18 June 2011
Aiming to secure a podium finish for the third consecutive time in the SPAR European Team Championships, the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team worked hard to secure their solid third place on the overnight standings.
With a superb opening by the team captain, there were a number of athletes who performed above and beyond expectation to put the side in a good place at the halfway stage.
Captain Fantastic Dai Greene (Coach: Malcolm Arnold) started the Aviva GB & NI team’s track campaign off with a flourish taking a relaxed victory, but also a championship record in 49.21 to take a maximum 12 points.
The Welshman who trains out of the University of Bath with Arnold’s talented sprint hurdles group, looked fairly relaxed, doing just enough to ease round ahead of second placed Germany.
"I felt in control the whole way round. It was hotter than I thought it would be and I've had a very hard training week but I knew I was number one on paper and I'd have to do something very wrong not to win,” he said.
“Obviously the bigger picture is Daegu. I just focused on what I was doing and felt very relaxed. There's bigger and stronger competition in the next few weeks and I guess I'll save my best for that.
“As Team Captain I'm pleased to lead by example, get full points and give the team a healthy start so we're not chasing and hopefully the rest of the team saw that and are looking forward to competing and doing the same."
Inspired by her captain’s lead, Jenny Meadows (coach: Trevor Painter) underlined her world class credentials coming second in a high quality women’s 800m race behind Russian Mariya Savinova. Meadows, positioned perfectly throughout the race in second was just short of matching her long time rival’s closing sprint, but took a valuable 11 points for the Aviva GB & NI team.
“I’m Relieved! Eleven points is what I predicted for myself in the team meeting but I knew it wouldn’t be a safe bet. The Russian is a great athlete so if anyone had to beat me I could only really accept it was her and I’m glad I kept all the up and coming girls behind me,” she said.
“It’s another A standard for the World Champs, I’ve done that three times outdoors now. But 1.59.47 is what I do every day so I’m hoping now to go away and do some training to top the tank up as I’m running on empty at the moment. I haven’t got a race for three weeks now so I’ll go away and train hard to compete with Maria and the other girls that I’m going to race in Daegu.”
In a widely anticipated 100m race, Dwain Chambers ran well for 10.07, but was still disappointed to finish second behind French rival Christophe Lemaitre. Chambers, who has clocked a series of 10.0 timings so far this season, was strong out of the blocks but could not stay with Lemaitre’s 9.95 which was both a championship and French national record.
After, Dwain said: “I got the points. I’d like to have done better but getting points for the team was the main objective. When we (Lemaitre) race against each other we bring out the best in each other so I’ll look forward to the next opportunity to race against him. He’s going to go a long way and it would be good for European athletics to see us both in the World Championships final!”
Despite Lemaitre’s form however, he could not bring victory to the French 4x100m relay quartet, as the Aviva GB & NI men strode home for victory in 38.60 in the last event of the day. The foursome of Christian Malcolm, Craig Pickering, James Ellington and Harry Aikines Aryeetey, looking good on changeover and securing a strong performance with half an eye on Daegu qualification.
There was drama for the women’s 4 x 100m relay squad – having secured fourth position overall and nine points for the team, they were disqualified for a changeover infringement, only to be reinstated at a later stage when footage showed they had not broken the rules. The quartet of Jeanette Kwakye, Anyika Onuora, Laura Turner and Abi Oyepitan, safely escorted their baton around in 43.50.
In the javelin there was good news as Goldie Sayers (Dan Pfaff) managed to throw her best distance since the Beijing Olympic final when opening her competition with 64.31m and improving it later on with 64.46m. The Belgrave Harrier who has experienced two years of injury frustration since her breakthrough Olympic year looked back to her best and was only beaten by a world-leading mark of 66.22m by Germany’s Christina Obergfoll.
“After some ups and downs it is brilliant to be back in a British vest and performing well,” she said.
“There’s still lots more to improve on. That was actually my third best ever and best since Beijing. It was a very pleasing performance but I’m even more pleased with my response and attitude today. Obviously to beat the World Record holder, Olympic Champion and Olympic silver medallist is not a bad day’s work after quite a difficult year.”
There were also a number of well fought third place finishes for the team.
