COMMONWEALTH GAMES: Baptiste roars to 200m gold in Delhi
LEON Baptiste captured England's first sprint gold medal at the Commonwealth Games for 12 years with a blistering 200m victory in Delhi.
GOLDEN BOY: Leon Baptiste storms to gold in the 200m at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi (Reuters)
Baptiste cut a forlorn figure earlier this summer after fluffing his lines at the European trials, ensuring he missed out on the chance to compete in Barcelona.
He was named as part of the 4x100m relay squad and in the training camp in Doha was given another chance to book his place in Barcelona in the individual 200m, provided he could win a run-off with compatriot Marlon Devonish.
But it was Devonish who prevailed while things got worse for Baptiste when the sprint relay quartet dropped a clanger in the heats.
But Baptiste set the record straight in the Indian capital, roaring to victory in 20.45 seconds, and became the first Englishman to top the Commonwealths podium in the 100m or 200m since Julian Golding in 1998.
"If you had told me I would be Commonwealth champion at the start of the year I really would have doubted it so this win for me is just amazing," said Baptiste.
"It just goes to show that all my hard work has paid off. Going back a few months ago I was very disappointed with the way things worked out but this has made up for it."
Great Britain had a wealth of experience in the final with Marlon Devonish, 34, who claimed 200m silver in Manchester, and 31-year-old Christian Malcolm, who won silver four years earlier.
But Baptiste is the new kid on the block - even if he is already 25 - and he stormed to gold ahead of Jamaica's Lansford Spence, who took silver in 20.49 and Malcolm who secured bronze with 20.52.
And Baptiste is determined to take over the British mantle with Devonish and Malcolm in the twilight of their careers.
"I've got a lot of respect for those guys, especially Christian," said Baptiste. "I've been watching them for the last ten or 12 years and Christian is someone who I want to emulate.
"I want to copy Christian's running style because he runs in a very efficient way and I think I started to do that here."
Marlon Devonish, who won 200m silver in Manchester in 2002, came home in fifth place in 20.75.
"I just wasn't focused enough at the start and that cost me," said Devonish. "I just didn't execute the race that I wanted to and my luck is that happened in a major final."
England's Carl Myerscough produced a second-round throw of 60.64m to claim bronze in the discus behind India's Vikas Gowda, 63.69, and gold medallist Benn Harradine, 65.45, of Australia.
"I am absolutely delighted, I knew I was going to have to really go for it from the start and that is what I did," said Myerscough.
"It put a target up for everyone else to shoot at and it made me quite nervous because I was just hanging in there but I've finally done it."
Scotland's Lee McConnell was the surprise package of the women's 200m semi-final, grabbing a spot in the final and a season's best time of 23.56 seconds in the process.
McConnell could only finish fifth in the final of her more favoured 400m on Friday but she was in fine form over the shorter distance, ending the semi-final second for an automatic qualification spot.
But McConnell was not the only athlete laying down a marker in the semis with England's Abiodun Oyepitan setting a new season's best of 23.33seconds on the way to winning her semi.
Joice Maduaka will be the third home nation runner in the 200m final, the 37-year-old came through the third semi-final in second place - in a time of 23.56 seconds.
The final was due to take place prior to the men's 200m final but there was drama when Cyprus' Elena Artymata was disqualified for running on the line of her lane just minutes before the final was due to begin.
She subsequently lodged an appeal and as a result, the women's 200m final has been rescheduled for tomorrow.
Elsewhere, England's Emma Jackson put herself in a great position for a medal in the 800m, booking a place in the final after getting the better of Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Langat.
The 22-year-old edged Langat - a champion in the 1500m at these Commonwealth Games - in the home straight to end as the fastest qualifier overall with 2:01.63 minutes.
Jackson will be joined in the final by England's Hannah England who finished second in the first heat and the City of Stoke middle distance runner was elated with her performance.
"I looked up at the scoreboard and realised that I had a big gap between myself and the others and I was quite surprised," said Jackson.
"I was ready to fight for it and fight to try and get into the final but when I looked up I was clear and I didn't have to.
"I enjoy the crowd, they were really loud and they got right behind the runners and I really like running when it is like that."