Brave Merrien battles to eighth-place finish
THE cream came to the top for Guernsey on the final weekend of a sun-drenched Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
Lee Merrien survived a dramatic and controversial men’s marathon to take eighth spot, while 24 hours earlier Tobyn Horton came within a momentary ‘mechanical’ from perhaps riding onto the podium in a sprint finish to the men’s cycling road race.
Horton, who rides professionally for the British team Madison Genesis, was putting the hammer down in a race for the line when he dropped a chain. It was the worst possible moment and by the time his chain fully re-engaged, the vital momentum had been lost and yet he sailed over the line just a few metres behind the home winner Steele Von Hoff.
James McLaughlin, who had ridden brilliantly for sixth spot in the time-trial, was also hugely prominent, leading for a long while as he and Englishman Tom Stewart established a big lead which was only nullified on the last lap.
McLaughlin finished 28th, but again has shown his quality as a burgeoning international-class rider and he was later rewarded with the honour of carrying the Guernsey flag at the closing ceremony.
Games debutant Jack English also fully justified his selection with a 31st place finish.
Merrien ran in brutal early-morning heat and while rivals dropped either out or back down the small field in the fierce Queensland sun, the Sarnian paced himself well to post a time of 2-24-10.
It may have been the slowest of his eight marathons, but on a day when the world saw Scotland’s Callum Hawkins collapse in such a distressing manner just a mile from the finish with a gold medal seemingly in his pocket, it was the most heroic of all Merrien’s efforts over the 26.2-mile distance.
As he entered the home straight Merrien, on his farewell to athletics at this level, looked utterly spent.
‘It was a little warm out there today,’ he said later without making a fuss, while Guernsey cyclist James Roe was full of admiration: ‘How you can run a marathon in that heat is beyond me. A super-human effort,’ he tweeted.