Charlie Dobson claims 400m silver as Molly Caudery takes pole vault bronze

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Belgium;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Belgium</a>'s Alexander Doom (second left) holds off Britain’s Charlie Dobson (right) in the men's 400m final.</span><span>Photograph: Manon Cruz/Reuters</span>

A little over two years ago, the 1997 world 4x400m relay champion Iwan Thomas hailed young Charlie Dobson as the “Ginger Ninja” – and predicted that he would break his European championship 400m record. It was a bold act of prophecy, given that Dobson had only ever run the distance twice. Yet on a remarkable Rome evening it came true.

The only problem? While the 24-year-old ran a personal best of 44.38sec to take silver, Belgium’s world indoor champion, Alexander Doom, entered a different stratosphere as he powered to victory in 44.15.

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And given that Dobson holds a first-class degree in aeronautical engineering, which involves the development of aeroplanes and space craft, he could perhaps be forgiven for reverting to one of oldest sporting cliches in the book afterwards. “I’m over the moon,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

That statement came as a slight surprise given that Dobson was the favourite for gold. Then again, having suffered too many injuries and setbacks after winning a world junior silver medal in 2018, you could hardly blame him. Especially, as he admitted afterwards, as he hadn’t actually analysed many 400m races.

“I’ve watched a couple,” he said. “I probably ought to watch more. I’ve definitely got some homework to do.”

Afterwards he also gave thanks to Thomas for being “incredibly supportive” and offering advice before he started doing the 400m. “The 400m was not an event that I was planning to do,” he said. “I picked it up during Covid as a bit of fun, and after doing some relays, my coach and I decided to take it seriously this year and it is paying off so far.”

However the fourth night of these championships did not quite deliver the golden double whammy that the British team had hoped for. In the women’s pole vault the world indoor champion Molly Caudery was not quite at her fluent best and had to settle for bronze after only clearing 4.73m.

“I don’t think you should ever be disappointed with a medal but I would have liked to have maybe come away with a slightly higher height,” admitted Caudery. “4.73m is not really the shape I was in. Last year, if I told myself I would get a bronze medal at the European championships I would have been over the moon.

“I’ve got these next expectations of myself and I think other people do as well. But I don’t think I should be too disappointed.”

Gold was taken by Switzerland’s Angelica Moser, who failed with her first two vaults of the night at 4.43m but went on to clear 4.78m. Greece’s 2016 Olympic champion Aikaterini Stefanidi took silver.

Caudery claimed that the sting of defeat could be a positive as she turns her thoughts towards the Paris Olympics.

“It’s more fire in the belly,” she said. “It just shows that not everything goes to plan all the time. A medal is still great. I get to be on that podium. Once it all settles in and I get time to reflect I’ll be better than I’m feeling right now.”

Meanwhile the race of the night came in the women’s 400m, as Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek fought back in the home straight to pip Ireland’s Rhasidat Adeleke in 48.98sec – the fastest time of the world this year.

Adeleke set a new personal best of 49.07 to win bronze, with the Netherlands’ Lieke Klaver taking bronze. Britain’s Laviai Nielsen was sixth in 50.71.

Meanwhile Tuesday night sees the welcome return of Eilish McColgan, the 2022 Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion, after a nightmare couple of years. A knee injury has kept the 33-year-old largely off the track. And she has also lost her stepfather, John Nuttall, who died suddenly from a heart attack aged 56 in November, and her grandmother, Betty, last month.

“I’ve had such a shit year,” she said. “Yes, there’ll be people sitting at home watching on the TV and on their sofas going: ‘Oh God, she’s nowhere near where she used to be. Or look at that.’ But they’ve not had to live the last year that I’ve lived.”

McColgan does not expect to win – and her fellow Scot Megan Keith is by far the quickest in the field. However she hopes that a bracelet that her granny gave her will inspire her to qualify for her fourth Olympics.

“Tough times force you into a ­different mindset when you stand on the start line,” she has said. “I think that’s why I’m doing the Europeans. I just think: ‘Well, what have I got to lose?’”