Defending champions Matthew Hudson-Smith (coach: Gary Evans; club: Birchfield) and Laura Muir (Andy Young; Dundee Hawkhill) both sent out statements of intent with impressive victories on the second morning of the European Athletics Championships as the list of British qualifiers stormed past double figures in Munich.
Hudson-Smith and Muir, both with medals at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games this summer including gold for the latter in Birmingham, were supremely impressive in the men’s 400m semi-finals and women’s 1500m heats respectively.
Muir took control of her race to win — and will be joined in the women’s 1500m final by Ellie Baker (Jon Bigg; Shaftesbury Barnet) and Katie Snowden (Herne Hill) — while Hudson-Smith could afford to ease down with 20m to go, he too also with a British teammate in that final in Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist; WSEH).
Bethan Davies (Andi Drake; Cardiff) was the only Brit in finals action and achieved a career-best 11th in the women’s 35km race walk while six others made certain of their own progress including a personal best from Victoria Ohuruogu (Christine Ohuruogu; Newham & Essex Beagles) to reach the women’s 400m final.
David King (Tim O’Neil; City of Plymouth) and Miguel Perera (Laura Turner-Alleyne; Harrow) made it through the men’s 110m hurdles heats as did Jazmin Sawyers (Lance Brauman; City of Stoke) and Jahisha Thomas (Clive Roberts; Blackheath & Bromley) in qualification for the women’s long jump while Phil Norman (Tomaz Plibersek, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) went comfortably through in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
The morning after Eilish McColgan’s (Liz Nuttall; Dundee Hawkhill) 10,000m silver, defending champion Muir looked supremely impressive on the way to winning the first of the women’s 1500m heats. She settled at the back for the first 300 metres and then decided it was time to push to the front and lead with two laps to go.
British teammate Melissa Courtney-Bryant (Rob Denmark; Poole) soon joined her with 600 metres to go but Muir started to create some distance and noticeably upped the pace on the back straight.
Muir would cruise home first in 4:06.40 but Courtney-Bryant, unfortunately, couldn’t follow her as she placed tenth in 4:09.11. And Muir, who already has world bronze and Commonwealth gold over the distance this summer, said: “I just wanted to get through the rounds comfortably.
“I managed to end up at the front which I don’t normally do but I was getting clipped a bit, so I just wanted to stay out of trouble really and qualify safely. It has been a busy summer but in a way that’s a good thing because it has been a distraction, so I haven’t had much time to think about coming to another championship.
“It’s really exciting to have another championship, so I hope it goes as well as the other two. I come into these championships as the reigning champion with the orange bib so I’d like to keep it that way. I’d very much love to do that but it is a very tough competition.”
There was also British interest in the second of the women’s 1500m heats as Baker and Snowden took to the track in Munich, both benefiting from a far quicker run race to progress.
Baker and Snowden positioned themselves in the middle of the pack for much of the race and had the kick in them when it was needed. Snowden turned it on down the home straight before cruising when she knew qualification was secured.
She would clock a season’s best 4:03.76 for fifth while Baker, stepping up in trip from the 800m to the 1500m, also did more than enough as she chased behind to finish in a fine personal best of 4:04.90 for tenth.
Snowden said, “I’m really pleased with that; I just feel like my season is building and building with every week. My minimum goal coming here was to reach the final but now I am in it, I want to be up in the front and be competitive. I’ll go away and see who is in the race and come up with a plan.”
Baker said, “I’m so happy to have got that PB and qualified for the final because they were two of my aims going into the championship so to get them both, I’m really happy. I’ve already beaten my European ranking so I’m excited to just go and enjoy the experience and see what I can do.”
Fellow defending European champion Hudson-Smith was just as impressive as Muir in qualifying for the final of the men’s 400m. He clearly meant business and looked incredibly strong, the win in that first semi-final effectively guaranteed after the final bend.
He noticeably eased down with 20 metres to go yet still ducked under 45 seconds — the only athlete to do so — with his finishing time 44.98 almost four tenths quicker than anyone else. Hudson-Smith said, “It was good and felt very easy.
“I just wanted to execute the race and get through to the final and we will go from there. I just wanted to set it off well in the heats, so I’ll be ready to go in that final. He’s [Haydock-Wilson] got to the final and I’m really happy for him. It’s his first individual European final so it is a big moment for him.”
EILISH LANDS SILVER#SALbelieve— scottishathletics (@scotathletics) August 15, 2022
Superb run @EilishMccolgan @BritAthletics for silver Women's 10,000m final in 30:41.05
(📷 @Bobby_ThatOneMo @birminghamcg22 )
Congratulations ! @Lizmccolgan @MichaelRimmer8 @dundeehawks @SALChiefExec @OvensDavid @ScotsmanSport @SusanEgelstaff pic.twitter.com/Czq1Ehfw9B
Teammate Haydock-Wilson also ran a good race in the second semi-final to join him in the final. He went toe-to-toe with Frenchman Thomas Jordier, reeling in Poland’s Karol Zalewski on the home straight, to finish second in 45.45 for fourth overall.
