On the second day of the European U23 Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, the British team got off the mark in style with a gold and a bronze in the sprints and another bronze in the heptathlon as well as a host of qualifications into the weekend’s finals.
Following yesterday’s outstanding PB (10.19) in his semi-final performance – the second-fastest time ever by a Welshman – Jeremiah Azu (Helen Patricia James, Cardiff) stormed to the gold medal in the men’s 100m final in 10.25 (-0.3 m/s).
Leading all the way and dipping to ensure it was his, an emotional Azu said afterward, “It feels so good. It is such a relief because last time I was here I didn’t walk off the track, but I am so grateful that I have done it this time. It was 100% what I came here for. I was only ranked eighth coming into this final, so I have kept under the radar a bit, but I felt I had it in there.”
Brandon Mingeli (Ryan Freckleton, Cambridge Harriers) finished in seventh place in a time 10.55 (w-0.3) in his first international final.
In the women’s 100m, Kristal Awuah (Matthew Thomas, Herne Hill) came in third to take the bronze medal in 11.44 (w-1.3) and, although disappointed not to win, she was happy with a podium finish. A strong finish from the German athlete, Lilly Kaden, overhauled Belgium’s Rani Rosius and Awuah in the final few strides, taking it in 11.36.
After the race, Awuah said, “I am not happy with that as I tightened a bit but nevertheless, I did my best. It has been a packed couple of weeks for me with racing at home and here so I am pleased I got here fit and could give it my best.”
Co-captain, Holly Mills (Laura Turner-Alleyne, Andover) secured the first medal for the team with the bronze medal in the Heptathlon. In a strong second day she had jumped a season’s best of 6.20m in the long jump. She followed this with a personal best throw of 37.38m in the javelin, adding over a metre and a half to her previous best.
She started the final event in third place knowing it would take a monumental performance to outrun Spain’s, Claudia Conte to claim the silver with Poland’s Adrianna Sulek in pole position for the gold medal.
Mills secured her bronze medal finishing the 800m in 2:16.07 to end her campaign with 6095 points. After the traditional heptathlon lap of honour she said, “It was a very long two days. I have done three heptathlons this year and in each one I have had points from different events. After day one which wasn’t so good and, although I really found that 800m tough, I am really pleased and proud of how I bounced back today after a sub-par day one. It showed my grit and of course I am so pleased to get the first medal for the team and get the ball rolling.”
Jade O’Dowda (Newham & Essex Beagles) also started the day well in the heptathlon with 6.14m her best effort in the long jump. Her javelin is one of her strongest events and she proved it again today with her throw of 42.13m which left her in sixth place prior to the 800m.
In the gruelling two-lap finale which took place in torrential rain, O’Dowda ran a very impressive PB of 2:13.94 to finish the two days in an excellent sixth place (6002 points) to follow her seventh in the World U20 championships two years ago.
O’Dowda added, “The high jump was disappointing but everything apart from that was good so i am happy especially with today which was very solid.”
Jodie Smith (Laura Turner-Alleyne, Windsor, Slough, Eton & Housnlow) did not start day two following a slight injury picked up during yesterday’s competition.
The rain had started when the women took to the track for the 10,000m final and Eleanor Bolton (Chris Barnes, Ribble Valley Harriers) ran most of the first 5k in third place but would ultimately finish eighth in 34:06.67.
She said after the race, “I lost my head really and didn’t run a good race. I was dropping back and struggling to get those pulling away. I thought they might slow. It is easier if you know who you are chasing. But I have a point to prove now in the 5000 so I think this will give me some motivation to do well and get a good time.”
The semi-finals of the 400m hurdles saw both Alastair Chalmers (Matt Elias, Guernsey) and Alex Knibbs (Nick Dakin, Amber Valley & Erewash) secure their place in Saturday’s final. The gold and silver medallists from the Muller British Athletics Championships made sure of automatic qualification by finishing second in their respective semi-finals in 50.11 and 50.00 respectively.
Finishing strongly in his race, Chalmers said afterwards, “I really wanted an auto Q and to get a good lane for tomorrow. It was a good run out there today although a little windy. It looks beautiful for tomorrow. It is all about the final; not the heats or the semi.”
Knibbs was equally pleased with his performance, “I introduced a new stride pattern first 200 and then went from there. I wanted to control it round but without using too much energy and to ensure I was top two and in a centre lane for the final.”
Co-captain Tade Ojora (Caryl Smith-Gilbert, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) and Josh Zeller (Adrian Brown, Bracknell AC) looked very impressive in their heats this morning and again this afternoon’s semi-finals of the 110m hurdles.
Ojora, the British Champion, continued his great form winning his semi-final in 13.62 (-0.4). Meanwhile, Zeller then followed up with a good second place finish in 13.68 (w-1.3) to ensure two Britons in tomorrow’s final.
