GB & NI Juniors produce best single session
Just short of one year on from the anniversary of ‘Super Saturday’ the GB & NI junior team produced their own 2013 version, securing an unprecedented nine medals in one session at the European Athletics Junior Championships.
The day was summarised by a GB & NI 1-2-3 in the men’s 200m final, a feat that will stand out in the history books in years to come. Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Coach: Mark Elliot) led the trio home in personal best equalling 20.62 (-0.7m/s), with Leon Reid (James Hillier) clinching silver in 20.92 and Matthew Hudson-Smith (Tony Hadley) producing a late charge to snatch bronze in 20.94. This achievement sent the crowd into raptures, before Mitchell-Blake summarised:
“I was able to execute a good race into a headwind and come away with a gold – I’m grateful. It just goes to show that Great Britain’s 200m sprinting is best in Europe, and hopefully we can go and try and conquer the world now. This is just the beginning.”
Reid added: “I’m just overwhelmed - we came as a team and we’ve finished as a team – I’m just so happy.”
The semi-finals earlier in the afternoon proved that when the weather is good this track is extremely fast. The British athletes all set new personal bests to secure automatic qualification to the final, with Reid and Mitchell-Blake both winning their semis, clocking 20.62 (+1.8m/s) and 20.70 (+1.5m/s) respectively, whilst Hudson-Smith was second in his with a 20.88 (+1.4m/s) clocking.
Just five minutes earlier there was a British one-two in the women’s equivalent, as Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie) and Desiree Henry (Stanley Madiri) both ran superb bends to take gold and silver respectively. Both girls ran impressive times into a strong -2.2m/s headwind, with Asher-Smith clocking 23.29 to take the title, and Henry not far behind with a 23.56 clocking. After the race Asher-Smith commented:
“I really wanted to get a good start and run a good bend, and it was quite good, but if you saw Desiree’s bend that was perfection. Once I came off the bend I just told myself to relax in the home straight as I tend to tighten up there and I guess I did.
As a young athlete you always watch these people who come here and win gold and just think, I want to be like that. To be one of them is just out of this world and I’m so happy.”
Former World Youth champion Henry was equally pleased:
“I am absolutely over the moon. I said that I wouldn’t mind coming second to someone as great as Dina. She’s had an amazing season and it was a championship performance – she’s done it on the day so I’m really happy for her. We’ve still got the relay to come – imagine that, putting all of us together in one team – it’s going to be amazing.”
Jake Wightman (Geoff Wightman) kick started the GB & NI gold rush, and the four gold medals won by the team equals the best ever single session on record. Wightman went into the race as one of the favourites, and he and teammate Matt McLaughlin (Ayo Falola) worked together at the front of the race in the early stages, before the Scotsman took off with 400m to go.
“I didn’t know Matt was going to take it on, but when he went I knew I had to go with him as it was going to go out fast and I didn’t want to be left behind.
I thought I’d give it a go at 400m [to go] but then realised I probably wouldn’t make it, so when he [the Turkish runner-up] came past it spurred me on a little bit and helped me to find something else and pass him again in the end.”
Wightman had the best closing speed of any athlete in the field, and overhauled his Turkish rival 50 metres from the line to take the title in 3.44.14. This means the European Junior 1500m title stays with Great Britain after Adam Cotton’s win two years ago.
McLaughlin tired in the closing stages, but still finished a respectable eighth in a time of 3.46.88. Unfortunately Shaun Wyllie (Jeff Seddon) suffered from a recurring achilles problem and was forced to drop out before the finish.
The final gold medal of the night came in the women’s 3000m, where Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) completed her medal collection by winning a much sought after track gold. Gorecka wound up the pace with four laps to go, running her opponents off her shoulder to win in 9.12.53.
“I’m over the moon to finally get a gold at a track championship. About half way round I realised there was a Turkish athlete behind me, and a couple of years ago I got outsprinted by a Turk, so all I was thinking about was pushing on and no letting it happen again!
I was using the shadows behind me to see how close they were, and I knew the Turk was behind me so I just kept pushing and driving towards the line. I’ve been a junior for four years now, so to finally have a gold medal around my neck feels amazing, and I just can’t believe it – it finishes off my junior career really well.”
