Shaunagh Brown (Blackheath & Bromley) and Sophie Hitchon (Pendle AC) were unable to progress from the qualifying stages of the women’s shot and hammer competition at the World Youth Championships on Friday morning, but it was an invaluable experience for both teenagers.
Brown was eliminated in the girl’s shot qualifying, finishing 16th overall, four short of the cut-off point. The shot is the 16 year old’s secondary event and she was more disappointed with Wednesday’s discus final, where she placed 11th with 41.95m, almost 10 metres down on her best.
Reflecting on her performances, she said: “We were using brand new shots today, which I am not used to. They felt different and were kind of slippy. I would have been really happy with this sort of distance a year ago, so it’s not too bad. Whereas with the discus, I was throwing 41 metres two years ago.
“I think the problem (with the discus) was not doing enough throws into the open in training. Instead I’ve just been doing most of my throws into the cage. That way you can do about 80 throws a session rather than about 25. But I just wasn’t getting the flight right at all and if that’s the problem, that’s what I have to address.
“I’m going to write down all the names of the girls that beat me and try and beat them next year at the World Juniors.”
In the women’s hammer Hitchon was unable to advance to from the qualification phase, her best effort of 50.28m placed her 17th overall, five place away from a final spot.
Nevertheless, the 16 year-old who celebrated her birthday on Wednesday, is still in the very early stages of her hammer-throwing career. Indeed, this is the first season she has even taken part in the event, so to reach this level so quickly was a remarkable achievement.
The Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team are celebrating gold medal success for the second night running at the World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, this time through Chris Clarke (Marshall Milton Keynes) who won the men’s 400m final to add to last night’s victory by Asha Philip in the women’s 100m.
It was a great night all round for the British team, which also saw Jordan McGrath (Solihull & Small Heath Harriers) finish 4th behind Clarke in the men’s 400m with a superb new personal best, Peter Smith (Kington-upon-Hull AC) throw a season’s best to finish a creditable 6th in the men’s hammer and Michael Baker (Medway & Maidstone), Lynsey Sharp (Edinburgh AC), Alison Leonard (Blackburn Harriers), Simon Horsfield (East Cheshire Harriers), Curtis Griffith-Parker (Cambridge Harriers) and Nick Cruchley (Halesowen C&AC) all come through their respective qualifying rounds.
But the night belonged to 17 year-old Clarke, who justified his pre-race favourite tag by winning the 400m in 46.74 to take gold from James Kiriani of Greneda who clocked 46.96 and Russia's Vladimir Krasnov in 47.03.
McGrath was terribly unlucky to miss out on a medal after clocking an excellent 47.09, a massive 0.63 seconds inside his previous best coming into these championships. In the final, Clarke and Krasnov both rocketed clear in the opening stages and led the field by around 10 metres at the 200m mark.
Both tied up in the home straight, but Clarke never looked like relinquishing the lead, whilst Krasnov was fortunate to hang on to a medal position as McGrath bore down on him. Afterwards, Clarke said: "I feel pretty good. The first 200, I was chasing the leader, then I put in a little burst and I struggled through the rest, I was afraid someone was going to come past me.
"I watched Asha's medal ceremony last night and it inspired me. I thought 'I want a piece of that'". Looking further ahead he said: "I'm on my way to 2012. I'll be 22 by then and hopefully running fast."
McGrath said: "I'm really pleased with the time, but not the position. Another five metres and I would have got him (Krasnov). I was thinking in the first 200m 'Have I gone off too slow or are they just crazy?' but I told myself just to keep running my race and they will come back."
In the men’s hammer final, Smith produced a season’s best of 72.79m in the opening round, but, try as he might, could not better it and despite sitting in the bronze medal position after two rounds, he eventually had to settle for 6th in a high-class contest that saw 28 throws soar over the 70 metre line.
“It wasn’t great. I’m not happy.” He said. “I could feel there was a big throw in there, but it just didn’t happen. I think I got a little excited. I haven’t really been throwing that well all year, maybe it’s because I’ve been switching between weights.” He said, referring to differences between the youth (5 kg) and the junior (6 kg) implements, both of which he has trained and competed with throughout 2007.
Baker, who was appointed team captain for championships, produced a strong performance in the men’s 400m hurdles heats to secure his place in Saturday’s semi-finals. He clocked a personal best of 52.20 over the youth height, slicing 0.5 off his previous best to take the second of two automatic qualification places in his heat to guarantee his progress.
In a hard-fought race, he had to overcome Saudi Arabia’s Hamed Al Bishi in the closing straight to finish behind USA’s Reginald Wyatt. Afterwards, he said: “It was difficult. It was my first experience of this, but the adrenalin and crowd got me home. I knew it was going to be tough, but I really wanted to get in the top two to make sure I get a good lane draw for the next round.”
In the women’s 800m, both British representatives Sharp and Leonard ran smart heats to secure their passages to Saturday’s semis. Sharp went in the first heat and was always prominent in pushing the pace throughout.
She looked untroubled down the home straight and was happy to settle for 2nd and automatic qualification behind Russian Ekaterina Zavyalova in 2:09.86. Afterwards, she said: “I didn’t want to be sitting around to see if I was a fastest loser. I still feel I had a lot left.”
It was a similar story for Leonard who won heat 5 in 2:07.45 despite slowing to a virtual standstill at the finish. “I turned with 50 metres to go and could see nobody, so me and the Canadian could coast home.”
Leonard is also part of the Norwich Union ‘On Camp with Kelly’ group and she was keen to offer her gratitude to the Dame Holmes, the double Olympic champion. “She paid for my coach, Arthur Almond to come out here with me and that is just about the best thing she could have done.” She said, before adding: “I’ve had some good sessions out here.”
Qualification was less straightforward for Horsfield in the men’s 1500m, who made it through to Sunday’s final as a fastest loser after finishing 5th in his heat in 3:53.09. “I found that hard and I don’t know why.” He said afterwards.
“I’m a bit disappointed, but I know I have to get it sorted out for Sunday. I need to speak to the team management find out what went wrong and see how I can put it right.”
In the field, Griffith-Parker and Cruchley both enjoyed smooth qualification passages. In the men’s discus, Griffith-Parker made up for his disappointment at failing to qualify for the shot final earlier in the week after a sub-par performance, by securing a spot in Saturday’s discus final with a superb PB of 58.25, comfortably in excess of the 56m automatic qualifying distance.
“I’m very happy.” He said afterwards. “After what happened in the shot, I thought ‘I’m going to go out there and give it all I’ve got’. I felt nervous the other day. Today I felt relaxed. I just stayed focussed on the technical stuff. There are a lot of big guys out here, but I’m a big guy too. Anyway, it’s not about how big you are, it’s about how far you throw.”
Meanwhile, Cruchley kept his cool in his first major championship experience. He had one failure at 4.60 and one at 4.70, but his second-time clearance at the latter height was enough to enable him to qualify 6th overall for Sunday’s final.
“I feel I could do a lot better too.” He said afterwards. “I felt I qualified pretty comfortably. I was quite excited. It’s the biggest day of my life, so far, but there’s another one to come now.”