Team GB set new European medal record in Zurich

MO FARAH and Greg Rutherford starred as Great Britain ended a record-breaking Euro­pean Championships with a flourish, topping the medal table after winning five golds on an incredible last day.

Asha Philip, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry celebrate their gold medal. Picture: Reuters

Chris O’Hare was also among the medals, the Scot taking bronze in the 1,500m behind Mahiedine Mekhissi-­Benabbad – the first British medal in the event since Steve Cram and Seb Coe won gold and silver respectively in 1986.

“A bronze medal is a great way to end the summer,” O’Hare later tweeted.

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The British team will return home from Zurich with 23 ­medals following six wonderful days of athletics at the Stadion Letzigrund. That haul surpasses the previous record of 19 from Barcelona four years ago, while the 12 golds blew away the previous best of nine set in Budapest in 1998.

There were eight British medals in all on the final day, five of which were podium-topping displays as the team finished at the head of the medal list for the third time in the championships’ history.

The men’s 4x400 metres relay team got the ball rolling in the Swiss sun, before London 2012 stars Farah and Rutherford triumphed either side of the men’s 4x100m team.

Asha Phillip, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry added a fifth gold of a wonderful Sunday for the British team, romping to victory in the women’s sprint relay in 42.24 seconds – breaking the national record in the process.

“It was an incredibly special Sunday,” British Athletics performance director Neil Black said. “To see Mo flying around the track after all that stuff was brilliant; to see the relays converting and the girls setting a British record and to understand the effort, the pain, the trials and tribulations behind that to get these guys, to get these guys slick, has not been easy. They should be really happy and enjoy it for a few hours, for a few days and just think ‘we smashed it’.”

Jo Pavey, a month shy of her 41st birthday, got these medal-laden championships under way by rolling back the years to win 10,000m gold on the opening night, which Farah followed up the following day by winning the men’s event. The 31-year-old Briton completed the European double in the final session in Zurich, putting a wretched 2014 behind him by impressively adding the 5,000m.

“This means a lot to me, particularly with everything I’ve gone through this year with the London Marathon [in which he finished a disappointing eighth place] and getting ill before coming here,” Farah said. “It would have been nice to go into the season without any problems, but that happens in life and you just have to get on with it.”

Rutherford – another star of “Super Saturday” at the London Olympics in 2012 – has enjoyed a better time this year, breaking the British long jump record before winning the Commonwealth Games and European Championship titles in quick succession – not that this success means any less.

“It’s fantastic,” Rutherford said after a winning leap of 8.29m. “It’s great to go out there and put out a couple of half-decent jumps and have another title.”

The individual success of Farah and Rutherford was capped by the marvellous performances of the British relay teams.

The men’s 4x400m team kicked things off as Conrad Williams, Matthew Hudson-Smith, Michael Bingham and Martyn Rooney broke the three-minute barrier on the way to gold.

The women’s quartet won bronze, as did Andy Vernon in the 5,000m, before both of Great Britain’s 4x100m teams topped the podium.

First up were the men and, despite being without 100m champion James Dasaolu and fellow sub-10 sprinter Chijindu Ujah, were deserved victors. Strong legs from James Ellington, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Richard Kilty gave Adam Gemili the opportunity to power home in a European-leading 37.93secs.

“These guys did all the work so it was easy for me to hold them off,” Gemili said after adding the relay crown to his individual 200m crown.

“It’s great to get another gold medal here and I hope we can be in the mix with the US and Jamaican sprinters next year. We came as the favourites and we practised a lot.”

The women, by contrast, were not considered favourites, yet performed fantastically to not only take gold but the national record as well.

In the last event on the track, Philip, Nelson, Jodie Williams and Henry crossed the line in a European-leading time of 42.24s.

“We’ve been looking for this national record this whole championships,” Williams said after adding relay gold to her 200m silver medal.