Led by superb gold medals from Laura Muir (coach: Andy Young) and Asha Philip (Steve Fudge) over 3000m and 60m respectively, the British Athletics team ended the third and final day of the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, with 10 medals - an equal best tally at the championships – to finish second in the medal table.
Less than 24 hours after claiming her first senior title in the 1500m – in a championship record time – middle distance specialist Muir sealed a memorable European Indoor double with a scintillating victory over 3000m to add to British Athletics’ medal tally.
The race itself largely followed the narrative of yesterday’s 1500m final, with Muir sprinting away from Turkey’s Yasemin Can in stunning fashion with 300m to go, stopping the clock in another championship record time of 8:35.67.
The newly crowned double champion said: “I’m happy with the race but I was feeling a bit tired. I was thinking ‘I hope she doesn't ramp it up anymore’ and I managed to hang in there - I knew I'd have the kick and I just went.
“I think before I had the training, but not the confidence. Now the confidence is there it shows as much in my performance. I'm just delighted to come away with the win and do the double. It was great to do so many races back to back - it shows our recovery methods are working so it's looking promising for the double in London.”
In the same race, Muir’s compatriot Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan-Nuttall) produced an inspired last 200m to drive her way past Holland’s Maureen Koster for bronze – also her first senior medal. After also being in contention for bronze throughout the race, Steph Twell (Mick Woods) was forced to settle for fifth place in 8:50.40.
Commenting on both adjusting to indoor racing and her bronze medal, McColgan said: “It's new for me, indoors - because I’m so tall I have a backswing and I clip quite a lot of people.
“I'm so chuffed. Bronze was what was realistic today, and it's what I've come out with.”
After navigating her way into the final earlier in the afternoon with a modest posting of 7.20 for victory in the semi-finals, Asha Philip made history all of her own as she became the first British female to win the 60m European Indoor title since Bev Kinch back in 1984.
Ensuring she was calm and collected, she broke out of the blocks to leave the rest of the field in her wake, with the gold winning time of 7.06 seeing her finish four hundredths ahead of second place, a new British record.
She said: “7.06! The European lead was a bonus and the PB was a bonus - obviously I came out here for the win and I got that!
“There is always that scare factor when they come and you cross the line - I heard my name, but you don't believe it until you actually see it! This competition I've not been petrified - I've been so calm and had the confidence in me to say ‘I can do it, I will do it’... and I've just believed in myself.”
In a thrilling finish in the women’s 800m, Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (Jon Bigg) claimed silver in a photo-finish behind defending champion Selina Buchel. After sitting on the shoulder of the Swiss from the gun, Oskan-Clarke went for gold on the outside with 200m to go, with her resulting finishing time of 2:00.39 a huge indoor PB and just one hundredth off Buchel.
Reflecting on her first senior medal, she said: “The Swiss girl was sneaky, so I had to hold her off, then I was trying to be sneaky and she held me off.
“I probably wasn’t sneaky enough as I went closer to the bend, and I probably should have done it on the straight or just waited. But I was brave and I committed and I got a silver - it was close to a gold, but not enough.”
After a less than ideal start to the year due to having his appendix removed, Robbie Grabarz (Fuzz Caan) ensured the medals continued to come for British Athletics, as he claimed a magnificent silver in the High Jump following a best clearance and season’s best of 2.30m.
“It feels really good; to know I can get in shape that quickly after my appendix is really good. There is a lot more in there height wise, but I got to compete which is fun. I was skipping bars in there trying to win the thing, and that's what I love about high jump really” he said.
After coming through yesterday’s qualifying round with a best of 2.25m, unfortunately three failures at 2.23m meant Allan Smith (Bryan Roy) finished eighth in the final.
The women’s 4x400m saw superb individual legs from the quartet of Eilidh Doyle (Malcolm Arnold), Phillipa Lowe (Debbie Keenlyside), Mary Iheke (Frank Adams) and Laviai Nielsen (Adams) bring home the silver medal behind a strong Polish team, with anchor leg Nielsen bringing the team home in 3:31.05.
Of the team and her leg, Nielsen said: “I so nearly had her. The last leg was literally a repeat of yesterday’s final, I just thought ‘oh no, here we go again’. I just tried to hold it together, I think I went off quiet quickly and I could feel myself losing some strength, but I knew it wasn’t just about me so held it together.
After ending day one in fourth and 14th place respectively, Ashley Bryant (Aston Moore) and Liam Ramsay (Mike Corden) kicked off day two of their heptathlon with the 60m hurdles. Running in heat 1, Ramsay clocked a season’s best of 8.11 to score 954 points, while Bryant posted 8.12 in heat two for 952, with both athletes staying as they were in the overall placing.
The pair had the stadium to themselves as they moved on to the Pole Vault. For Ramsay, a first time clearance at 4.20m was followed by three failures at 4.30m, meaning he had to settle for 673 points from the event, while Bryant’s best clearance of 4.50m - an equal season’s best – scored 760 points to leave him in fourth heading into the 1000m.
When it came to the seventh and final event, Bryant clocked 2:42.19 for 849 points while Ramsay’s run of 2:42.94 scored 841. Coupled together with their scores from the previous six events, it left team captain Bryant on 5945 for ninth place, while Ramsay scored 5622 for a 13th place finish.
British Athletics Performance Director, Neil Black said: “”I'm really thrilled for the team and the performances we've seen this weekend.
“It's been great to see Laura Muir come away with the double gold she was aiming for but also wonderful to see Andy Pozzi, Richard Kilty and Asha Philip on top of the podium.
“The momentum from this afternoon's medallists has been irresistible. It was great to see Eilish McColgan battle for that bronze; there were world class performances from Lorraine Ugen, Robbie Grabarz and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke; and it was great to see different relay athletes coming through to challenge for gold, their time will surely come!
“This year is very much about London 2017, and this will have given great insights to athletes and coaches on where they are performance-wise.”
British Athletics medallists at the 2017 European Indoor Championships (10):
Richard Kilty – 60m Gold
Laura Muir – 1500m Gold
Laura Muir – 3000m Gold
Asha Philip – 60m Gold
Andrew Pozzi – 60m Hurdles Gold
Robbie Grabarz – High Jump Silver
Shelayna Oskan-Clarke – 800m Silver
Lorraine Ugen – Long Jump Silver
Women’s 4x400 Relay - Silver
Eilish McColgan – 3000m Bronze