New Heights Scaled at Indoor Championships
The first day of action at the Sainsbury’s British Athletics Indoor Championships saw a number of exciting head to heads as coveted British Indoor Championship titles were won, but the biggest highlight of the days performances was undoubtedly a British High Jump record by 2013 World Championship Heptathlon fifth placer Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
The event was a veritable competitive feast with the trio of Jayne Nisbet (Graham Ravenscroft), Johnson-Thompson (Mike Holmes) and Isobel Pooley (Fuzz Ahmed) all performing strongly to take on the final few heights.
With all three clear at 1.87m, it looked like a battle royale would commence but Johnson-Thompson simply turned on her high-jumping afterburners as she went on to clear 1.90m, 1.92m and 1.96m to surpass the national record of 1.95m shared by Dianna Davies, Jessica Ennis, Debbi Marti and Susan Moncrieff.
Afterwards she said: “I knew I was in good form because I had a good session in Loughborough last week and had a really good high jump session. I’ve been working on things mentally because last year and the year before I knew I had a good jump in me but it’s just me against the bar.”
“It’s a proud moment. There were a couple of people on 1.95m and a couple of Mike’s previous athletes too so it’s a proud moment for him as well. I can’t believe it.”
Silver medallist Nisbet not only managed a PB, but her 1.87m clearance marked a Scottish National indoor record for the athlete already bound for the Commonwealth games as part of Team Scotland.
Nisbet said: “I’m really happy with the new Scottish record but I’m really annoyed at myself because I was so close to 1.90m and I really want to go back out there and jump again. Katarina was amazing and so good to watch - it’s probably the best British championships there has been in years, so to be a part of it was really good.”
Also making it a memorable afternoon was Asha Philip (Christine Bowmaker), who in taking the women’s 60m title was just one hundredth outside the British indoor record with a swift 7.09sec, the record of 7.08 held by Jeanette Kwakye from 2008. That year Kwakye went on to win the World Indoor Silver medal just weeks later, so it bodes well for Philip who continues to go from strength to strength this indoor season.
She said: “It’s amazing. I’m delighted to retain my title and I think it’s an achievement because I had that pressure. I’m proud of myself; I got a PB and a stadium record and that’s really good.
“I knew I had that time in me, it was just when. I knew I had it, I’ve been working so hard and especially doing 7.16 in the semis I knew I was going to get faster.”
Following on from the women it was the time for Britain’s top men to take to the stage, and they did not disappoint.
As expected, last year’s European Indoor silver medallist and World championship finalist James Dasaolu (Steve Fudge) took the British Championship title in 6.50, but it was the joint 6.53 clocking by Dwain Chambers (Rana Reider) in second and Richard Kilty (Reider) in third which were equally as impressive, as the British sprinters once again put on a world-class showing for the EIS audience.
Dasaolu said: “It’s the same as what I ran in my first race so I know there’s more to come. I got a really poor reaction but I’m just happy to be competing and feeling healthy.
“Today was all about doing three rounds in one day and coming through unscathed with no injuries and booking myself on that plane.”
The men’s 60m hurdles final was a close call with a photo finish required to split the first two, but after a lengthy delay the officials declared that they could not separate the winner and it was declared a 7.64sec dead-heat between Andrew Pozzi (Malcolm Arnold) and William Sharman (Jerzy Maciukiewicz).
For Sharman the time also marked a lifetime best as he took in his first ever indoor championship title as well as running inside the 7.65 World Indoor qualifying standard.
He said: “I feel really good, it’s my first British indoor title and I’m pleased with that. I’m running a PB every time, so there’s plenty more to come.
“It’s promising, the indoors can only help with what you do in the outdoors. Building on this, the target is the Europeans and Commonwealths but also the World Indoors and to mix it up with the guys in Poland.”
For Pozzi, the title meant more than just the British Championship, it marked the end of a challenging year filled with injury, and he was clearly delighted:
“I’m absolutely chuffed. Last year here was my last race so it’s been a really long time. I wasn’t even sure if I’d be here so I’m really pleased I’m moving in the right direction,” he said.
