02 August 2014
Heavy rain tried, but failed to ruin the athletics grand finale at Glasgow 2014 on a night where British athletes won a further seven medals to take the total to 34 for the home countries at the championships.
Nineteen year old Matthew Hudson-Smith (Tony Hadley) ran the race of his life at Hampden Park three weeks ago, and he did it again tonight, anchoring Team England to 4x400m gold. It was an unbelievable team effort, kick-started by Conrad Williams (Linford Christie) who ran a storming first leg to give the team the lead. Michael Bingham (George Williams) went on two, bringing the team back second, a position which decathlete turned 400m man Daniel Awde (Chris Zah) consolidated.
And after his 44.97 clocking three weeks ago at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix, Hudson-Smith set off in pursuit of Trinadad & Tobago, who led at the bell. The youngster, who has only stepped up to 400m this season, could have easily got carried away, but he took the lead with 200m to go, initiating part one of the ‘Hampden Roar’. But that was before the Olympic champions Bahamas tried to spoil the party. But try as he liked, Chris Brown couldn’t catch the Birchfield Harrier, who held on in the last 20m to seal a memorable victory and send the crowd into a frenzy.
“I just wanted to catch the guy in front of me and I did – then the crowd started going crazy so I thought someone was coming behind me. I just held it together because my back was going and when I crossed the line I wasn’t sure where we had come but everyone ran to me so I thought I must have done alright!
“I can't even get words out – being interviewed is foreign to me. This was an important experience for the future – for the Olympics and so on. This is probably so similar to the Olympics that it's a platform that can give us momentum and help us get more medals.”
There was also a silver lining to the championships too for Team England, with the men’s sprint relay team taking silver behind a Jamaica squad anchored by Usain Bolt, in the final race of Glasgow 2014. Adam Gemili (Steve Fudge) came in for James Ellington (Rana Reider) on lead off, with Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Rana Reider) and Richard Kilty (Rana Reider) running legs two and three as they did in the heats. Their change was once again exquisite, and after a terrific bend from the world indoor champion, it was over to Danny Talbot (Dan Cossins) on anchor.
Holding off the fastest man on the planet is no easy task, but Talbot gave it a good go, bringing the team home to silver medals. It was the baton changes that stood out though after much criticism in the past, and afterwards Aikines-Aryeetey commented:
“I think it’s fair to say that in terms of the sprints, it’s [Glasgow 2014] been pretty competitive! It’s always nice to compete against the highest level and in the final, the Americans were the only ones missing. Moving forward as a unit, our sprints have definitely improved and Adam medalled individually, which we’re all really proud of. Now we know we can get the baton round, we trust each other, and we’ve put a lot of hard work and graft in. Moments like this are what we train for.”
After a breakthrough night for British female sprinting on Thursday, Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan) and Jodie Williams (Christine Bowmaker) returned to Hampden Park to combine with Asha Phillip (Bowmaker) and Ashleigh Nelson (Michael Afilaka), the England 4x100m team racing to bronze.
Phillip got the team off to a great start, before handing over to Bianca Williams. A smooth change with her namesake and an exceptional bend by the 200m silver medallist meant Nelson just had to bring it home, and she did exactly that, closing down on silver all the way. The foursome were powerless to stop Jamaica taking gold in a Commonwealth Games record of 45.83 though, with Nigeria taking silver largely thanks to double sprint champion Blessing Okagbare’s blistering second leg. Afterwards, Nelson commented:
“I'm so happy to get a bronze medal. It was an amazing achievement – bringing it home was different experience. I kind of like being tucked away on the back straight but I was given a job to do and I did it. The girls made it so easy – I wanted to catch the Jamaicans and the Nigerians but it wasn’t the day for that. I know one day soon we will get them.
“I think women's sprinting is going to start getting the recognition it deserves because we've got a lot of up-and-coming talent. It's going to be a tough team to make next year and come the Olympics.”
There was also a national record for the Welsh quartet of Hannah Brier (Neal Merry), Hannah Thomas (David Lease), Mica Moore (Lawrence Moore) and Rachel Johncock (Leon Baptiste) who were reinstated after initially being disqualified in their heat last night. Their time of 44.51 secured the young team a seventh place finish.
