ATHLETICS: Gaye’s golden Ghent

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LONG Sutton athlete Gaye Clarke was stunned to walk away with three gold medals and a bronze from the European Veteran’s Indoor Athletics Championships at Ghent.

The masters athlete travelled to the Belgium event with a nasty cold – and knew that the available remedies contained banned substances.

But she blew away her opposition at the Bleermaarsen Arena by winning the women’s 50 (W50) age group 60m hurdles, W50 pentathlon and the W50 4x200m relay.

Her pentathlon haul was good enough to smash her own British record too.

Add a bronze in the W50 high jump and it was a sensational meet for Clarke.

She said: “This was all a real shock to me as I was feeling grotty.

“I would like to thank the British Masters medical team for their help at the event, particularly the very effective head massages, which enabled me to breathe during the longer events.

“Special thanks go to Spalding physiotherapist Paul Parkin of Back on Track Therapy, who travelled with the team.”

Her campaign started on the first day of the championships with a straight final in the W50 60m hurdles.

She was delighted to win the event in a personal best time for that specification of 9.81 seconds from her team mate Jane Horder, who had beaten her at the British Championships three weeks earlier.

Clarke followed this up with a win in the pentathlon on the second day.

She started the day by winning the 60m hurdles in 10.01secs, giving her a good early lead. This was followed by second place in the high jump (1.39m) and a PB throw of 8.72m in the 3K shot, which was good enough for fourth place.

A win in the long jump (4.46m) meant everything depended on the 800m finale – and Clarke was 80 and 84 points ahead of the German and Dutch athletes respectively.

But she managed to ‘hang on’ to the German athlete until the last lap, finishing 4.5 seconds behind her, which was good enough to secure the gold medal scoring 3678 points, breaking her previous British best by 15 points.

In the high jump on day three, a tired Clarke was not expecting to be in a medal position.

However, due to the Russian athlete not achieving a height and other athletes not jumping as well as expected, she found herself in bronze medal position, clearing the same height as the winner all with a modest 1.35m.

Her individual championship was rounded off on the final day of competition when she achieved a PB as a W50 in the long jump with 4.67m to come sixth.

The multi-talented Clarke then ran the first leg of the 4x200m relay which had some other local connections, with Denise Timmis from Lincolnshire and Peterborough athlete Wendy Dunn also in the team.

After a close and exciting race they secured the gold medal after leaving the German team in their wake.

Clarke is now back in training as she prepares for the World Masters Championships this July in Sacramento, USA. She intends to compete in the heptathlon, 300m hurdles and the 80m hurdles.