Sophie McKinna (Geoff Capes) added to GB & NI’s medal tally, putting together the best series of throws in her young career, twice throwing beyond 17 metres to clinch a splendid silver medal. She becomes the first British woman to win a medal of any colour at the European Junior Championships courtesy of a fourth round 17.09m throw.
“In the first round I was only four centimetres off my personal best, and obviously I wanted to go out and throw my personal best, but coming close to it is good at the same time. It’s the most consistent series I’ve put together in my whole career, so I’m happy with that, but I’d still have liked to have thrown a bit further!
Of course, I’m always here to win, but sometimes on the day someone is a little bit better than you, and you have to accept that and move on to the next competition.”
With the day’s medal tally sitting at eight, there was room for one last cheer as Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim) earned a hard fought bronze in the men’s 5000m to push the days total to nine. Davies moved to the front of the chase group with 1000m to go, stringing out the pack and fighting all the way to the line to clinch European Junior bronze in 14.36.62.
“I gave it everything, and what’s best I think my coach will be happy with me! I managed to sit in for the first ten laps or so, but I couldn’t leave it too late as I know my strength is stringing it out.
I was looking up at the screen and could see it was starting to string out, and I thought to myself, I might be able to get a medal here. The last lap I was just holding on as best I could. Obviously I was disappointed to lose the silver medal down the home straight, but I had nothing left.”
Michael Callegari (Nadeem Shaikh) gave absolutely everything in pursuit of a medal in the same race, collapsing across the line when finishing fourth in a time of 14.42.54.
The first semi-final of the women’s 400m hurdles kick started the third afternoon session of the championships and Hayley McLean (Steve Mitchell) and Shona Richards (Marina Armstrong) were drawn in lanes six and three respectively. Both girls ran smart races, McLean looking typically strong in the home straight, and coming away with victory in 57.76. Richards had to settle for fourth, but a personal best performance of 58.64 sees her through to tomorrow afternoon’s final.
It was the end of the road for debutant Jessica Turner (Julie Feeney) though in the second semi-final, but she goes home with a new personal best and her head held high.
Many say the 400mH is Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s best event, and the evidence here in Rieti suggests that may well be the case. In semi-final two of the men’s event, Jacob Paul (Armstrong) stuck to his game plan, running a controlled first 200m before powering home down the home straight to take the win in 51.13. He will go into tomorrow’s final with high hopes of a medal.
In an extremely high quality men’s 110mH final, David Omoregie (Mike Guest) ran inside his pre-championship personal best for the third time in two days to finish fifth. The race was won by Frenchman Wilhem Belocian who clocked a championship record 13.18, in a race where the first three ran national junior records. Omoregie’s official time was 13.49 (+0.9m/s).
In the men’s pole vault final, Rowan May (Peter Hill/Alan Richardson) and Daniel Gardner (Alan Richardson) performed admirably to finish fourth and ninth respectively. May smashed his lifetime best with a 5.25m clearance, only to lose out on the silver and bronze medals on count back. Gardner equalled his personal best with a 5.10m clearance, before coming close to clearing 5.15m.
In the women’s hammer final, Louisa James (Ron James) threw a very respectable 59.53m in the first round, but after fouls in the next two rounds, she bowed out of the competition in ninth place.
There were mixed fortunes in men’s 800m semi-finals where both Richard Charles (Noel Stoddart) and Jordan Bransberg (Andrew Medley) were in action. Bransberg struggled with the hot, oppressive conditions even before the race began, eventually finishing eighth. However Charles nearly had himself to blame, after easing up and being pipped on the line for third. Luckily his 1.50.46 clocking was enough to progress to tomorrow’s 800m final as a fastest loser, where he certainly won’t make the same mistake twice.
The women’s 3000mS/C took place under the searing afternoon sun, and Amy-Eloise Neale (Frank Dauncey)and Katie Ingle (Margaret Riley) both performed well, especially considering they’d run a hard qualifying round just two days earlier. Neale faired best, finishing just a few seconds outside her personal best in fifth, whilst Ingle took 11th place.
Late in the day Efe Uwaifo (Tom McNab) needed just one jump to book his place in the triple jump final – his first round effort of 15.47m (-1.4m/s) exceeding the automatic qualification mark of 15.35m.