Earlier in the evening, the Team England women’s 4x400m relay team had set the tone, battling to brilliant bronze medals. Lead off by Olympic and world champion Christine Ohuruogu (Lloyd Cowan), the team were third by the time Shana Cox (George Williams) broke for the inside 500m into the race, a position that they held all the way. Kelly Massey (Stephen Ball) ran a great third leg to give
Anyika Onoura (Rana Reider) a comfortable gap to fourth place Australia, but the gold and silver medallist were too far up the track to be caught. Afterwards, the anchor leg runner said:
“It was scary bringing it home for the girls. I didn’t look at the crowd I just focused on getting it round. It was good and hopefully there's more to come with these girls. I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to run with these fabulous ladies. I'm grateful and blessed to be helpful – hopefully in the future I'll continue to be part of the team and there will be more to come from us.”
In the women’s 5,000m final, Jo Pavey (Gavin Pavey) took it to the Kenyan’s, and the 40 year old mother of two was rewarded with an inspirational bronze medal. Coming into the closing stages there was a group of five clear of the rest of the field, the three Kenyan’s leading, with Pavey and Australian Eloise Wellings in tow. But with three laps to go, Pavey didn’t want it to come down to a sprint finish, so took it on. With 600m to go she was passed, but at the bell she surged again to retake the lead. 200m later she was back in fourth, but Pavey left it all on the track, gritting her teeth and sprinting all the way to the line to take bronze.
“I made myself think that the Kenyans weren't unbeatable and when I hit the bell I thought just ‘don’t regret this last lap’. I wanted to push on at the bell but not blow up in the home straight. I gave it my all in the home straight, I was convinced they would come past me but I got a medal and I can't believe it.
“I was trying to push the pace because I knew if I did nothing until the last lap I would regret it, so I gave it a go and I'm really happy. The fact I've got two kids and my youngest is only ten months old feels almost comical to me. To be out there trying to race against the Kenyans and get a medal is like a dream – hopefully I can inspire some mums to get fit.
“My little boy was watching – it was so great to give him a hug after the race. The fact I'm 40 now makes this medal seem almost funny. I haven’t been on any training camps, I was still breast-feeding at the start of April. Being a mum is my main thing now – changing nappies and doing meals means I don’t have a minute to relax!"
Team Scotland’s Laura Whittle (George Gandy) ran a smart race, moving through the field throughout to take sixth in 15.33.72, with Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) taking eighth after being isolated for much of the race after not quite latching on to the lead group. After a terrific fifth place finish in the 10,000m final on Tuesday night, Beth Potter (Woods) returned to run another great race in eighth, with Helen Clitheroe (Neil Clitheroe) eleventh, Elinor Kirk (Tony Houchin) twelfth and Steph Twell (Woods) fourteenth.
As in the men’s event last night, there was a brace of British medals in the women’s pole vault, with Sally Peake (Scott Simpson) of Team Wales and Sally Scott (David Guest) of Team England winning silver and bronze respectively.
In truly appalling pole vaulting conditions, Scott’s first time clearance at 3.80m was enough to bag her a share of the bronze medal with Canada’s Alysha Newman. Peake on the other hand opened her campaign at 4.00m, a height she cleared first time. Not long after, the rain finally stopped, and the Welshwoman went on to clear 4.15m and 4.25m to put her in the lead. In the end though, Alana Boyd of Australia went one height better to defend her Commonwealth Games title, Peake having to settle for silver.
“It’s awesome and I’m really glad to have a silver medal around my neck. I really hoped that if I could jump as I’m capable of I would be up in the medals and it was an amazing way to finish off the Games with a medal for Wales.”
The conditions proved too much for Zoe Brown (James Alexander) of Northern Ireland, Katie Byres (Kate Dennison), Scotland’s Henrietta Paxton and the Isle of Man’s Olivia Curran (Henrietta Paxton) who all no heighted.
Favourite James Magut of Kenya took 1500m gold with a scintillating last lap, after an extremely cagey race. Chris O’Hare (Terrance Mahon) was the best of the Brits, the Scot attacking with 200m to go, but just running out of steam in the home-straight to finish sixth. Team England’s Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) was next up just one place further back, with Chris Gowell (Steve Sisson) of Team Wales tenth.
There was another Kenyan gold medal on the night, but surprisingly it came in the javelin, not an endurance event. In extremely tough conditions, Julius Yego led three men over 80 metres, winning with a third round throw of 83.87m. It was eighth for Lee Doran (Chris Watts) on a great night for Team Wales, his best mark 72.73m.
In the men’s triple jump, it was fifth place for Phillips Idowu (Gary Bourne) with a second round effort of 16.45m. Nathan Fox (Frank Attoh) made the cut and eventually jumped 16.26m for sixth, whilst Nathan Douglas (Aston Moore) finished eleventh.