British Athletics

The British team achieved their best result at the European Athletics Team Championships Super League since 2013 as they finished third in the standings behind Poland and Italy with individual wins for Beth Dobbin, Lawrence Okoye and Jake Wightman on the second day of action.

Team captain Jake Wightman (Geoff Wightman, Edinburgh) led by example as he surged to victory in the men’s 800m. In a competitive field, the European and Commonwealth medallist over 1500m showed his credentials over the shorter distance as he came through to win in 1:45.71. With 200m to go, he positioned himself at the front and kicked away from his opponents to bring home the victory.

He said afterwards, “The only real aim from it was to win it. I think putting ourselves top of the leader board after day one, I knew I had to do my bit to keep us there. So, to get the full points is big for me. I’ve just tried to lead by example. Everyone has shown so much character in the way they have performed that it is very easy to know you have to do the same. I don’t know what the other teams think of us, but I think we’ve massively over-performed so far.

“It’s awesome to be captain. I thought that would be something I’d get near the end of my career so for Christian to trust I can do that now is an honour. I won’t take much credit for how the team has done because they have all been on another level.”

He added, “Every athlete who has earned their first senior vest this weekend should be very proud of their performance. They’ve all given 100% and that is all you can do. It’s great having the team environment, there’s no medals individually, so to be competing for one another is very rare and I feel like everyone is making the most of that.”

After her heroics in the 4x100m relay yesterday, Beth Dobbin (Leon Baptiste, Edinburgh) was in individual 200m action on day two and produced a marvellous display to take the victory.

Even as the rain started to fall, it was no distraction for the Edinburgh athlete as she fired out of the blocks and was well in contention as they hit the home straight. By her own admission, the second half of her race is her strongest, and it showed in the Silesian Stadium as she comfortably moved away from the Italian Dalia Kaddari to secure another seven points for the team. Her time was a season best of 22.78 (+0.6).

She commented post-race, “Do you know what, after we got the win yesterday with the 4x100m girls, I had to win again. The feeling you get for a win, there is nothing quite like it. I’m buzzing with that race and the time. I wasn’t expecting it to be that quick because when we were in the blocks I could just feel the rain hitting the back of my neck, it was so grim. But I absolutely went for it and fought to the end, I cannot ask for any more.

“My finish is my strength. It hasn’t been quite there for the first couple of races of the season. You can’t practice it in training, you need to get the races in. So today I just felt so comfortable, I love the last bit of the 200m because I just feel so strong.”

2012 Olympian Lawrence Okoye (John Hillier, Croydon) rolled back the years as he won the men’s discus competition with a mark of 64.22m. In a strong European field, Okoye’s furthest throw came on his fourth and final throw. However, he was leading from the opening round when he threw the discus out to 62.98m. He took the full seven points with Poland’s Robert Urbanek in second place.

He said, “I had a reasonable opener considering. I was leading throughout the competition after that opener. I managed to extend it at the end which is a sign that I’m focusing on what I am doing. It was always going to be difficult to throw far in these conditions so I’m happy with the result today.

“There were some top throwers today. We’ve got world medallists and guys ranked in the top five in the world, so I think it bodes well for me going forward. It’s the kind of thing I need to prepare for the Olympics.”

A hugely entertaining women’s 4x400m relay saw Poland just edge the British quartet into second place, but it was a fighting performance from the team. Ama Pipi (Linford Christie, Enfield & Haringey) has proved herself to be a strong first leg runner in recent times and showed her qualities again as she handed over to Hannah Williams (Glyn Hawkes, Herts Phoenix) in a great position.

Williams, a world indoor medallist from 2018, was ready for the battle with the Polish team as she took the lead on the first bend. The home crowd of 7600 roared on their team, and despite the home outfit taking back the lead on the back straight, Williams was level with them as she handed over to Yasmin Liverpool (Stewart Marshall, Coventry).

Liverpool ran a solid leg and took the lead before 200m to go and dug in well despite the Polish athlete responding to her move, but she gave Lina Nielsen (Ryan Freckleton, Shaftesbury Barnet) a chance at attacking for the lead on the final lap. With the noise in the crowd the loudest of the weekend, the 400m hurdler, who took seven points yesterday, put in a valiant effort to finish second place.

Nielsen said, “The girls put us in a really good position. I know their (Poland’s) last leg runner is in really good form at the moment. She is close to 50s, so I tried not to let her get too far away. She kicked then I kicked but the crowd just lifted her for that final 20 metres. We finished in a really good position so I’m really happy with the team.”

In the first field event of the day, British record holder Harry Coppell (Scott Simpson, Wigan and District) finished second in the men’s pole vault with a clearance of 5.55m. After one foul at 5.40m, it was plain sailing on the second attempt, and then he cleared the bar first time at 5.55m. That took him into the lead but after his three fouls at 5.65m, Poland’s Robert Sobera went over on his final jump to snatch the full seven points ahead of the Wigan & District athlete.

