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world youths (1)

Elliot Slade
Elliot Slade progressed through this morning's 800m heats

06 July 2011

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team started its campaign at the 2011 World Youth Championships today with a total of seven athletes involved in the morning session - two of them already gaining access to finals to be competed this afternoon. In the beautiful setting of the Stadion Lille Metropole, the Championships started under an ominous weather that twice unleashed a shower on the athletes - luckily, not on on the British representatives.

On the field, pre-event hot prospect Sophie McKinna (coach: Geoff Capes) secured a place into this evening's shot put showdown with a throw of 14.27m, achieving the direct qualification mark with her third attempt. Despite having to endure a longer-than-expected session due to some technical issues, the Great Yarmouth athlete kept her cool to finish second in the overall qualifying standings behind World leader Tianqian Guo. 

At the other end of the infield, discus thrower Nick Percy (William Bushnell) threw 56.48m to ensure a British presence in the final, courtesy of his 10th position. Both Percy and McKinna quickly returned to the team headquarters to rest and prepare for their finals; before boarding the team bus, however, the shot putter expressed her wish for something more to come when honours will be at stake.

"I am not too pleased about my performance this morning, but I made it to the final. I struggled to throw as I know how to, but I now have some time to clear my mind, come back here and do much better".

On track, the morning started in solid fashion, with Yasmin Miller (coach: Jared Deacon) qualifying comfortably in Heat 2 of the 100m hurdles. The Derby athlete led her race and set the fifth overall best time, 13.78s; a performance which would have surely been much faster had Miller not clipped the second last hurdle. The British athlete will be back on the track tomorrow at 4pm for the semifinals, where she could face the event favourite, Switzerland's Noemi Zbären, who recorded the World's leading performance, 13.31, in heat 5.

Miller thinks there's still much more to come from her: "I just wanted to get through to the semi-finals today. It was a very early start, tomorrow will be much better."

Seventeen-year-old William Gurton (Nicholas Taylor) had an eventful run in the second heat of the Boys' 800m, but managed to get through and finish third, a result that guarantees his advance to the semi-finals, with a time of 1:52.80.

"I found myself in last position at the end of the first lap but I found my way through quite easily, so it's pretty good - it was all about getting to the next round and I have done it".

The second British athlete involved in the 800m heats, Elliot Slade (Arwyn Davies), had a similar experience - but had to make his way back in the last 300m to finish in 1:52.25.

"I like leaving it late, that's my style, I just waited until the end and then gave it all. The first 200 metres were crazy, they all went off really fast: it is very different from what I am used to when running in Wales. In the next few rounds I will definitely need to run harder. I want to keep positive about my chances, but I know I will need to give all I got in the semi-finals".

The British athletes were lucky to avoid a big shower that struck the stadium, and by the time an Aviva GB & NI representative was due on the start line, the track had completely dried out. In the comfortably cool atmosphere, Georgia Peel (Mick Woods) was in control for most of her 1500m semi-final, and clinched qualification to Saturday's final with a time of 4:19.14. The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete finished third, just behind this season's leading athlete Genet Tibieso of Ethiopia, and looks good for a solid performance in the final round. 

"I would love to get a medal, I am going to go out there and do my best - if I do that, I should get one." Peel was also pretty happy with the racing conditions: "Today was good, I was just trying to qualify. I felt really good, it wasn't too hot out there. We were quite lucky with the rain that fell before the race."

Chijindu Ujah (Edwin Stevens) recovered from a less than perfect start to qualify as second in his 100m heat, earning a pass for tomorrow's semi-final and ensuring a 100% record for British athletes in the morning session. The final time for the Enfield & Haringey athlete was 10.77, but Ujah knows it will take a more refined effort to go further in the competition. 

"I had a very bad start, I didn't react well but after that I recovered and just cruised - I knew I needed second place to qualify so I just controlled the race. Hopefully, if I come down with the same mentality, confident, I can do well in the semi-finals tomorrow and reach the final."

Besides Sophie McKinna and Nick Percy's finals, the afternoon session sees debuts in the competition for Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon) in the 2000m steeplechase, Alex Boyce (Stan Roberts) in the 400m and Hayley McLean (Steve Mitchell) in the 400m hurdles.

Full results can be found on the IAAF website.