There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at Cardiff International Sports Stadium as Welsh sporting legend Christian Malcolm ran his final race in a red vest ahead of his retirement at the end of the season.
The four-time Olympian, who was World Junior 100 and 200 metre champion in 1998, ran the opening leg for the Wales 4 x 100m relay team and inspired them to a comfortable victory in front of a large crowd at the final run out for many of Wales’ Commonwealth Games-bound athletes before Glasgow.
Malcolm received a standing ovation as he bid his final farewell to the crowd and then admitted as the tears flowed that he didn’t think he would feel as emotional as he was.
Christian underway at the Welsh Athletics International
“It was fantastic to be able to run one final time in a Welsh vest – and in front of my family and so many friends,” said Malcolm.
“The crowd were fantastic and I’d just like to thank everyone who has supported me over the years. I’ve had a great career and I’ve shown that you can achieve your dreams if you are prepared to work hard.
“My mother used to walk an hour to the track with me in the early days because we didn’t have any transport and it was Jock Anderson, the coach I always call ‘the mad Scotsman’ who convinced me to throw my lot in with athletics at the age of 16.
“He convinced me that if I worked hard I could go all the way to the top. I’m glad I listened to him!”
While the tributes flowed almost all night for Malcolm, the crowd were also able to herald a new Welsh track hero in Swansea’s Chris Gowell. He is heading to Glasgow to run in the 1500m and he delivered on a promise to become the first man to run a sub-four minute mile on Welsh soil in 25 years.
The last time the magical four minute mark had been broken was in 1989, by Peter Elliott, and his winning time of 3.58.25 was good enough to deliver him a personal best and move him into fifth place on the Welsh all-time list.
What made his victory all the more poignant is that he used to be coached by Ann Hill, who died in 2007, and who the mile race is now named after.
“I had a few flashbacks about Ann in training for this event and it was great to crack the four minute barrier in a race that commemorates her contribution to Welsh athletics,” said Gowell.
Another Glasgow-bound athlete who gave the crowd plenty to shout about was Rhondda AC hammer thrower Carys Parry, who extended her own Welsh record by 59 centimetres to 66.80 metres to move into third place on the UK rankings this summer.
There were also wins Lee Doran and Brett Morse in the men’s javelin and discus. The four-time UK champion Doran won with a throw of 73.08 metres, while Morse hit 58.84 metres in a discus event in which the Team Wales captain, Aled Sion Davies reached 47.61 metres.
“Training is going really well, but I can’t seem to catch the right throw in competitions at the moment. I know there is a personal best to come, and I know it is going to take 80 metres or more to win a medal in Glasgow,” said Doran.
“Tonight was the only time I’ve felt close to a big throw, so maybe it is just a case of staying patient and waiting for it to come. The plan is for that to happen in Glasgow.”
The Welsh women’s sprinters had a good night as they easily won the 4 x 100m relay and had a good work out against each other in the 100 metres. It was Micah Moore who came out on top in a photo-finish with Hannah Brier, taking the tape in 11.91s compared to the second placed time of 11.93s. Hannah Thomas took third in 11.24s.
The Women's 200m
Welsh men’s sprint champion Dewi Hammond had to settle for second place against UK semi-finalist Aidan Syers, of Newham and Essex Beagles. Syers won in 10.63s with Hammond second in 10.73s and Cardiff’s Marvin Bheka third in 10.89 sec.
The international flavour of the event was provided by a New Zealand and Australian contingent of athletes who will also be heading north to Scotland later this month. There was also a match between Wales and England Under 20.
Jacko Gill pictured in The Shot Put
New Zealand’s World Junior shot putt champion Jacko Gill warmed up for his assault on gold in Glasgow with a winning putt of 18.99 metres in the shot putt, while another Kiwi, the 800 metre runner Angie Smit ran an exceptional time of 2:02.78 to win her event from Wales’ Julia Cooke (2:06.21).
Australian sprint hurdler Michelle Jenneke just missed out on the track record in the 100H with a winning time of 13.44 sec, while fellow countryman Alexander Carew held off Welsh decathlete David Guest to win the 400 metres in 47.92 sec.
Michelle Jenneke pictured competing at the Welsh Athletics International
The ever-improving Seren Bundy-Davies won the women’s 400 metres in a personal best 52.71s. That time also smashed the stadium record.
There was another Northern Ireland pole vault record in Cardiff for Zoe Brown as she cleared 4.45 metres to beat Welsh record holder Sally Peake (4.25 metres) into second place.
Earlier in the meeting Wrexham’s Matthew Willis became the first Welsh Under 15 boy to break the nine minute barrier for 3000 metres as he won the Welsh championship in 8.57.25 to strip almost 15 seconds off the 15-year-old record held by fellow Wreham athlete Luke Northall at 9.12.30.