Over in the 110m Hurdles, David King (Tim O’Neil, City of Plymouth) bagged second place in a time of 13.63 (-0.3), dipping on the line to take it ahead of Poland’s Damian Czykier and seal some important points for the team. After two faulty starts, one of which saw King receive a yellow card, the field were underway, and King had a strong end to his race to finish behind Asier Martinez of Spain.

After equalling her personal best at the Muller Grand Prix Gateshead last week with a clearance of 1.91m, Emily Borthwick (Fuzz Caan, Wigan & District) continued her strong form in the high jump as she took third place with a best of 1.88m. It was a clean card up to 1.91m, but three fouls saw the end of the competition. However, the north-west athlete put herself well in contention yet again in another top-quality field at European level.

Over in the javelin, Freya Jones (David Callaway, Newham & Essex Beagles) added five points to the overall tally for the British team after a great series saw her finish third with a best of 54.68m. That throw came from her opener and she settled into the competition from there, holding on to the top three spot.

After silver success at the European Athletics Throwing Cup earlier this month, Chris Bennett (Andy Frost, Shaftesbury Barnet) was fourth in the men’s hammer throw. He improved as the competition progressed with his furthest throw of his series coming in the final round with an effort of 74.09m.

World shot put finalist Sophie McKinna (Mike Winch, Great Yarmouth) continued her progress during the 2021 season with a mark of 17.87m which collected four points for the British outfit. The mark came in round four after a consistent series in the high 17 metres.

British champion Andrew Morgan-Harrison (Alex O’Gorman, Kingston upon Hull) ran a solid race to place fourth in the men’s 200m for four points. Making his senior debut, the Briton had a strong bend and pushed on in the final straight but facing a headwind, he admitted he faded slightly but held on for fourth position.

Erin Wallace (Andy Young, Giffnock North) was fourth in the women’s 1500m in a tightly contested race which was typical for a Championship race. It started out fairly cagey which led to a burn up on the final lap with the British athlete coming away with a time of 4:15.65 and four points.

In her first British vest, Beth Kidger (Joel Kidger, Brighton Phoenix) posted a time of 15:59.93 for fifth place in the women’s 5000m to bring back three points for the British team.

Tom Anderson (Andrew Hobdell, Bingley) came home in fifth in the men’s 3000m in a time of 8:34.84 on his senior debut for the British team. In a tactical affair, the Briton came home just three seconds behind the winner from Portugal, Isaac Nader.

Phil Norman (Tomasz Plibersek, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) clocked 8:42.78 in the men’s 3000m steeplechase as he crossed the line in sixth to earn two points for the team. In recent weeks he has achieved the Olympic qualifying standard for the event at the Ostrava Golden spike meeting and earned his first British call-up.

Earlier in the programme, Alicia Barrett (Benke Blomkvist, Chesterfield) was sixth in the women’s 100m hurdles as she posted a season best of 13.42 (-0.1) to collect two points for GB & NI.

Elsewhere, Nathan Douglas (Aston Moore, Oxford City) was sixth in the men’s triple jump with an effort of 15.88m the best across his series.

British Athletics Futures Academy athlete Lucy Hadaway (Matt Barton, City of York) stepped up in the women’s long jump to bring home two points for the British team following a mark of 6.16m on his first jump.

Unfortunately, the men’s 4x400m relay did not finish after a dropped baton on the final changeover. Cameron Chalmers (Matt Elias, Guernsey) got the team off to a great start as he handed over to Alex Haydock-Wilson (Michael Baker, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) in contention of the lead. On leg two, Haydock-Wilson pushed in the first 200m, taking the British quartet into the lead. However, he was caught up slightly by other teams but held on to second position.

Michael Ohioze (Dan Tomlin, Shaftesbury Barnet) took up the baton on the third leg and ran very strongly to put Britain into the lead. However, in the final few metres, he started to tie up and there was an unsuccessful baton change with Rabah Yousif (Carol Williams, Newham and Essex Beagles) to end their hopes in the race.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland finished third in the standings on 174 points behind winners Poland (181.5 points) and Italy (179 points). 

Olympic Head Coach, Christian Malcolm said, “I am very proud of this team and how they have performed at these Championships. They fought for every point and several athletes really stepped up for the occasion and delivered impressive results.

“The Team Championships always has a different feel about them, and the team embraced the competition, and it was reflected by their performances on the track and in the field. I have been really pleased to see how well the squad have jelled out here and supported each other.

“It was fantastic to be leading after day one, and to finish in the top three is a good result for us. This is our best result at the European Athletics Team Championships since 2013, so I’m very pleased with how the team have conducted themselves and performed this weekend.”