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Williams wins 400m Hurdles title

As the skies eventually began to go slightly darker here in Helsinki this evening, a Welshman’s broad grin brought back the light.

Rhys Williams wins 400m Hurdles title

Rhys Williams wins 400m Hurdles title

Rhys Williams was the 400m hurdles champion at the European Athletics Championships and if making a step up the ladder is the way a coach teaches his pupils, then this runner has proved it works.

In Gothenburg, in 2006, Williams won bronze over the barriers and two years ago in Barcelona, as his fellow Welshman Dai Greene took gold, he was there on the podium with silver.

But with a brilliant run that took him from fourth to first in the home straight, Williams is the champion at last. He has made it to the top rung of the ladder.

He won in 49.33, a season’s best time, from Serbia’s Emir Bekric in 49.49 and Stanislav Melnykov, of the Ukraine, in 49.69.

Williams is the son of former Welsh rugby legend JJ Williams and finally he converted his brilliant talent into a gold medal.

He was so excited by the win, which came in the style he had progressed in the heats: save a bit for the end.

Infact, he had tons left and his triumph was never in doubt as he revved up the pace with 60 metres left.

Williams said: “It has been a long day waiting for the final and now I am glad the race is over.

“It has taken loads of work to achieve this victory. I will enjoy this title and it means a world to me.

“It is relief more than anything. I have won European bronze and silver and in 2003, I won the European Juniors and I did not think it would take nine years to win a senior title and I wanted to make the most of this opportunity.

“I had not been running too quick at the start of the season, I hit a few hurdles today and I am adamant I can go faster.”

Bekric said: “I ran a very brave race, I believed in myself the whole time. I was relaxed and focused, only looking down my lane. I am extremely happy with this race.”

Williams has not secured his place in the Olympic team for London and there was one spot remaining behind Greene and Jack Green, giving extra spice to this final.

It was either Williams or Nathan Woodward, his teammate who came seventh tonight in 50.20.

Williams had fallen at the trials and is now in the prime position for that final slot in an event where Britain has such a rich history.

His 49.33 is the slowest winning time at the European Athletics Championships since 1969.

But the victory maintains Britain’s fantastic record in this event at these Championships, with Alan Pascoe taking gold in Rome in 1974, Kriss Akabusi winning the title in Split in 1990 and Greene in Barcelona in 2010.


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