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World Youth Joy

Desiree Henry

 

14 July 2011

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team returned home after the successful campaign at the 2011 World Youth Championships in Lille, France, came to an end on Sunday night. Emerging from the sliding doors at St. Pancras station, London, to a rapturous applause from family, friends and bystanders, the 24-strong team and the management staff can look back at an exhilarating week of athletics which produced two gold, one silver and two bronze medals along with several memorable performances.

Contributing, together with the news of wins, national records and impressive results coming from elsewhere in the continent, to one of the most successful weeks for British athletics, the team returning from Lille can take pride for performing in a confident manner that belied the young age and inexperience of the squad members.

Team Leader Jo Jennings was full of praise for the youngsters and predicted their positive attitude will help them take some valuable lessons from this event:

“The general attitude of the team towards these Championships was a definite highlight for me. Their level of determination and the team spirit they showed was excellent.”

World Champion titles by Desiree Henry (coach: Mike McFarlane) and Louisa James (Ron James) in the 200m and hammer throw, plus podium placements by Sophie McKinna (Geoff Capes), second in the shot put, and Jessica Judd (Jeremy Freeman) and Lucy Bryan (Neil Winter), third in 800m and pole vault, brought the team’s total medal tally to five – the second highest ever for Britain in the seven editions of the World Youth Championships.

Ranking just one podium shy of the epic edition of 2009, when our team came back from Bressanone with a record six medals – four gold, one silver and one bronze – the 2011 Championships equalled the results of Marrakesh 2005 and bettered every single other outing by the British team in these Under 18 age group global events.

The other results by the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team proved the depth and strength of the squad. Four new UK Age Group best performances were set, courtesy of James McMurray (1500m, Deborah Steer), Amy-Eloise Neale (2000m SC, Frank Dauncey), Hayley McLean (400mH, Steve Mitchell) and Lucy Bryan, in addition to one Age Best by Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon) in the 2000m SC; the team also boasted an impressive 17 athletes gaining access to the final rounds of their events and 12 setting new personal bests.

“This exceptional team result was a reflection of the quality of performances the athletes were striving towards to make finals and achieve medals” said Jennings; “We kept our selection standards for this Championships high and this engendered high expectations amongst the team.”

“To achieve a podium position in a Global Championships is a fantastic effort, but I was particularly impressed by the growing confidence, maturity and emphatic nature of Desiree Henry’s 200m Gold – to improve round by round and not be affected by all the pressure and expectations surrounding her and to remain focussed was remarkable.”

For the Great Britain Team Leader, the level of experience gained by the athletes at the World Youth Championships in Lille will help enormously towards developing the correct processes for preparing for and competing in similar events, as well as motivating them towards gaining future international honours.

“This is very much a learning experience for all the athletes - the team staff were there to not only support but also assist the athletes (and many of their coaches who attended) in using this Championships as a stepping stone to future international honours - acknowledging the things they did well but also the things they could improve on next time - a real opportunity to develop.”