Courageous front running by Oxfordshire’s Hatti Dean secured a surprise place in the final of the 3000 metres steeplechase in Barcelona. The race was run at 11.30am local time with the thermometer registering 29 degrees, but the former St Helen and St Katherine’s School, Abingdon, pupil played down the heat.

“It didn’t seem that hot out there,” she said. “3000 is just the right length of race that you don’t get too boiling.”

Dean took the lead on the third of seven and a half-lap race, but leading was not really her plan.

“The first kilometre was a bit slow and I wasn’t having a nice run stuck in the pack,” she added.

“As I moved through, I found myself at the front. It was a very nice rhythm running at the front – I was surprised how comfortable I felt.

“I was sixth fastest on season’s best time in the field, so I thought that realistically I would be fighting for sixth and a fastest loser place to make the final, so I wanted to make the race fast.”

With two laps to go, Dean was overtaken and the pace slowed, but she quickly regained the lead.

“I just did not want anyone else to catch us up,” she said.

The first three finished almost in a line with Dean officially in third place 0.05 seconds behind heat winner Wioletta Frankiewicz of Poland.

Her time was 9.46.38 She added: “I was very surprised that the leading group broke clear with two laps to go. I just wanted to run the last lap in a good rhythm and keeping up a good pace. “I wanted to be up with the leaders at the end and to feel good finishing.”

Britain’s other runner, Barbara Parker, did not make it through.

Parker, ranked seventh in Europe this year, was never in contention and could only finish in tenth in 10.20.99, some 45 seconds down on her season’s best.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s final, which is at 7.25pm, Dean said: “Today’s run has given me confidence. My aim coming into the championship was top six.

“Now I know that’s more realistic, perhaps I can do even better.”