Agony for Brits as medal streak finally runs aground

GREAT Britain’s new-found sense of Olympic invincibility was pricked yesterday, when a series of near misses meant Team GB failed to win a medal for the first time since the first day of the London 2012 Games.

Rookie 110m hurdler Lawrence Clarke, who only took up athletics four years ago, was among the closest to delivering success, finishing a highly creditable fourth in his maiden Olympics after superb runs in the semi-final and final last night.

Equestrians Nick Skelton and Ben Maher, who helped win gold in the team event on Monday, suffered the most agonising brushes with further success, as both finished just outside the medals in the individual showjumping.

Britain’s women’s hockey team crashed out of the semi-finals 2-1 to Argentina last night, while there was disappointment on the water, as sailors Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes narrowly missed bronze in the men’s 49er and Tim Brabants proved unable to defend his canoe sprint K1 title.

Team GB were brought back down to earth with a bump after a series of brilliant performances had propelled them to 22 golds, the most for more than a century, on Tuesday.

Clarke, 22, outperformed his hero and compatriot Andy Turner, who failed to progress from his 110m hurdles semi-final, as American Aries Merritt took gold. There was more British track woe as Shara Proctor could only come ninth in the women’s long jump, won by American Brittney Reese.

Skelton and Maher pulled off flawless first rounds, putting them among the leaders going into the final routines. But Maher incurred one penalty to drop him to fifth and penultimate rider Skelton suffered the same fate, with the end of another clean run in sight. Gold went to Steve Guerdat of Switzerland, with Ireland’s Cian O’Connor taking bronze after a jump-off for silver.

“It was unlucky,” said veteran Skelton, 54. “The horse jumped great, he touched one fence all week. Today was the wrong day to do it. Everyone thought the horse would win. I did as well.”

Normal service should resume today, when world and Olympic champion Keri-Anne Payne is tipped to successfully defend her 10k marathon swim in the Serpentine.

Morrison and Rhodes had looked in with a shout of adding to Britain’s 48 medals in Weymouth. However they failed to find favourable winds in their four-way tussle for bronze and finished fifth.

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clarke fared better in the women’s 470, taking second place in yesterday’s last race to ensure at least a silver medal. Victory over leaders New Zealand in tomorrow’s finale will earn them gold.