The Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team rounded off the World Junior Championships in style tonight with two bronze medals in the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m relays. It saw the medal total hit five following an earlier target of three and the aim of 50 points exceeded with a 58 point haul for team leader Martin Rush.
4 x 100m
Rion Pierre (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow), Alex Nelson (City of Stoke), Wade Bennett Jackson (Belgrave) and Harry Aikines Aryeetey (Sutton and District) sliced further time from their season’s best when taking the bronze medals in the men’s 4x100m with 39.24.
With clean changeovers and good running, they were merely beaten by better teams on the day in the shape of Jamaica (39.05) and the USA (39.21).
It was a solid end to a good week for GB’s young sprinters, who paid tribute to the physio and massage support that had seen the quartet survive so many rounds of competition.
“After our individual rounds we have needed a lot of work to keep us in shape and we really have to thank them, as this is representative of their work,” said Nelson. “You always want to come away with the gold in these races, but a world medal is a world medal and you have to be happy with that – I’ve had two from these championships so that’s great.” “It was good to have a second chance for a medal after I didn’t make the final in the 200m,” said Pierre. “I’m always confident going into a relay – it’s always good to get something out of the team event,” said Bennett Jackson. “It’s been a great event,” said Aikines Aryeetey. “I have to repeat what Alex said – we wouldn’t be here if not for the physio help. I got the baton and finished off the work the team had done. We had good changeovers so on the day we were simply beaten by better teams, but another medal is great.”
Not to be outdone by their short sprint colleagues, Chris Clarke (Milton Keynes), Grant Baker (Leicester Coritanians) Kris Robertson (Kirkintilloch) and Martyn Rooney (Croydon Harriers) took a marvellous bronze in a highly competitive final. Despite the crack squad opening of Clarke and Baker, GB were far from a medal prospect in fourth or fifth on each of the first couple of changeovers – a reflection of the quality of the teams who had qualified. Indeed, when Robertson handed over to Rooney it looked as though there may have been too much for the individual bronze medallist to do for the team to even reach the medals. But Rooney, fresh with the memory of having tried to overtake on the bend in the Commonwealth Games, held his focus, made up the lost ground, and moved from 7/6th to 5th - to 3rd on the home straight, pipping the fading Kenyan runner by five one-hundredths of a second in 3.05.49 to 3.05.54. The USA winning in 3.03.76 and Russia second in 3.05.13.
It was a fantastic run from Rooney who had thought much of his individual performance since claiming bronze and had desperately wanted to make amends in the relay. “I love the challenge of the chase,” he admitted after, “I can’t believe it if anyone had said two bronze and the beginning of the championships I wouldn’t have been happy but winning this medal tonight has made up for it – it really has meant loads.” “I was a bit tired today, but I did my best and it’s great we got bronze,” said Baker. “I pushed hard on the back straight and did my best to keep it going all the way home, - it’s great to get a medal,” said Robertson. “It wasn’t the fastest start,” said Chris Clarke, “But I started to work the bend but then I was really tired so worked harder to get round.”
Gianni Frankis (Basildon AC) was inconsolable following the race as he realised he had lost a medal which had been so clearly in his grasp. Despite being one of the slowest in the field out of the blocks he literally flew over the first three hurdles and was leading the race with few competitors able to get within a few metres. It was then that he clipped the 4th hurdle, stumbled slightly and lost the momentum he had built up. Despite a concerted effort to get back in the game the field overhauled him and by the time he regained his rhythm the finish line was upon them, finishing 7th in 13.71.
The fact that it was but a mere three-one-hundredths of a second outside his personal best of 13.68 demonstrated how well he was going early on in the race before almost grinding to a halt. Yet this was no consolation to the youngster who had been determined to at least match his performance from Marrakech last year in the World Youths. “I’m devastated – just devastated,” he said. “I could feel myself in front but then I had the problems, lost a bit and couldn’t make it up – I’m seriously gutted.”
Elaine O Neill (Wessex & Bath), Hayley Jones (Wigan & District), Lucy Sargent (Havering Mayesbrook) and Asha Philip (Newham & Essex Beagles) recreated their running order of the qualifying rounds, but not the form which saw them through to the final. Yet all four pledged to return to the international arena once more and improve on their placing here in Beijing.
In a tight race, a couple of exchanges did not go to plan at the young quartet finished 6th in 44.74 – the girls disappointed as they knew a medal chance had been missed.
“We’re disappointed with that,” said Sargent, “But we’ve all got at least one more year in the juniors together so we need to make up for it at the European Juniors next year.”
“We lost it on the changeovers – it was ours to do and we lost it,” said Jones.
“It was not a good race for us, but it was a good experience being here and we can now use this to move on,” said O Neill.
Steph Twell (Aldershot Farnham & District) ran a tactically sound final but was unable to stay with the final lap break that occurred with 300m to go. Despite excellent positioning throughout, the Kenyan-led breakaway was too hot for the following runners and Twell was left to battle it out for fifth spot. Eventually coming into the finish in 8th position in 4.16.58, the talented teen was obviously disappointed with both her time and final position: “It was quite an aggressive race,” she admitted, “But I know I am in shape to equal my PB (4.12.56) so I’m not satisfied with that. I’ll learn from this though – it’ll make me a stronger person.”
Vikki Hubbard (Grantham & District) left the competition arena in tears this evening after she failed to clear her opening height of 1.75m in the high jump final.
It was a rare sad moment it what has mainly been a successful week for the GB team, as it occurred within seconds of Gianni Frankis’ hurdles race where he ended in similar dismay.
Words could not describe the devastation of not recording a mark, and Hubbard was escorted from the infield by an official after receiving sympathy from her fellow competitors.