Unstoppable Ujah Kick Starts GB & NI Medal Tally
Chijindu Ujah (Coach: Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) sent the travelling British fans into raptures here in Rieti as he became the tenth man from Great Britain & Northern Ireland to win the European Junior 100m title.
Ujah got a great start, driving hard into a stiff headwind (-1.5m/s) before extending his lead all the way to the line, stopping the clock at 10.40.
“I’m overwhelmed with how it went. I’ve had a rough season so far, so to come out and win in Rieti, and be crowned European Junior Champion means a lot.
I did want a fast time, but when you get to a championship it’s not about times, it’s about coming here, executing, and winning. That’s what I did, and I’m happy about that. This is my first gold medal, and I’m really happy to do it here at the European Juniors, and hopefully there are many more to come.”
Josh Cox (Alan Watts) was slightly disappointed with his performance in the final where he clocked 10.72 for sixth place however he, like a lot of the athletes at these championship, will learn a lot from the experience.
Just five minutes later, Sophie Papps (Neil Dodson) lined up in the women’s 100m final, having qualified for the final as second fastest. She ran true to form, putting together a great race to clinch a hard earned silver medal with a 11.72 (-1.0m/s) clocking.
“I’m so happy. At the beginning of the week I said I’d come here and go round by round, and see where it gets me. I didn’t think I was even going to get through the semis, let alone get a medal in the final.
I just want to thank everyone that’s been involved; my family for taking me out of the pits where I was when I was injured and ill, and everyone here who’s done such a good job of getting me up, and I can’t thank the British Athletics staff enough. I’m so happy.
I think I got a good start – I’ve had a series of good starts throughout the competition, so I’m pleased with that. I ran as well as I could at the time – I held my form, and I think technique wise it was really good, so that’s another thing I can take away from this week.”
The medal rush didn’t stop there though, as Elliot Safo (John Shepherd) took the GB & NI medal tally to three, clinching gold in the men’s long jump final. Safo lead for the first four rounds courtesy of a 7.82m personal best, but was overhauled by Belgian Mathias Broothaerts in the fifth by a mere two centimetres. Safo wasn’t prepared to settle for silver though, immediately responding to retake the lead by a further two centimetres, a second personal best of 7.86m earning him the gold medal. His performance equals that of Greg Rutherford eight years ago.
“I’m really happy with that – I came here for the win, and a PB came with that, so I’m really happy.
I’ve had quite a few run up problems in the past, and my run up wasn’t perfect today. Basically my run up was too short, so I had to chop my stride to actually hit the board. The other guys were all jumping really well, and the Belgian had one round to go after I jumped 7.86m, so I was a little worried that he’d jump further – it was an anxious wait.”
Feron Sayers (Femi Akinsanya) was also in the mix in the final, his best jump of 7.48m securing sixth place, just 12cm short of the medals.”
Shadine Duquemin (John Hillier) also featured in the women’s discus final, where she finished a very credible seventh thanks to a best throw of 48.95m.
The men’s 110mH semi-finals were the first of the afternoon’s track events, which proved to be a mixed bag for the GB & NI trio. David King (James Hillier) had been nursing a hamstring problem for some time, which unfortunately flared up in heats, forcing him to withdraw. David Omoregie (Mike Guest) followed on where he left off in the heats (he set a Welsh Junior record of 13.45) with a fine 13.54 clocking into a strong headwind, a time way inside his pre-championship personal best. Khai Riley-Laborde (Ray Gibbins) also performed admirably, but agonizingly missed out on a place in the final by just one hundredth of a second. He finished 5th in his semi-final with a time of 13.96.
There was more GB & NI success in the rounds of the 200 metres. Desiree Henry (Stanley Madiri) was first to go, and she ran a controlled race to finish second in her semi-final in 23.52. Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie) went one better, winning her semi-final in a personal best equalling 23.14, into a -0.5m/s headwind.
In the men’s equivalent, Leon Reid (James Hillier) set the tone, smashing his personal best to win his heat by some margin. Recent English School’s champion Matthew Hudson-Smith (Tony Hadley) was next up, also easing to victory in 21.09. Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Mark Elliot) ensured a clean sweep of victories in the fourth of five semi-finals, stopping the clock at 21.05. All three should receive a favourable lane draw for tomorrow’s semi-finals.