Athletics: Gillick devastated after fluffing medal chance
DISASTER struck Ireland a second time last night when David Gillick -- who was favoured for a 400m medal -- bombed in a European final that defied logic on all sides.
Belgium's Jonathan Borlee and Ballinteer star Gillick were joint favourites, yet it was Borlee's twin brother Kevin who snatched gold in 45.08 seconds, ahead of Britain's Michael Bingham (45.23), with Gillick's Loughborough training partner Martyn Rooney taking bronze in the same time from lane one.
In the same Barcelona stadium that saw Sonia O'Sullivan finish a painful fourth in the 1992 Olympics, there was equal heartbreak for Gillick, who looked shell-shocked to only finish fifth behind Russian Vladimir Krasnov.
Collapsing onto the track, Gillick held his head in his hands as he looked up at the shock result emerging on the stadium scoreboard and Jonathan Borlee looked equally gob-smacked.
As expected Gillick (27) went out conservatively but on the back straight looked uncharacteristically sluggish and rounding the final bend it was clear he had a mountain to climb.
He threw everything he had at it in the final 50 metres but was rolling ominously as he sought to get up on the dip, and his time of 45.28 was nowhere close to the 44.79 he ran in his semi-final.
"You don't even have to ask me the question, that was my race, my chance to get on the podium and it was a mess, an absolute mess of a race," he admitted afterwards.
"I never got into a rhythm, I was 0.05 away from a medal but within that 0.05 there was four other guys and it's 400 metres, not 405 metres," he said.
"Ah lads, I dunno, I'm getting so frustrated now -- in the last couple of championships I've been so close, so close.
"I was fighting and fighting but I think that was the problem because once you go tense, good luck.
"I think everyone got tense, it was one of those races, the form book was out the window when you consider the people who medalled.
"I'm just gutted. I felt good, I didn't feel any pressure. I can't stand here and give you an answer, I wish I could," said the devastated two-time European indoor champion, who was sixth in last year's World Championship final.
His Barcelona room-mate Paul Hession (27) was disappointed earlier to only finish sixth (20.71) in an equally slow 200m final, where new sensation Christophe Lemaitre (20) came late to pip Britain's Christian Malcolm (20.38) and complete a sprint double in 20.37.
Lemaitre's French team-mate Martial Mbandjock matched his 100m bronze in 20.42 but Hession was particularly disappointed to finish behind Marlon Devonish (20.62) and Norway's Saidy Ndure (20.63) after being in bronze medal contention around the bend.
"There was something missing in the last 50 metres yesterday and today but I've done everything I can this year," Hession said.
But the Athenry star, who has twice put his medical studies on hold for his sport, indicated he's far from finished.
"It was my intention, before this weekend, to be still running full-time up to 2012. I've made it to this, it's two years to the Olympics, basically a 'home Olympics' for Ireland and I can be in that final in London," he said, as it was left to Derval O'Rourke today to try to rescue a medal for Ireland.
Fionnuala Britton finished 11th (in 9:44.25) in the women's steeplechase final, where local veteran Marta Dominguez was pipped by Russia's Yuliya Zarudneva in a reverse of last year's World Championship result.
Earlier, Ferrybank sprinter Niamh Whelan did brilliantly in her first senior outdoor championship, running just one hundredth of a second short of her PB when sixth in the 200m semi-finals in 23.31.
Dublin's Deirdre Ryan (28) managed a season's best of 1.90m in the high jump but needed to match her PB of 1.92m to make the final.