set by UK athletics performance chiefs by one.

Portugal finished ahead of their British counterparts in the gold medal stakes, thanks to one man: Francis Obikwelu. The Nigeria-born sprinter, spotted by Benfica working on a building site, covered the 100 metres in a new European Championships record time of 9.99 seconds, before doubling his personal tally in the 200 metres and setting a new Portuguese best time in the process. His ‘golden double’ was also the first such achievement since 1978, when Italy’s Pietro Mennea managed the same feat.

Belgium’s Kim Gevaert mirrored Obikwelu’s performances in the equivalent women’s events. Overall, Russia continued to clearly dominate track and field, its huge medal haul was only eroded by former members of the ex-Soviet Union now competing independently.