In the women’s 100m hurdles Anastasia Davies (John Blackie, Blackheath & Bromley) went through to tomorrow afternoon’s final as a fastest non-automatic qualifier after her excellent third place in 13.52 (+0.8).
Jenna Blundell (Bristol & West) just missed out on joining her after her 13.67 (-2.2) fourth place finish in the semi-finals. She had got off to a good start this morning with a comfortable 13.43 (-0.4) in the heats to reach the semi.
Out in the field, Joel Khan (Deidre Elmhurst, Worcester) safely negotiated his way through to Sunday’s final of the high jump with two clean jumps of 2.07m and 2.11m followed by a 2.15m clearance on his third attempt.
It was an agonising wait for Alex Haydock-Wilson (Michael Baker, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) after running in the first of the 400m semi-finals after he finished fourth. His time of 46.40 did not see him progress to the final.
In the women’s 400m hurdles semi-final, Zoe Pollock (Nick Dakin, Oxford City) was unable to match her personal best of 57.17 achieved yesterday finishing in fifth place in 58.49 which did not see her advance to the final. However, she was positive about her championships experience, “It wasn’t the race I wanted today but to come here and get a PB in the heats is all I could have asked for, so I am going to take the positives. It is my first championships and it has been amazing. I can look forward to the relay.”
In her 400m semi-final Yasmin Liverpool (Stewart Marshall, Coventry) found it tough going in lane eight and finished eighth in 56.27.
Earlier in the day, the British team had had a very successful morning session with all those athletes in action making progress in their respective events.
In the women’s 1500m Britain’s sole competitor, Erin Wallace (Andy Young, Giffnock North) booked her place in Sunday’s final with a strong run in 4:17.23. The silver medallist at the British Championships last month, summed up her performance, “It is good to get a wee run out before the final. The race went off faster than I thought it would. With a hundred to go there were five of us so I really pushed to ensure I got the auto qualifier.”
There were three very strong performances in the men’s 800m with each of the British men securing one of the automatic places for Sunday’s final. First to go was Thomas Randolph (Craig Winnow, Tamworth) who eased up in the last few metres to finish second in 1:48.04.
Heat two saw Finlay McLear (Exeter) also finish second in 1:48.16. He said, “I survived, and I advanced. I felt good and did what I needed to do to get through. Anything can happen in the finals. I have a lot more championships experience than I had at the last Europeans. I had seen the 1500 yesterday with a lot of fallers so i just wanted to stay out of trouble and ensure I progressed.”
The last heat was significantly faster with Ben Pattison (Dave Ragan, Basingstoke and Mid Hants) – silver medallist at the European U20 Championships two years ago – safely through in second place 1:46.81.
He commented post-race, “I knew it would be fast, being heat three where people know what they need to do. I’m through automatically and I feel strong. This won’t have done me any harm, if anything it’ll get my legs ready for a faster one on Sunday. It is great to have three Brits in the final and who’s to say we won’t do 1-2-3 as we did two years ago. We have a chance!”
In the women’s pole vault Molly Caudery (Stuart Caudery, Thames Valley) cleared 4.05m and 4.20m, each at the first attempt, to ease through to Sunday’s final.
Also in the field, Bekah Walton (David Turner, Blackheath & Bromley) secured her final place in the women’s javelin with a personal best throw of 54.27m. The recently crowned British champion goes into Sunday morning’s final with the second biggest throw of the competition so was full of confidence as she stepped off the field.
She said, “When I came to the championships, I thought I really want to get through to the final and I am really, really happy to get a PB today. It felt good with a great line, but I feel there is more there. It was great not to need to take all the throws. With six rounds on Sunday, it’ll be very different. There are some great throwers here and I am loving every part of the experience.”
Shemar Boldizsar (Stephen David Loft, Harlow), looking to retain his European U23 200m title, made no mistake winning his heat impressively in 21.04 (0.1). He will be back for the semi-finals on Saturday morning.
Also through to the semi-finals in the women’s 200m are both Georgina Adam (Joe McDonnell, Loughborough Students) and Kiah Dubarry-Gay (Clarence Callender, Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) after securing automatic qualification today.
In heat one, Adam finished second in 23.80 (0.5), while Dubarry-Gay was happy with her third place in 23.73 (0.6) in a fast heat.
Amber Anning (Dennis Shaver, Brighton & Hove) did not start following a slight injury sustained in training.
The European Athletics Under 23 Championships runs from 8 to 11 July in Tallinn, Estonia. It will be streamed live on the European Athletics website with events getting underway at 7:45am BST on Saturday.
British team medals:
Jeremiah Azu – Men’s 100m
Kristal Awuah – Women’s 100m
Holly Mills – Women’s Heptathlon