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Gillick on fire ahead of final

IRISH 400m runner David Gillick stayed on track for the medal he craves at the European Championships with a blistering show in last night's semi final.

His beautifully paced win in a season best 44.79 (two hundredths of a second off his Irish record) earned him lane four in tomorrow's final and the athlete looks in the best shape of his life.

"It's just about executing my potential and if that gets me a gold, silver or bronze, I'll take it," he said.

His biggest threat, Jonathan Borlee, ominously set another new Belgian record of 44.71 in the first semi-final, where Martyn Rooney's 45 seconds flat got him through as a 'fastest loser'.

Meanwhile Irish Paralympics star Jason Smyth (23) bowed out in Catalonia but with another performance that established the legitimacy of his ambition to become a world-class international sprinter.

Despite sharing the track again with the new 'white hope' of sprinting, the laid-back Derryman again exceeded expectations by finishing fourth in his 100m semi-final.

While he ran 10.46 seconds to Christophe Lemaitre's winning time of 10.06, Smyth was delighted with his position, having gone into the race ranked fifth.

Rising French star Lemaitre finished the night as new European champion, taking gold in 10.11 ahead of Britain's Mark Lewis-Francis and French team-mate Martial Mbandjock (both given 10.18). But after their semi-final, Smyth was pulled into a TV booth trackside and interviewed right beside Lemaitre.

Yet the chilled sprinter, who took double Paralympic gold in 2008 in his partially sighted category, was totally unfazed by all the attention.

"I don't mind what way people remember me," he said. "But I'm coming here and performing well as a mainstream senior international and I'm trying to move forward to qualify for London 2012."

Another delighted Irish athlete was national 100m record-holder Ailis McSweeney, who finished fourth in her heat in 11.52 to nab a 'fastest loser' spot in today's semi-finals.

Steeplechaser Fionnuala Britton was rewarded for her three months of training at altitude in Kenya with sixth place and a time of 9.44.84 that got her into tomorrow's final.

In the 1,500m heats, where 3:42.40 qualified, Thomas Chamney got boxed in and could only manage ninth in 3:43.60 and Rory Chesser (Ennis) bowed out in 10th place with 3:44.01.

Joanne Cuddihy was fourth in the only sub-51 women's 400m semi-final but her time (52.58) was 0.22 seconds short of getting through.

After reaching his first 'major' 400m semi-final, Gordon Kennedy finished last in 46.72. Newcomer Tori Pena equalled her recent 4.15m Irish pole vault record but failed to qualify and Stephanie O'Reilly (Sli Cualann) finished last in her steeplechase heat.