16 July 2009
The tactical element of Championship racing kicked in with tough consequences from GB & NI’s 800m men this afternoon on day one of the European Under-23 Championships (Kaunas, Lithuania, 16-19th July), but in the shorter distances, Nigel Levine (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) raced to a brilliant lifetime best in qualifying for the men’s 400m final tomorrow (Friday 17th July), while the three 100m men progressed as the fastest qualifiers of the day.
Levine, who qualified for the semi final as fifth fastest from this morning’s heats, clocked 45.86s – his first time under the 46 second barrier - and announced “This work aint finished yet!” He has every reason to be confident going into the final as the fastest qualifier on this occasion.
In the men’s 800m, Paul Bradshaw (Blackburn) and Andrew Osagie (Harlow) couldn’t have done much more in their respective races, but both were run out of fastest loser slots by a quick final heat.
“I felt quite flat,” said Bradshaw, who finished third in heat one (1:49.68). “It was quite hot out there but I felt really good through the first 400m. With 150m to go I was in a good position but I was running the long way round on all the bends. I thought the guys would kick off the front but they didn’t and I got back into it, but I just ran out of track. I enjoyed it, but it’s frustrating.”
An opinion shared by Osagie, who was also third (1:49.47).
It was three from three in the men’s 100m as Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Sutton & District), Leevan Yearwood (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) and Rion Pierre (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) scorched to victory in their respective heats.
Aikines-Aryeetey starts as the fastest qualifier for tomorrow’s final after clocking 10.32s into a -1.3 headwind.
“That was alright,” he said, “it was a bit nerve-wracking being out there for the first time, but it was good to be back. It’s a good track, they’ve re-laid it and it feels fast. The competition is awesome so far. We’ve got people into the final in a lot of events and things are really winding up. I’m proud to be part of this GB team. We just need to make sure we get through the rounds then we can celebrate.”
And Yearwood (10.42s) and Pierre (10.46s) did just that, the pair finishing second and third fastest overall on the day.
Not to be outdone, Elaine O’Neill (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) also secured her 100m final spot with a third place finish in the women’s 100m semi final. She was slow out the blocks, but powered through in the final 50m to clock 11.68s. “I’m so happy to be in the final,” she said, ‘that was my aim and I would have been really, really disappointed if I had gone out in that semi final. My start wasn’t brilliant but I came through.”
The girls on the in-field matched their male track counterparts this afternoon, all three successfully progressing to finals.
First up was Emma Lyons (Sale Harriers Manchester) in the pole vault – and although experiencing a slight scare halfway through – cleared 4.10m with ease to secure her place in Saturday’s final. “I cleared 4.00m on my third attempt,” she explained, “but when I cleared it I realised what I’d been doing wrong. As soon as I did that one thing right the next jumps seemed easy. It was as simple as realising what I’d done wrong and sorting it. I feel confident going into the final now I’ve fixed that problem.”
Making up Thursday afternoon’s field event trio, discus pair Eden Francis (Birchfield) – currently top ranked European under-23 – and Jade Nicholls (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers), who gave her a tough competition in the England Under-23 Championships, both qualified for tomorrow’s discus final with throws of 51.83m and 51.64m respectively.
“I knew I could get through to the final,” said Nicholls, who is competing in her first major Championship, “I just had to do it. “Now I’m in the final I want to finish top eight.”
Emma Jackson (City of Stoke) ran a brilliant season’s best performance of 2:02.43 to win her 800m heat and go through to Saturday’s final as third fastest qualifier. “I’m so pleased, especially to win,” she said. “I thought I might get a fastest loser place - I went out to get through, I didn’t think I’d win. I felt great. When I crossed the line first I couldn’t believe it.”
Tara Bird (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), who gave it everything in her own bid to make the final was unfortunate not to progress after finishing fourth in her heat (2:05.67).
There was also disappointment on the track for Jonathan Taylor (Morpeth) and Lewis Timmons (Gosforth) in the men’s 5000m who finished well outside their PB’s when finishing 13th (14:15.00) and 19th (14:32.51) respectively.
“The conditions weren’t too bad,” said an honest Timmons, who was making his GB & NI track debut on a warm afternoon, “it was just a bad performance.”