HURDLER Darren Towart has picked up his first individual medal on the international stage after winning bronze at the European Masters Championships.

The Tynedale Harrier finished third in the final of the 400m hurdles, as he represented Great Britain in stormy conditions in Venice.

It capped an outstanding year for the 41-year-old, from Heddon-on-the-Wall, who also won bronze in the 4x200m relay at the World Indoor Championships in Poland, back in April.

He wasn’t expected to be among the medals in the M40 (over 40) category in Italy, but adapted well to the challenging weather conditions to secure a place on the podium, with a time of 60.78s.

“It was unbelievable,” said Towart. “There was torrential rain and gale force winds, and I think everyone was struggling because of the wind. I just went for it and finished third when perhaps I would have been expecting to come anywhere between fourth and sixth.”

Towart seized his chance in the closing stages of the race, when he saw a Spanish opponent hit a hurdle.

“I was 15 to 20 metres back,” he explained. I just put my blinkers on and ran a very quick time of 5.50s between the final hurdle and the finish line.

“I upped my game and probably ran two seconds quicker than I should have over the whole race, when perhaps the others were two seconds slower.

“I think the weather conditions worked to my advantage, but I had nothing to lose because I wasn’t expecting a medal. It felt absolutely incredible. I had previously succeeded in a team event, but this was my first individual international medal.”

Towart praised the contribution of his current coach Eddie Betts, and also Peter Venus, who have both been instrumental in his success this year.

He added: “Technique is vital and you get rewarded for hard work, and for getting things right.”

Back in February, Towart set a new world indoor hurdling record, at the English Institute of Sport Northern Championship, in Sheffield.

He ran the 400m hurdles at Sheffield in 60.80s, which smashed the previous record of 61.40 in the M40 category.

Towart will now prepare for winter season, which will include the Indoor European Championships in Portugal, next March.