23 July 2011
It was a golden evening for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team on day three of the European Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia (21-24 July), with four outstanding victories, two silver medals and one brave bronze to take the overall medal total to ten with one day to go.
Making history and matching the achievement of Darren Campbell in 1991, newly crowned European Junior 100m Champion Jodie Williams (coach: Mike McFarlane) completed an unprecedented sprint double by a British female athlete with victory in the 200m, while Adam Cotton (coach: John Nuttall) won Britain’s first 1500m gold at this event in 32 years; Jack Meredith and Andy Pozzi (both coached by Malcolm Arnold) delivered a brilliant one-two in the men’s 110mH, 100m bronze medallist David Bolarinwa (coach: John Powell) returned in style to win 200m gold and Rowena Cole (coach: Norma Pugh) and Jonny Hay (coach: Mick Woods) took 800m silver and 5000m bronze respectively, the latter a brave performance in extremely tough, hot conditions.
Qualifying as fastest from her early afternoon semi final (23.21/-1.5m/s), Williams, who clocked a season’s best time of 22.94 (-1.5m/s) for victory, admitted she was shattered on the start line: We had such a quick turnaround,” she said. “I think it was just two hours, I literally cooled down then started warming up again.
“I’m not particularly pleased with the time, but it’s good to go sub-23 seconds again. I felt a lot better in the heats but I don’t think it was ever going to be a quick time in the final after that (the semi final). I’m definitely happy though; I’ve done what I came here to do.”
Bolarinwa, however, was elated with his 21.07 (-2.7m/s) PB win.
“There were some tears on the phone to my parents last night,” he said, in spite of his 100m bronze. “Adam (100m silver medallist Adam Gemili) is a good mate and I was delighted for him, but I was quite upset myself, I just didn’t show it at the time.
“I’m so happy to come out and deliver like I did today; to finish third yesterday and come back to win, that’s the sign of a true champion. I had to believe in myself like my mum and dad told me, and I did that.”
Adam Cotton’s 1500m performance was tactically perfect as he cruised to a one-second victory ahead of European leader Thomas Solberg Eide of Norway in 3:43.98.
“That was incredible, absolutely incredible,” he said, after winning Britain’s first gold medal in this Championship since Graham Williamson’s victory in 1979. “John (his coach, John Nuttall) told me to hit the front at the bell and control it and that’s exactly what I did.”
The race may not have been as slow as he’d predicted - Germany’s early leader Marcel Fehr took it out and went through 800m in 2:01.91 - but he delivered exactly what was required from him as he picked up the pace with 400m to go and then again with 200m to go.
“John said that with 150m to go to make sure they knew they were in a race,” he added. “If they could stick with it then fair play to them...but they couldn’t.”
Cameron Boyak (coach: David Lowes) and Charlie Grice (coach: Jon Bigg), both making the final as fastest losers from the first round heats, finished ninth (3:50.13) and tenth (3:51.93) respectively.
Meredith’s victory in the 110mH was his first major title in his last junior Championships and was proof, he said, that he doesn’t choke in finals: “I feel I should have won the World Youths in 2009 (he was second) and World Juniors last year (he was third), and now that I’ve won this I’m just over the moon,” he said after clocking 13.50 (-0.9m/s).
“I thought I could win it, I’m just not sure that anyone else did,” he added. “I’ve had a couple of injuries over the past few months and it’s been a tough time, especially watching my friends’ progress. I was just so down and I really want to thank my mum and dad for keeping me motivated and to my coach Malcolm (Arnold) and my coach back home, Donald (Moss), who have helped me believe in myself.”
His victory makes it two successive wins for Malcolm Arnold’s athletes, with Lawrence Clarke taking gold two years ago, and although UK junior record holder Andy Pozzi - a third member of the Bath-based group - was disappointed to be beaten into second (13.57), he paid tribute to his training partner: “Jack won it easily,” he said; “my race was ok, but I just didn’t show up in comparison. He deserves it today, he was just better.”
Rowena Cole’s 800m silver medal in 2:03.43 - one better than her position at the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships - was a lifetime best performance and a reflection of her well controlled race in spite of a quick 59.38 first lap by the Ukraine’s eventual winner and European number one Anastasiya Tkachuk (2:02.73).
“I knew it was going to be quick,” she admitted, “because that’s exactly what it was like in qualifying. I didn’t go with it, I just planned to sit in and kick. I really wanted to catch the girl in second in the last few metres and I just told myself that it’s not over until the finish line and sprinted as hard as I could...a silver medal and a PB...I can’t ask for more really, it’s been great to be part of the set up here and be part of the team.”
Jonny Hay, like his team mate Paul Thompson (coach: Nick Price) in the 10,000m on day one, left the track after the 5000m with medical support following heat exhaustion.
Positioned perfectly throughout the race, he let his rivals, initially 10,000m gold medallist Gabriel Navarro of Spain and then Russia’s Andrey Rusakov, do the work at the front, but he was always in contention and looked a likely gold medal prospect in the final stages of the race until a late surge by Navarro - the eventual winner in 14:07.06 - and Poland’s Bartosz Kowalczyk drained the last of his energy and he collapsed over the line in 14:07.78.
And although out of the medals on this occasion, Katie Byres (coach: Julien Raffalli), fourth in the pole vault with a best of 4.10m, and Richard Shuttleworth (coach: Esa Utriainen/Bronwin Carter), 11th in the javelin (68.81m) on his international debut, played their part in a great afternoon for the Aviva GB & NI team.
Completing the action and in a roundup of this afternoon’s qualifying rounds, UK number one Abi Fitzpatrick (coach: Morris Condon), who came into this Championship with a 400mH best of 59.83 and reduced that to 59.44 after round one, recorded a massive PB of 58.38 in the semi final to secure an automatic qualifying position in tomorrow’s final.
“Oh my goodness, I can feel it now...but when there’s someone to catch it gives me so much extra energy!” she said after finishing third with a last gasp effort. “I really wanted that, and I told myself at the start that I was going to make the final. I was actually quite confident which is a first for me; I love training, but I usually get so nervous and stressed before competing that I hate it.
“I told myself that there was no pressure on me today and I felt a lot better. My dad said that if I could stick to the Russian (European leader Vera Rudakova) I’d get pulled to a fast time - I did, and I’m really, really pleased.”
Unfortunately Megan Southwart (coach: Colin Bovell) failed to progress to the final after finishing seventh in 59.87, while Sophie Wood (coach: John Baron), eighth in 1:02.69, also went out at the semi final stage.
It was also the end of the road for Guy Learmonth (coach: Henry Gray) in the men’s 800m. Having qualified from round one as fourth fastest, he went into today’s semi final with renewed confidence, but finished fifth in 1:51.72.
“I just left myself too much to do,” said the Scottish junior indoor record holder. “I think I ran a better race than yesterday and stayed out wide, but it was a slow first lap and when it picked up I had too much work to do.”
The European Junior Championships will be shown daily on Eurosport - 17:00-18:30 tomorrow UK time - in addition to being streamed live by European Athletics through their website at www.european-athletics.org.
Daily session reports will be published on the UKA website: www.uka.org.uk