Clarke stars to confirm place amongst GB elite

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CHRIS Clarke did himself and his city proud on Sunday when he booked his place in the Great Britain team for the athletics World Championships in South Korea.

The 21-year-old took silver in the 400m at the Aviva UK Trials & Championships to confirm his place as one of the best young athletes over that distance in the country.

Only 2009 World Championship silver medallist Martyn Rooney beat him at the Alexandra Stadium in Birmingham. Clarke had been drawn in lane eight for his 400m heat, but didn’t let that tough draw have an affect on him as he went out hard and was only just beaten on the line by Rooney in a time of 45.64, to Clarke’s 45.65.

In the final – with both seeking the ‘A’ standard for the World Championships in Daegu – Clarke again went off very fast in lane seven, catching Robert Tobin down the back straight. He cruised between 200 and 300m which allowed Rooney to get ahead of him, but then charged down the home straight to move ahead of Dai Greene, but not Rooney who won in 45.44, with Clarke just behind in 45.61.

What made Clarke’s performance at the Trials all the more extraordinary is that he has spent most of the last four months on the sidelines with a knee injury.

While Clarke failed to make the 45.25s ‘A’ qualification standard to compete in the individual 400m at the Worlds, he has now cemented his place in the 4x400m relay squad for Daegu. He also still has a chance to contest the individual 400m if he can achieve the ‘A’ standard this weekend.

Seven Milton Keynes athletes competed in Birmingham, but after Greg Rutherford pulled out of the long jump at short notice because of a niggling injury, the city’s next best performer was Mervyn Luckwell.

He threw 75.06m in the javelin which was good enough for 2nd place behind Lee Doran. Luckwell is also returning to form after a long injury lay-off, and has 10 days to reach the ‘A’ qualifying standard of 82m to book his seat on the plane.

Also competing in the javelin was a late addition, Michael Cox who finished in 11th place with 62.15m – well below his best.

Although he didn’t compete at the Trials, Rutherford is certain of a place in the GB team for South Korea after his rivals failed to reach the necessary standard. Joining him will be Craig Pickering who will be part of the 4x100m relay team, but the sprinter won’t make the individual 100m after being forced to pull out of the final at the Trials.

He eased through his heat and semi final but a tight hamstring kept him out of the final, won by Dwain Chambers. Kadi-Ann Thomas finished 7th in the women’s 100m final and 7th again in the 200m, but Milton Keynes AC team-mate Joey Duck went out in the heats and Chloe Whalley came last in the 100m hurdles – in the same heat as Jessica Ennis.