The British mixed 4x400m relay team smashed the national record and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (coach: Aston Moore, club: Liverpool) made a strong start to her heptathlon campaign as several Brits made safe progress on the first morning of World Championship action in Budapest.
The mixed quartet of Joe Brier (Matt Elias, Swansea), Laviai Nielsen (Philip Unfried, Enfield and Haringey), Rio Mitcham (Leon Baptiste, Birchfield) and Yemi Mary John (Alan James, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) produced a perfect performance to knock more than three seconds off the previous British best, qualifying second fastest for tonight’s final in 3:11.19.
A strong opening leg from Brier put Nielsen in a great position at the break as she put the British quartet in the lead at halfway. Mitcham solidified the British position on the third leg and European Under-23 400m champion John powered the team home with a strong anchor leg.
Better fire up the 🚨 BRITISH RECORD KLAXON 🚨— British Athletics (@BritAthletics) August 19, 2023
3:11.19 NR in the mixed 4x400m relay heats
51.16 Yemi Mary-John
Bring on that final tonight!!#WorldAthleticsChamps pic.twitter.com/bb0y5C4vnr
After the race, Nielsen said: “It was fast and loud, so I think that gave us an extra lift. We have all been itching to go so we are pleased with how we have performed as a team.”
Mitcham added: “The mood in the team has been great, and we had a really good holding camp in Slovakia. We don’t get many opportunities to all come together as a team and work on things, so when we do it is really special and you can feel that energy.”
The British 1500m trio of Laura Muir (Steve Vernon, Dundee Hawkhill), Melissa Courtney-Bryant (Rob Denmark Poole) and Katie Snowden (Stephen Haas, Herne Hill) left nothing to chance as they safely progressed into the women’s 1500m semi-final.
Muir produced a captain’s display, sitting off the pace early on but by the bell was on the shoulder of the leaders. Entering the home straight, she held her composure, moving away from the chasing pack for second spot in 4:03.50.
Courtney-Bryant went to the front early on and put herself comfortably in the top six as the pace ramped up. As the race quickened through the final 400m, she kept her cool, easing through in 4:03.14 for fifth.
In the fastest heat of the morning, Snowden required a late surge down the home straight to stamp her place in the next round, moving away from a rapidly-closing chasing pack, qualifying fourth fastest overall in 4:01.15.
Snowden assessed: “I’m really happy with it – obviously it was about securing that top six as there are no fastest losers so it think people are really racing it, going out hard to secure that spot for tomorrow.
“I was pleasantly surprised that was 4:01 as it didn’t feel as fast as you would normally expect that to but that bodes well for tomorrow.”
Team captain Muir reflected: “I saw a couple of the girls pushing it a bit and I thought I just don’t want to leave it too late, that gap. So, I just came round and got in a good position, and I covered each move. I got clipped a couple of times, which is to be expected and I just wanted to stay clear of that. And I did and stayed out of trouble and came top six.
“It’s the first morning so as captain I’ve got to get through its not setting a good example if I don’t get through on the first day, but yes, I’m there.
“The guys and girls setting a British record this morning (in the Mixed relay heats) was amazing and that’s hard to follow!”
Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Aston Moore, Liverpool) began her search for a second heptathlon world title with strong showings in the 100m hurdles and high jump, ending the morning session in fourth spot, 41 points off the lead.
The Liverpudlian kicked off her competition with a 13.50s (0.4) clocking over the 100m hurdles, good enough for sixth place in her pool and scoring her 1050 points.
Despite needing three attempts to clear 1.80m, Johnson-Thompson sailed over a best of 1.86m, adding another 1054 points for second in her pool on countback. She’ll return to action this evening with the shot put and 200m.
In the field, European Indoor long jump champion Jazmin Sawyers (Aston Moore, City of Stoke) bowed out of the long jump with a best effort of 6.41m (1.2) in 22nd spot overall.
She assessed afterwards, “I was feeling good but I just couldn’t make it happen. If anyone steps on the track ready to compete then they should be expected to do as they’re supposed to. I’ve had a very disrupted prep with injuries but to me, if I was willing to stand out there, then I should’ve been ready to easily qualify for the final and should’ve been going for a medal. I’ve massively underperformed there.”
Earlier in the morning, Scott Lincoln (Paul Wilson, City of York) threw a best of 20.22m for ninth in his pool and 18th overall. Lincoln’s first effort of 20.18m was backed up by his third round best as he came up short of the 21.40m auto-qualifying mark.