Great Britain's 'Bionic Man' Andrew Pozzi wins hurdles gold at European Indoor Athletics championships

MATT MAJENDIE
Pozzi celebrates his 60m hurdles final triumph: Getty Images

Up until Friday night, Andrew Pozzi’s career had been more akin to a Shakespearean tragedy.

But the injury-prone 24-year-old from Stratford-upon-Avon finally delivered a first major title, in fact a first medal of any kind on the global stage with victory in the 60metre hurdles at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

So littered has his career been with injuries that in the build-up to the race he admitted he had lost count of the number of operations he has undergone on his foot.

In addition, his parents - his father was in the stands and mother watching at home with friends - have attended more major championships than he has, still going along even when their son has pulled out injured.

But the bionic man of British Athletics - he has two screws holding together both his feet - finally lived up to his billing as the quickest hurdler in the world this year.

He already boasted the world’s fastest time over the hurdles of 7.43 seconds before Belgrade and had been a model of consistency all season.

But come the final he was sluggish out of the blocks but clawed it back to win in a time of 7.51s - just one hundredth of a second ahead of Pascal Martinot-Lagarde with Petr Zvodoba taking the bronze.

Afterwards, Pozzi said: “That was 100 per cent willpower. I wanted it so badly. It’s everything as it’s just been so long.

“At the toughest times and darkest days I always believed I had what it took to be a medallist at major championships but there were loads of times when I didn’t know if it would actually happen. But I always thought it could so I never gave up. But for sure I doubted it more times than I thought it would come.”

It was a first British medal of these championships but golden hopes this weekend rest heavily on the diminutive shoulders of Laura Muir, who measures in at just 5ft 3in.

The Scot is attempting an ambitious double in both the 3000m and 1500m. She eased to qualification in the former in the morning before returning to track to win her heat over the shorter distance.

And as if she did not have enough running in her legs, she then jogged the 1.6 kilometres back to the team hotel from the venue for the continental championships.

Muir, who competes in the 1500m final on Saturday, played down her achievements as no more than “getting the job done”.

She said: “The 3k was a bit faster than I would have liked but I eased off to conserve energy as much as I could so the job is done for tomorrow so I’ll just rest up.”

Veterinary student Muir, who on Monday flies back to Scotland to begin a three-month placement in a vet practice working nine to five, has blazed a trial on the indoor circuit so far this season.

Her coach Andy Young hailed her for having the X-Factor and has described her as Paula Radcliffe but with a sprint, while team boss Neil Black has predicted Muir will come away from Belgrade with two golds.

She will be joined in the final of the 3000m by Eilish McColgan and Steph Twell, while fellow Briton Sarah McDonald lines up in the 1500m final.

It was a case of mixed emotions for the Nielsen family as Laviai eased into the 400m finals with confident runs in both her heat and semi-final while twin sister Lina could only watch from the sidelines in a protective boot.

The pair had been due to compete in the event but Lina withdrew last night with a stress response in her fibula - the stage before a stress fracture.

She posted on Instagram as she was due to line up for her heat: “Absolutely heartbroken and gutted to have to pull out of the European Indoor Champs. I’ve been in the best shape of my life. I am stronger than this and I will come back stronger.”

Ranked fourth in Europe this year, she has realistic ambitions for a medal but so too did Eilidh Doyle, who made the error of trying to keep pace with Zuzana Hejnova in her semi-final and paid by faltering late on and missing out on a final spot.

Doyle, third fastest on the continent this season, said: “I’m absolutely gutted to get caught out. I knew I had a good chance - I was just as good as anybody else. So to gout out and not make the final is gutting.

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