Aviva GB & NI debutant Shana Cox lined up over 400m and performed strongly with a third place and 10 points. Running home in 51.49, the race was won by Ukrainian Antonina Yefremova with a championship record of 51.02.
Chris Tomlinson (coach: Frank Attoh) opened his long jump competition in fine fettle with a season’s best in the first round with 8.02m, but then followed on his captain’s example with 8.12m in the second round, and also took third place, the win going to Russia’s Aleksandr Menkov with 8.20m.
In the women’s 400m hurdles, Perri Shakes Drayton (Chris Zah) ran a solid race taking third place in 55.06. Although against world class opposition in the shape of Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech republic and Russia’s Natalya Antyukh, ambitious Shakes Drayton was less than satisfied with her run:
"I'm pleased to get the ten points for the team, but I have had better performances in the past - it's still early in the season and there's more to come. I was pleased with the first 200m but not the second."
Having seen Jenny Meadows start the endurance campaign impressively at the start of the afternoon, her distance team-mates followed suit. Making his team debut, James Shane (Martin Brown) did not disappoint in the men’s 1500m. Putting himself in prime position throughout and avoiding the customary middle distance madness that can occur in European Team championships, he was deserving of the third place he earned in 3:39.21, just short of earning a new PB by one tenth of a second. The race was won by Spain’s Manuel Olmedo in 3.38.63.
"I’m very pleased, to do that time in a Championships is great," he said after.
"The whole weekend has been fantastic – the team, management, everyone. I did feel a bit nervous before, there’s some real big stars out there and I didn’t want to let anyone down. It’s been a really good experience and I’m looking forward to some more hopefully."
Stepping onto the track 40 minutes later, Andy Vernon (Nick Anderson) showed how the team spirit was catching with a superb third place in the men’s 5000m, just losing out to Spaniard Jesus Espana and cross country king Sergiy Lebid. In a tough sun-drenched test, his finishing time of 13:40.15 was less than a second behind that of race Winner Espana.
Earlier on, youngster Stevie Stockton (George Gandy) did not appear over-awed by her 3000m experience against quality opposition and did superbly to secure six points. As the race exploded at the bell, she battled against the Belarussian athlete over the final 400m to secure seventh place in 9:00.67 – a lifetime best by eight seconds.
In the high jump, Samson Oni (Trevor Llewellyn) in for the injured Tom Parsons, secured five points for the Aviva GB & NI team with eighth position – clearing 2.20m.
Conrad Williams (Linford Christie) had a tough fight on his hands in the men’s 400m and took six points for overall seventh place. The Kent athlete looked strong over the first 300m, but was overtaken in the final 50m much to his frustration clocking 46.44.
Yasmine Regis (Peter Stanley) was ninth in the women’s triple jump – her best effort of 13.27m earning four points.
In the women’s 3000m steeplechase, young Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan) followed in the footsteps on her mother Liz in representing GB in a distance race in the European Team Championships. It was a tough way to earn her first GB vest as the sun beat down, but McColgan worked hard throughout and managed enough strength to secure a sprint finish over the final 200m and a lifetime best of 9:55.13 - Her ninth position earning the team four points.
Anyika Onuora (Lloyd Cowan) was fifth overall in the women’s 100m for eight points, after finishing fourth in her heat with 11.43, whilst World Junior bronze medallist Holly Bleasdale opened her Pole Vault campaign with a solid clearance of 4.25m, and continued that form to take a best clearance of 4.40m and eight points back to the team.
In the day’s first event, UK record holder Sophie Hitchon (Derek Evely) picked up the opening points for the team with four points in the women’s hammer. Hitchon, 19, in her senior debut for the Aviva GB & NI team launched her third attempt to 66.05m to take ninth position.
Greg Beard (Mark Chapman) was 12th in the men’s shot put with a best put of 16.97m. the Belgrave Harrier – who made his Aviva GB & NI senior debut this weekend, took his predicted one point, whilst James Campbell (Mick Hill) also took one point with a javelin best of 68.03m
Aviva GB & NI finished the day on 166 points, in third position behind Russia (213), Germany (183.5) and ahead of Ukraine (160) and France (132).
For latest results please follow this link to European Athletics or follow via twitter @uka_athletics