He said: “If anything, this year has taught me that it’s no fun when it’s easy, you’ve got to keep chasing the hardest challenges and this was one of them so I’m happy to have qualified comfortably and happy to have got through to the final. A fresh prospect, no pressure.”
Ohuruogu is enjoying a fine season having smashed her personal best at the World Championships and then again at the Commonwealth Games on the way to silver – and she looked impressive once again in the women’s 400m semi-finals.
Alongside Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek, she pulled clear of the field in the second semi-final to clock a huge new personal best of 50.50 – taking another 0.22 off – and which would rank her third overall going into the final.
Unfortunately, neither Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey) nor Nicole Yeargin (Boogie Johnson; Pitreavie) could join her in the final. Nielsen clocked a season’s best 51.53 for sixth in the first semi-final while Yeargin crossed in 52.09 for fifth in a restarted third semi-final.
Ohuruogu said, “It’s been mentally tough, three back-to-back championships. I’m happy I got the job done. I’m just telling myself I’ve got two more races then I can enjoy it. I’m happy to have finished on a good note, and I’m very pleased to have run another PB.”
Davies was the first Brit to compete in a final on day two as the women’s 35km race walk took place on the streets of Munich. She grew into the race superbly and bettering her 22nd in the 20km race walk from the last European Championships in 2018 always looked on the cards.
Davies would put in an impressive closing to her race to clock 2:59:38 hours for 11th overall — her career-best performance to date – and she said: “This is my third 35km, and that was definitely the best I’ve felt at the end. The end of a 35 is very different to the end of a 20.
“It’s the highest I’ve ever finished in a competition like this so I’m over the moon really. I want to review my season now, and then I’d really like to double — do a 35 and a 20 at a major championships. I probably need to figure out how to plan my season so I can get the qualifying marks for both.”
On a busy morning of British action, two of the three Brits in the women’s long jump progressed to the final. Sawyers needed just two attempts with her second effort of 6.60m enough to rank in the top 12 in sixth while Thomas was just short of that distance herself.
She leapt out to a season’s best 6.57m with her own second attempt to advance in tenth overall however Abigail Irozuru (Aston Moore; Sale Harriers Manchester) couldn’t make it a clean sweep as she placed 20th overall with a best of 6.15m.
Sawyers said: “My first round jump, which was a foul, was a really good jump but I backed off a bit on my next jump to make sure I hit the board, and it still ended up being a 6.60m jump. It’s rare that I can back off so much and jump so far so that tells me I am in really good shape and gives me a lot of confidence for the final.”
Thomas said: “I’m very happy about the season’s best. I know the first one wasn’t great, but I just had to go and shake it off. I knew I had to nail it as I only had three rounds so I’m pleased to pull something out.”
King and Perera were the first Brits in action on the second day in Munich and they got the team off to a perfect start by advancing out of the heats of the men’s 110m hurdles.
King was drawn in lane one in the second heat and, once he got going, he established a clear gap to third with two hurdles remaining and would secure automatic qualification in a time of 13.63.
He said: “It was very comfortable. My legs tightened after the gun and it felt laboured but once I got over one, I got into my running and it was smooth, it was good. I’d love to make the final. It will take a run better than that one but I know I’ve got that in my legs.”
Perera’s outing in the third of three heats had a touch more drama to it as seven of the eight in the field dipped in a line at the line. Perera ended his race strong and pushed his chest out better than his rivals to also grab an automatic qualifying spot in 13.72.
He said: “I had no idea where I was on the line, I just had to dip. I knew I got in front of the guy next to me but that was it. It was all very packed, but there is not much separating us all. It’s good to be in the fight for sure.”
There was another trio of Brits bidding to progress in the men’s 3000m steeplechase as Norman was joined by Jamaine Coleman (Joan Hunter; Preston) and Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon; Bracknell) in the heats.
Coleman was the first up in heat one and did well to avoid a faller with three laps to go before pushing up to third. The pace would prove too much unfortunately as he missed out on progression after clocking 8:39.22 for tenth.
Norman meanwhile worked his way to the front with four laps to go in the second heat and built a good ten-metre lead with Seddon slotting in behind in third. However, by the final lap, Seddon had dropped down with Norman still leading.
A slight stumble over the final hurdle saw Norman relinquish the lead but he looked around to see qualification would be relatively easy still, eventually crossing home third in that heat in 8:32.00. Seddon was 11th in 8:46.74.
Norman said: “I couldn’t have expected to get any more than that. I was feeling really comfortable and the pace fell off, so I took the initiative to keep the early momentum going and worst case, if I did tail off I’d still stay in the top ten with a time. When I saw that there were five of us in the group I knew I could relax a little bit – as much as you can in a chase.”
Elsewhere in the field all three of the British women in qualification for the hammer throw were making their European Championship debut. Charlotte Payne (Paul Dickenson; Reading) was the first up in qualification group A but unfortunately did not register a mark.
Jessica Mayho (John Pearson; Birchfield Harriers) and Anna Purchase (Mo Saatara; Notts) were in group B with the former producing a best of 63.90m with her second attempt. Purchase, unfortunately, was unable to record a mark.
Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal tally:
Silver: Eilish McColgan – 10,000m