By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Britain's Andy Pozzi put years of injury woes behind him to clinch the 60 metres hurdles gold medal at the European indoor athletics championships on Friday and claim his first international title.
The 24-year old from Stratford, who has had five foot surgeries since 2012, raced through the finish line in a time of 7.51 seconds, ahead of Frenchman Pascal Lagarde-Martinot and Czech Petr Svoboda.
"I am over the moon to win my first title in my first European indoor championships," Pozzi told Reuters.
"It was a really close race and I knew I had to deliver. It's just been such a torrid time and really miserable for such long periods, but last year I felt I was starting to get some of the training that I really needed," he added.
"That was a good base for this year to step on and really raise my game."
Draped in a Union Jack, Pozzi was warmly applauded by the crowd in the imposing Belgrade arena hosting a first major international athletics event in Serbia since the 1962 outdoor European Championships.
The women's 60 metres hurdles produced an excellent appetizer for Pozzi's triumph, with Germany's Cindy Roleder taking gold and her compatriot Pamela Dutkiewitz claiming bronze behind Alina Talay of Belarus.
Hungarian Anita Marton won an exciting women's shot put with a season's best throw of 19.28 metres, five centimetres short of a national record.
“I am delighted to have won the title with the season's world leading shot as it was a very strong field,” an overjoyed Marton told Reuters.
“I wanted to break the national record too but I needed to throw a little bit harder for that.”
The 28-year old also slammed this week's remarks by Britain’s former triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards, who said competitions such as the Diamond League needed to be market-oriented and focus more on track events like the men’s 100 metres and less on the likes of women's discus.
“I disagree with that,” Marton said. “I think field events are very interesting too and my opinion is that today’s shot-put event showed that in no uncertain terms.”
Poland enjoyed a memorable pole vault afternoon as Piotr Lisek won the gold medal and his compatriot Pawel Wojciechowski finished third, with Greek Konstandinos Filippidis claiming silver.
Belgium's Olympic heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam won the pentathlon gold with a total of 4,870 points.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)