DENISE Toner was back in medal-winning form last week as she claimed a gold and a silver at the European Masters Indoor Championships in Ancona Italy.
The Fermanagh athlete had won gold in the 800m event at the championships 12 months previously and backed it up with silver at the Worlds, also in the 800m.
This year she moved up in distance to the 1500m and 3000m. The 3000 was scheduled as a straight final on Wednesday morning last, where Denise went in ranked fourth. The pre-race favourite Great Britain’s Rachael Burns took the race on in the early stages with Denise and Jo Locker of Great Britain vying for second. Burns continued to lead and always looked the winner with a very strong, composed performance. The battle for silver and bronze was settled with just over a kilometre to go as Denise tested Locker as she cranked up the pace and this worked as she went away easily from the British athlete who suffered in the closing stages to finish out of the medals. Denise crossed the line in a clear 2nd in a new personal best of 10:15.45, some 7 seconds off her previous indoor best. 
After a few days off the focus was now on Saturday's 1500m final. The scheduled heats on Friday were cancelled giving the athletes an extra day to recover. On paper it looked like a straight battle between Denise and Jo Locker for the title as they were both well clear of the rest of the field based on personal bests. Conditions inside the Palindoor Arena on Saturday were very warm and this, along with the programme running 35 minutes behind, left it mentally demanding on the athletes and a test of who could hold their nerve. 
At just after 5.30pmm local time in Ancona the athletes were led onto the track and having been introduced to the crowd the starter called them forward to their marks. From the gun Denise hit the front to steer clear of trouble. The rest of the field failed to go with her and after the first 400m had an 8m lead. As the laps passed a comfortable and assured Toner kept moving further ahead. With just over three laps to go Locker closed the gap slightly, but it still was a very sizeable one. Locker had made her move to break the remainder of the field, but the victory at this stage was never in doubt. As the bell sounded Denise kicked again and took the victory in great style, a massive smile telling the whole story, stopping the clock in 4:45.15. Locker took silver in 4:52.48 and D’Alessio of Italy bronze in 5:00.22. 
It was a superb front-running display and the most comprehensive victory of the day across 1500m. After gathering her thoughts and trying to take it all in a delighted Denise said she was thrilled and surprised at the manner of the victory.
 The way the race panned out wasn’t in the plan but having went to the front and no one going with her she felt well within herself and just kept churning out the laps and couldn’t have been happier with the style of her victory.
Having received her medal and had time to celebrate it, 
She added: “In the build up, training and the races had gone well. The aim was to come home with two medals, but you never know in a championship, rankings mean little as races here are often tactical. Again I’m totally delighted at how things panned out. It's hard to take in really."