Press release – British Athletics

Ten British athletes progressed to finals on the opening morning session of the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Toruń in Poland with Holly Mills (coach: Laura Turner-Alleyne; club: Andover) making an encouraging start in the women’s pentathlon.

In the women’s 800m all three British athletes progressed confidently into tomorrow’s semi-finals. Currently ranked number one in Europe, Keely Hodgkinson (Trevor Painter; Leigh) led at the bell and then found another gear to comfortably win her heat in 2:05.63. 

The British indoor and outdoor champion from 2020 was happy with her run, “I felt good from the start, the pace was good and I managed to save as much energy as I could. The job is done and I’m looking forward to the semi-finals. I have faith in my training and my strength to get through the rounds. I need to make sure I stick to the plan and try not to make any mistakes.”

In heat three, Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn; Enfield & Haringey), fresh from an impressive indoor personal best of 2.02.45 in New York last month, held on despite pressure from Daniela Garcia (ESP) during the final lap to take second place to qualify in 2.04.08. 

Meanwhile, European U23 silver medallist, Ellie Baker (Jon Bigg; Shaftesbury Barnett) made sure of a trio of British athletes in the semi-finals. After leading from the bell, she managed to avoid the traffic behind her to take first place in 2:06.15. 

In the 400m heats, first up was James Williams (self-coached; Liverpool) who was making his British debut at the age of 29. The Liverpool athlete bided his time in the contest, coming from the outside lane to finish very strongly in second place in 46.85 to safely move into the semi-final later today. 

Maths teacher, Williams said afterwards, “I’m really happy with the time. It’s my second quickest time ever. I backed up my time from Manchester so I’m dead happy.  But the first round is done and that means nothing as I go forward I need to do all I can to get into the final.”

In heat six, Lee Thompson (John Henson; Sheffield & Dearne), starting in the outside lane, came from the back after the lane break to take second place in 46.69 to also progress.

Afterwards Thompson said, “It was a relaxed first lap at the back but I knew not to panic. I know I have the strength in depth to go passed these guys so I trusted in my ability and it paid off.  I’m hoping to be a bit faster through the first 200m tonight (in the semi-finals) and be a bit more competitive over that first lap. Again I just need to stay strong to try and make that final.”

Unfortunately, the third British athlete, 21-year old Joe Brier (Matt Elias; Swansea) does not progress after being pipped on the line by Kajetan Duszynski (POL) and the three-time European champion Pavel Maslak (Czech). He finished in 47.08 having led from the start, with only the first two qualifying from each heat. The 400m semi-finals take place at 18.10 (GMT) this evening.

In the women’s 400m heats, Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) ran smartly and stuck to the shoulder of the very experienced Polish athlete, Justyna Swiety-Ersetic and held on to finish in 52.17 for second place to progress to the semi-finals.   

After the race, Knight said, “To be honest I’ve run a season best every time I have run so far this season so I am getting there. I haven’t raced in two weeks so I’m hoping getting that run in my legs today will have set me up well for the semi-finals later. Seeing the 51s again would be nice but I’m not really focused on the time. I am focused on reaching that final.”

In heat four, British team captain, Jodie Williams (Ryan Freckleton; Herts Phoenix) led by example, showing her experience and taking control of the race after the lane break to finish comfortably in first place in 52.35.

Williams, in only her third 400m race indoors, said, “I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Obviously the only experiences I’ve had (of the 400m indoors) were the two races in Manchester on a four-lane track, so this was a completely different experience. It was so much easier and I felt really controlled. It’s a tough schedule so I didn’t want to give it too much if I could get away with it, so it all went to plan.

“Semi-finals are harder than the final, that’s what I’ve learned. There’s no control in the semis, it’s going for broke to get that lane in the final.”

Ama Pipi (Linford Christie; Enfield & Haringey) made it a clean sweep for the British team, qualifying in first place after leading from the bell and holding on to finish in 52.63.

She said, “I got out quite well and managed to get to the break first, and then I pretty much controlled that second lap, so I’m really happy with that. I was only concentrating on myself; I could hear them behind me but I focused on finishing the race as strongly as I could. I’m really looking forward to that next round.”

The women’s 400m semi-finals that take place at 18:33 (GMT) this evening. 

There was double British progression in the women’s 1500m as Holly Archer (Andrew Parmenter; Cambridge & Coleridge) and Katie Snowden (Dan Stepney; Herne Hill) advanced.

Archer produced the best performance of her career, pushing the pace from 600m to go to finish in a personal best of 4:09.77.

The British indoor champion in 2020 moves through to the final and was absolutely delighted with her race, “The goal was always to come in and win the heat and beat people. I thought ‘if I’m going to go out, I’ll go out fighting’. I want to compete tomorrow in that final; it’s the best opportunity I’ve ever had. I wasn’t nervous at all. I know I’m in good shape and I’ve put the work in so the confidence was there. I know the strength is there so no matter what happened on the track, I knew I could go with it. I’m prepared to take it to that next level. Not bad for a first British vest!”

Snowden led for much of the race as the field spread out in a much faster third heat. The 26-year old secured one of the fastest qualifying places by finishing a strong third in 4:10.70 and said, “The advantage of being in heat 3 is you know what you have to do for the fastest qualifier spots. It’s a strong field so I thought, why would I risk going really slow and getting outkicked for the top two? Thankfully I just held on and it was perfectly judged. The final will be quite different from today. I think it’ll be quite cagey for the first few laps. It’s going to be about being up front and ready for when that break happens.”

In the women’s pentathlon, 20-year-old Holly Mills got off to the best possible start with the fastest time of 8.22 (1079 points) in the 60m hurdles, just a hundredth of a second outside her personal best.

The high jump followed, and the Andover athlete cleared 1.74m (903), again very close to her indoor PB of 1.75m. In the final event of the morning’s session, the shot put, Mills threw a best of 13.22m (742). With two events to go, the European junior bronze medallist stands in eighth place with 2724 points. 

She was happy with her morning’s work, “The hurdles was a good start. The track was quick, and I wasn’t expecting it to be that quick but it was excellent to get the yellow bib (leader) after that, that’s something I really wanted to do so I was really pleased with that. The high jump was another solid performance. It was a little bit annoying that I was so close to 1.77m but 1.74m is a season best and almost my indoor PB so another solid event. The shot, I would have liked closer to 14 metres but 13.22m is in my top five throws so I’m happy with that as well.”

The long jump and 800m will round off the pentathlon this evening.  Nafissatou Thiam, who started as favourite leads with 3024 points with her Belgium compatriot Noor Vidts, currently ranked number one in Europe, second on 2867 points.

In the field, Jazmin Sawyers (City of Stoke) and Abigail Irozuru (self-coached; Sale Harriers Manchester) did not progress to the women’s long jump final.

Sawyers finished in 13th place with a best of 6.48m, while Irozuru’s best jump of 6.44m was a season best but left her outside qualification in 15th place.

The action continues in Toruń this evening from 1800 hours (GMT).