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world youths (2)

Sophie McKinna

06 July 2011

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team celebrated its first medal at the 2011 World Youth Championships as the British athletes returned to action for the second session of Day 1 of competition in Lille, France.

After a near-perfect morning, where all seven British athletes taking part gained qualification to the following rounds, an exciting afternoon saw shot putter Sophie McKinna (coach: Geoff Capes) clinch silver in a breathtaking competition that went down to the last throw. Discus thrower Nick Percy (William Bushnell), who had qualified for his final earlier this morning, was rewarded for his efforts with a brilliant seventh place and a new personal best, while three athletes - Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon), Alex Boyce (Stan Roberts) and Hayley McLean (Steve Mitchell) - began their own campaign with convincing performances in their respective heats.

After claiming second place in the qualifying round with a performance that had left her "disappointed", McKinna, who finished fifth in the Youth Olympic Games last year, seemed to struggle to hit the distances her form allows. Her first trial placed her in seventh position and, by the time she threw again, the Great Yarmouth athlete was as far down the rankings as tenth. However, a turning point for the competition had been reached, and McKinna was finally able to unlock her potential and record a 14.79m effort with her second throw.

"[My second throw] was a fantastic confidence boost, it put me in a medal position and I am so pleased I was able to come here and do it after this morning" said the British thrower after the event. "I am speechless, it's an absolutely fantastic feeling. The other athletes gave me a really good run for my money, throw after throw until the end: it made it all the better for those watching and all the better for me."

China's Tianquian Guo, 2011's top performer, answered each time with solid throws bringing her up to 15.24m, a measure that would prove enough for gold. McKinna closed the gap slightly with her fourth attempt of 14.90m, but was unable to improve on this distance, although she looked extremely pleased after her sixth and final throw, especially as she managed to fend off the threat posed by Germany's Katinka Urbaniak, who finished with 14.71m on her distance card.

17-year-old McKinna didn't shy away from seeing this medal in a career perspective. "To start with a silver medal in a major Championship like the World Youths, a really tough competition, is unbelievable. My previous experience helped me and today I learnt many lessons that hopefully will put me in good stead for the future. I want to throw further and hopefully make the Commonwealth Youth Games in September - and throw big distances there as well."

As the shot put drama unfolded under the main stand, discus thrower Nick Percy played a part in another memorable competition as Jamaican Fedrick Dacres set a new World leading performance with a 67.05m distance on the very last throw of the competition. Percy, who had qualified in tenth position during the morning session leaving behind him some athletes with better personal records, started his performance with a foul throw before setting a new PB of 58.95m with his second attempt, worth fifth position at the time. Having added more than one and a half metres to his personal best, Percy was unable to add to the distance, but recorded two other solid throws at 53.96 and 54.27, finishing seventh overall.

"It was good, there was a really nice atmosphere and it was very nice to be throwing against people who were doing much better distances and others who were just around me. It's a really good learning curve to be competing with those athletes."

"Before today, I didn't even think I'd make the final: I'm buzzing now, I was fourteenth in the rankings, yet I made it this far. I want to use this experience to get to throw to 60m by the end of the season and try to qualify for the Commonwealth Youth Games and to become UK's number one.

The afternoon also saw the Aviva GB & NI team maintain the 100% record of athletes clearing their qualifying rounds. Under a finally unthreatening sky, Zak Seddon was first on track competing in the 2000m SC. The Bracknell athlete shared the track with Conseslus Kipruto, the 2011 rankings leader, but appeared in complete control as he cruised in third position, leaving a huge gap from the fourth placed runner and clinching qualification to the final where he will also face Gilbert Kiplangat Kirui of Kenya, who, in the first semi-final recorded the World's third fastest performance of the year.

"I could have got loads off my time" declared Seddon after his race, finished in 5:46.98, "but I saw I was in a position to qualify so I eased off and saved energies for the final. I am really pleased, I trained well for this and I'd have been disappointed by anything else but reaching the final."

The 400m boasted a really competitive field but, as a reminder that major Championships can always bring a big surprise, Bernardo Baloyes of Colombia, currently in tenth position in the season rankings, received a red card for false starting Britain's Alex Boyce's heat. The Liverpool Harrier didn't let the event ruin his concentration and went on to record a new PB of 47.82.

"I felt really comfortable, there was lot that could have come off the time. I have been training really well, I didn't see the need to push and I was able to go out, enjoy the race and still do well."

Boyce had positive words for the atmosphere at the Lille stadium, a feeling echoed by his teammates: "It's great to go out and see so many young kids coming to watch the races. It's the best I ever had, I can only imagine coming back here in 10 years and seeing all the crowds supporting, it's truly good."

Last on track was Hayley McLean in heat 4 of the Girls' 400m hurdles. Drawn in lane 1, the Chelmsford athlete ran a comfortable race to finish third and secure a place in the semi-finals; that her heat wasn't the fastest of the round shows by her final time of 1:00.85 being the 12th best in the overall standings.

"It was very tough, it was not a perfect race but it was good enough to qualify to the semi-finals. I think it'll take me a personal best to make it to the final, there are some really good athletes out there and I expect to be pushed a lot more than I was today."

Hayley McLean will return to competition tomorrow morning, in a session that also sees Championships debuts for Lucy Bryan (Neil Winter) in the pole vault, Jessica Judd (Jeremy Freeman) and Katie Snowden (James McDonald) in the 800m, Callum Brown (Lorraine Brown) in the hammer throw and Robbie Farnham-Rose (Mark Hookway) and James McMurray (Deborah Steer) in the 1500m.

Full results can be found on the IAAF website.