16 June 2012
The first day of the Aviva England Under-20 World Championships in Bedford, incorporating the Aviva Great Britain and Northern team trials for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona (10-15 July), saw sprinter Sophie Papps (coach: Neil Dodson) and thrower Sophie McKinna (Geoff Capes) set spectacular new personal bests, which, subject to their formal selection, booked their seats on the plane to Spain.
With the day’s conditions being not exactly helpful due to the wind that battered the Bedford International Stadium, Papps set an impressive time of 11.47s in the 100m final to equal Bianca Williams’s season leading time and win the title. Behind her were equally impressive performances by Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie), who finished second in 11.57s, and Welsh Champion Rachel Johncock (Philip Oliver), third in 11.61s, both performances being PBs and beating the Barcelona Qualifying Standard of 11.65s.
“It was a good race, everyone around me did great and so I am really, really happy about having won it,” said Papps after collecting her gold medal; “I’ll be back tomorrow for the 200m. I am aiming to be in a position to double up (in Barcelona) but I haven’t really thought about it yet.”
Coach Neil Dodson was equally satisfied, and thinks there is much more to come from Papps. “The heat was executed perfectly, very controlled and with a quick time. Sophie had a problematic start in the final but we need to give her credit: she didn’t panic, she recovered and she ran a 11.47. What is she going to do when she gets a good start?”
Papps’s coach also expressed satisfaction at how the season is going for the young athlete: “This is the first race Sophie raced without being on the back of a week of hard work. She is peaking at the right time and I am comfortable she is in the right shape to do well in the 200m tomorrow as well.”
Earlier in the day, Papps’s namesake Sophie McKinna had shown the Bedford crowd just why she is one of the world’s leading under-20 shot putters by adding a whopping 30cm to her previous PB. The Great Yarmouth athlete improved her previous benchmark of 15.81cm with a title-winning 16.21cm which sets her right in the frame for medal contention in Barcelona - exactly one year after winning silver at the World Youth Championships in Lille.
“I am absolutely amazed by this result,” said McKinna; “I knew it was in me and I am so happy I managed to catch that one right.”
“I hope to improve my distance even further, especially if I get to compete in Barcelona, and be a medal contender there.”
The two Sophies were not the only pre-event favourites to convert expectations into results. The men’s hammer throw competition also delivered, with rankings leader Michael Painter (John Painter) winning the event with a 72.34m throw ahead of rival Nick Miller (John Baumann), whose best throw was 70.16m. For Painter, it is a matter of now looking ahead to the World Junior Championships.
“My main aim is to make the final, I believe that would be a great achievement,” said the thrower. “I want to achieve even better distances so it’s a matter of getting my head down in training and working hard for it.”
Sprinter David Bolarinwa (John Powell) won the 100m event and is now preparing for a 200m showdown with Adam Gemili (Michael Afilaka) tomorrow. With the eagerly anticipated Gemili, who recently clocked an amazing 10.08, not taking part in the 100m, the task to push Bolarinwa to the line over the short sprint was left to Joshua Street (Matthew Thomas) and Chijindu Ujah (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo); in a race that needed the help of the camera to establish a winner, the Newham & Essex Beagles athlete had to battle a fastidious headwind to win in a time of 10.40.
Top ranked Jessica Judd (Jeremy Freeman) was in dominant form in the 1500m; electing to sit back in the first part of the race, unlike her usual strategy, the World Youth medallist was able to unleash a powerful finale, leaving the group behind with only Georgia Peel (Mick Woods) remaining within distance but unable to pose a threat to the Chelmsford talent.
“It felt really different out there, and really windy,” were Judd’s first reflections after her successful run; she also commented on her next big day, when she runs against the country’s best in Birmingham at the Aviva 2012 Trials: “I really want to make it to the final, but in an Olympic year everyone does, and some great athletes will be competing at the Trials. It’s going to be tough but I am in the best shape of my life, so who knows.”
“I really enjoyed the Youth Championships last year and am looking forward to the Junior Championships now. I’m hoping for some PBs come race day, that would be fantastic.”
The eagerly anticipated long jump battle between Elliot Safo and Oliver Newport (both John Shepherd) was won by Safo with a leap of 7.51m, 4cm short of the qualifier but not a dampener to the Croydon athlete, who has already jumped 7.65 this season.
Tomorrow sees star names in action in the shape of Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who is expected to compete in the 100m hurdles, long jump and high jump; the mouth-watering battle between Bolarinwa and Gemili in the 200m; and James Gladman (James Hillier), a realistic candidate for a World Junior medal in July, competing in the 110m hurdles.
Full results are available through the England Athletics website.