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Former Gladiators timekeeper William Sharman snatches silver by 0.01 seconds

After the gold rush, the silver lining.

William Sharman snatched second place in the 110m hurdles final with a dramatic dip finish. Picture: Getty
William Sharman snatched second place in the 110m hurdles final with a dramatic dip finish. Picture: Getty

Unlike Mo Farah, James Dasaolu and Tiffany Porter, none of the British athletes in action on day three of the European Athletics Championships could maintain the winning momentum.

Still, after whacking the seventh and eighth barriers in the men's 110 metres hurdles final, William Sharman - a former timekeeper on the Gladiators television show - somehow regained sufficient force to snatch second place with a near horizontal dip that was straight out of the Colin Jackson handbook.

In doing so, the 29-year-old from Corby, Northamptonshire, took the British medal tally at the Europeans in Zurich to eight. With three days still to go, and a clutch of golden promise ahead, the GB team are on course for their best European haul. By some distance too.

Sharman would have perhaps maintained the gold standard had he not hit those two hurdles. He was leading until that point and the French favourite, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde was out of contention already, chopping into hurdles like a Monty Python lumberjack.

As it was, Russia's Sergey Shubenkov emerged victorious in 13.19 seconds and Sharman's dip snatched second place in 13.27sec, 0.01sec ahead of Dimiti Bascou of France and 0.02sec ahead of Martinot-Lagarde - who was later upgraded to bronze following the disqualification of Bascou.

"I kind of got away with it when I slapped the hurdles," said Sharman. "It's mixed emotions because I knew I was in the lead. I could have done more and that's why I was gutted when I crossed the line."

Sharman would be the first to admit that he is unlikely to have been a contender last night were it not for John Anderson. A former Scotland schools' football team-mate of Ally MacLeod - and best man at his wedding - Anderson was Scotland's first full-time national athletics coach. He guided Liz McColgan to the World Championship 10,000m title and Dave Moorcroft to the 5000m world record.

The Glaswegian is better known, however, for his role as the whistle-blowing referee on Gladiators, which was how Sharman came to appear on the show.

As something of a renaissance man, with a BA in economics and an MSc in banking and finance, Sharman happens to be a trained classical pianist and an accomplished cornet player, too. He was a member of the BBC Youth Orchestra of the Year and was destined for a career in music until Anderson persuaded him to concentrate on his athletic talent, which has been honed over the past five years by Polish hurdles guru George Maciukiewicz.

There was disappointment for British team captain Goldie Sayers, who finished eighth in the javelin with 58.33m, and drama in the men's 3000m steeplechase final when Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad entered the home straight with gold in the bag and removed his French singlet. He then put it in between his teeth and implored the crowd to acclaim him as he ran bare-chested down the home straight to complete a convincing victory in 8min 25.30sec.

He was duly given a yellow-card warning and was then disqualified after a protest by Spain. All of which added another chapter to Kekhissi-Benabbad's reputation as the bad boy of French track and field.

The 29-year-old pushed over mascots after winning the European steeplechase finals in Barcelona in 2010 and again in Helsinki in 2012. He was also given a suspended sentence by the Federation Francais d'Athletisme, fined €1500 and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service after getting into a fist fight with compatriot Mehdi Baala after a Diamond League 1500m race in Monaco in 2011.

As for the British contingent, even accounting for two or three disasters, a record tally of gold medals is on the cards. That would eclipse the nine which were won in Split in 1990 and in Budapest in 1998.

Farah and Pavey both have 5000m finals to come at the weekend and Dasaolu has the 4x100m relay, while Greg Rutherford, Eilidh Child, Lynsey Sharp and the other three relay teams are all strong title contenders for medals. Then there are the young gun sprinters who have been burning up the rubber of the resurfaced Letzigrund track, 18-year-old Dina Asher-Smith celebrating the arrival of her A Level results yesterday with a personal-best 22.61 in the 200m that took her into tonight's final.

There might even be a British clean sweep of the medals in the men's 400m final tonight. The three semi-finals on Wednesday were each won by British competitors and Matt Hudson-Smith, Martyn Rooney and Conrad Williams could replicate the memorable one-two-three in the men's 800m in Stuttgart in 1986, achieved by Sebastian Coe, Tom McKean and Steve Cram.

Hudson-Smith could turn the clock back even further. The Birchfield Harrier is only 19 - the same age that David Jenkins was when struck gold in the European 400m final in Helsinki in 1971. Jenkins' coach was a fellow Scot: John Anderson.

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