Record breaking performance for fantastic GB & NI Team
Nine golds, six silvers and four bronze medals meant that Great Britain & Northern Ireland topped the medal standings at the 2013 European Junior Championships in Rieti, Italy. The 19 medal haul that was achieved is the best ever by a GB & NI team at these championships, and it was rounded out nicely by three gold medals and a national record on the final day.
The women’s 4x100m team broke the national junior record for the second time in a day to really encapsulate everything the championship has been about for the British team. Securing the eighth gold medal of the championships, the quartet of Yasmin Miller (Jared Deacon), Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie), Steffi Wilson (Graeme Gourlay) & Desiree Henry (Stanley Madiri) clocked a stunning 43.81 in the pouring rain, a performance that felt very British.
Miller ran a great first leg this morning and did exactly the same this afternoon.
“I’m not going to lie, I was so scared on that start line as the baton was so wet, but I just wanted to get out hard and it was really good.”
200m champion Asher-Smith took over from there and went head to head with the French 100m champion down the back straight.
“We got a national record in the heat and I just really wanted to go faster in the final, and we did!”
The bend looked like it was going to be the pivotal moment in the race, and Wilson ran superbly to pull the team onto the shoulder of the French.
“I think the rain helped us focus a little more and kept us concentrating. I was just trying to get closer to the French so that Desiree could lead us home. I’m just really pleased and so proud of everyone.”
It was then all down to Henry, who ran a scintillating anchor leg to cross the finish line arms aloft.
“It was quite exciting, but scary at the same time! When I got the baton it was me and two other girls in a line, and by then it was just all about who had the most focus and who really, really wanted it. I was just happy that I was able to bring it home for the girls.”
In the women’s 400m hurdles, favourite Hayley McLean (Steve Mitchell) and 17 year old Shona Richards (Marina Armstrong) lined up with high hopes of success and they didn’t disappoint. McLean attacked the first 200m more than she had done in the previous two rounds, before using her strength in the home straight to clock a personal best 57.26 to clinch gold. Richards also ran a lifetime best of 58.33 in fifth, and will go to next year’s World Junior Championships with high hopes. After the race McLean commented:
“I’m very emotional, especially when I’ve worked all season to come here and get a gold medal. It’s what I’ve dreamed of since I was about twelve. I went to the World Youth’s two years ago and wasn’t very successful, finishing sixth, so to come here and actually win is a dream come true. I’m doubly happy – to come away with a personal best means that I couldn’t have run any harder, so I’m thrilled.”
Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon) ran a superb tactical race to take 3000mS/C gold forcing his Russian rival into the lead after two laps before surging hard with 250m to go and maintaining it all the way to the line to be crowned European Junior Champion in 8.45.91.
“I knew I had to take the first two laps out hard. My biggest opposition was the Russian, so my plan was to take the first two laps out hard, let him pass me, follow him until he tired and then I knew I’d have the confidence to take him near the finish. It feels awesome – I’m relieved, but really happy. This is the perfect end to my season and I couldn’t have hoped for better.”
Nick Percy (John Hillier) delivered a hard earned silver medal thanks to the most consistent series of throws of his career. Percy started well, opening up with 59.01m, before improving to 61.89m and 62.04m in the next two rounds. This proved to be his best throw of the competition, with Hungarian Robert Szikszai upping his game to produce a huge 64.75m in the final round.
“I was just so happy when I knew the silver was safe – I was literally in tears. Going into the last throw knowing the silver was in the bag, I didn’t really care that it was my worst throw! I’m just so overjoyed. I didn’t expect a silver, maximum a bronze on a good day, but never a silver.
I’ve been working my buttocks off, travelling a couple of hundred miles for training each week to try and peak for this competition and do as well as I could, and it paid off today. I’m just so glad that all the effort and time I’ve put into it has all been worth it.”
Greg Thompson (Neville Thompson) threw 55.96m in the third round, bowing out in tenth, but was pleased with the experience he’s gained.
There was also silver in the women’s long jump for Jazmin Sawyers (Alan Lerwill), who jumped a season’s best 6.63m (+0.5m/s) in the fifth round of a high quality competition.
“I’m really happy but I can’t help but have a bit of disappointment. I really wanted to grab onto that gold at the end, but the German girl jumped brilliantly and I couldn’t do it today. I gave it everything I’ve got and I couldn’t have done anything else; it just wasn’t quite enough today.
This is all about preparing us for the seniors, and although I’m disappointed about not getting gold, it’s not about right now. Hopefully I’ll be able to make senior championships in the future and win gold medals – that’s what we all want when we come into the sport and hopefully this is just a little piece of the journey.”
In the men’s 400mH, Jacob Paul (Armstrong) went into the final off the back of personal bests in both of the previous rounds, but knowing it would take a huge performance to out run the two world leading Russian’s. He produced a top draw performance though, clocking another personal best of 50.71 to clinch bronze.
“I came in ranked third behind the two world leading Russian’s but there was a big gap of almost two seconds, so I knew coming into it that it was going to be a fight for the bronze medal as there was a few of us closely ranked in the 51 second region.
To come out here and run three big PB’s means I can’t really complain. I’ve done the best I can do, and I’ve come out with a bronze medal, which I came here to do – it’s just a shame I couldn’t hold off the Russian’s to help us in the medal table, but I’ve done my best.”
There were also a couple of agonising fourth place finishes for Efe Uwaifo (Tom McNab) and Rebecca Weston (Peter Mullervy) in the men’s triple jump and women’s 5000m respectively. Uwaifo jumped a new personal best of 5.70m (+0.5) whilst Weston put in a brave piece of front running only to be passed with two laps to go and eventually end up just over a second short of bronze. Weston’s training partner Alex Clay (Peter Mullervy) also went in the women’s 5000m, and she was very close to a personal best, finishing eighth in 16.41.
There was disappointment for the men’s 4x100m team as they finished fifth, missing the medal they so desperately craved. Josh Cox (Alan Watts), Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Mark Elliot), Leon Reid (James Hillier) & Roy Ejiakuekwu (Keith Hunter) combined well, but the pressure to get the baton round led to three very safe changes, and their 40.09 clocking wasn’t enough.
In the men’s 800m final Richard Charles (Noel Stoddart) fought all the way to line in an extremely tight race, eventually finishing sixth in a time of 1.50.59, just one second behind the winner.
In the women’s pole vault final, Lucy Bryan (Charles Preston) couldn’t emulate her performance in Mannheim a few weeks ago, and so had to settle for 7th after a best clearance of 4.05m.
The final event of the championship was the men’s 4x400m relay, and GB & NI lined up in lane three, with their eyes firmly set on a medal. Alex Boyce (Robert Roberts) ran a tremendous first leg to bring the baton home in the lead before handing over to 200m bronze medallist Matthew Hudson-Smith (Tony Hadley). Hudson-Smith has limited experience of the one lap distance, but his pedigree shone through as he ran a great leg to come back alongside Poland. Ben Snaith (Mick Graham) went on leg three and kept the team in the hunt for a medal before leaving the rest down to George Caddick (Dominic Tighe). He ran a tremendous anchor leg to almost catch the individual 400m medallists from Russia and Poland, securing bronze for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a fitting end to a great championship.
“I think we ran a British record, or very close to it. 3.05 hasn’t been run in a long time, so to get a bronze medal and run 3.05.14 is pretty mad!”