“I’ve missed so much training and I wasn’t sure if I’d even race never mind get near seven and a half seconds. I’ve got another month so I can get some more training in and drop a couple of tenths and be competitive at the World Indoors.”
Another athlete on the comeback from an injury-affected 2013 was pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale (Scott Simpson). She once again took the British Championship title in a season’s best 4.73m. It did appear she had cleared 4.81 successfully, but the bar eventually dropped after a long delay.
Bleasdale however was delighted with how her form was slowly but surely recovering:
“I feel I’m getting better and better and into my groove with every competition I do and today was a really good day. I feel I’ve improved a lot – I tweaked a few things and felt more like the vaulter I have been in training,” she said.
“Moving forward I don’t have to worry about perfecting my technique, I can just go out there and enjoy it. I wish Birmingham was tomorrow so I can jump again.”
In the men’s triple jump, Julian Reid (Aston Moore) strung together a solid series to take the championship title with a personal best of 16.87m as the highlight, yet he was disappointed with the outcome:
“To be honest I was hoping to get the qualifying mark (for the World Indoors), but it’s my best jump in five years so overall I’m pleased, but not satisfied.
“Being British champion outdoors was wonderful and indoors is just as good. I really wish I could have done the long jump later on today to settle my disappointment, but an indoor personal best and the British title, I can’t complain really.”
In the long jump JJ Jegede (Peter Stanley) took another indoor title with a 7.85m best ahead of Dan Bramble’s (Frank Attoh) personal best 7.80m – Jegede later targeting next weekend’s Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix as a time for him to line up hopefully against British rivals Chris Tomlinson and Greg Rutherford.
The men’s 3000m title went to Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) following an epic dual between the AFD man, Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon) and Tom Farrell.
Vernon, who stayed off the pace until the latter stages proved as strong as an ox in holding off Mellor over the final lap.
He said: “It’s always nice to pick up these medals, and to book my place on the team for the World Indoors is what I came here for.
“I had to win and that’s what I did so it’s job done really.”
Moving up from the 800m, Jemma Simpson (Mark Rowland) won the women’s 1500m title in 4.14:68 after a close run-in against Alison Leonard (Bud Baldaro) and Melissa Courtney (Mark Pauley).
Simpson said: “I’m pleased to be British champion. That was my first championship since 2012 and I’ve had a lot of years of injury which has been quite tough. I wanted to do the indoors to come back and try to win a championships and get back into enjoying racing.
“If I can get into a race in the next few weeks I’ll look to go after the World Indoor time. It’s close but by the time the worlds come round I’ll be in much better shape, I’ve still got the work to do anyway.”
In the women’s shot put there was a surprise winner in Rachel Wallader (Geoff Capes) ahead of her younger training partner Sophie McKinna (also Capes).
Wallader, who took the British Championship title with a personal best 16.45 was thrilled to have beaten her younger rival:
“I’m absolutely delighted - I can’t believe it at all. The PB didn’t even feel like I tried, it just flew, but there’s plenty more there. I didn’t expect it one bit – in Austria Sophie (McKinna) came back at me on the last throw, so I knew it wasn’t over until the last throw. She put up a good fight.”
In qualifying for Sunday’s finals, the women’s 800m heats were led by Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter) as fastest qualifier in 2.05:68 in the third heat, but she will have the Scottish starlet Laura Muir (Andy Young) to contend with, after Muir took an easy victory in her qualifier with 2:08.73.
In the men’s four-lap event, qualifying saw Andrew Osagie (Craig Winrow), Mukhtar Mohamed (Jon Bigg) and Guy Learmonth (George Gandy) all progress through to Sunday’s final as winners of their heats.
The men’s 1500m heats also went as expected with Chris O Hare (Steve Gulley), Charlie Grice (Bigg), Lee Emanuel (Ronnie Warhurst) and Kris Gauson (Winrow) all through to Sunday’s much anticipated final.
Finally in the two-lap 400m semi finals, Eilidh Child (Arnold) and Meghan Beesley (Nick Dakin) led the women’s qualifying whilst in the men’s semis Nigel Levine (Linford Christie) and Luke Lennon Ford (also Christie) were the lead performers