9th April 2018

ARNOLD RISES TO THE CHALLENGE TO WIN COMMONWEALTH GOLD

Hollie Arnold rose to the challenge in supreme style to claim Commonwealth Games gold – and the sole Home Nations medal on day two of athletics – with her very last attempt in the F46 javelin final on the Gold Coast.

Arnold, the reigning Paralympic and world champion, was put under pressure in the very first round in Australia as Kiwi rival and namesake Holly Robinson broke the Welsh athlete’s own world record after landing 43.32m.

The 23-year-old kept her composure however and steadily improved throughout the competition, entering the final round with a best of 42.40m while Robinson couldn’t better her record-breaking opening effort.

It was there that Arnold unleashed a massive throw of 44.43m, which would comfortably secure her gold, her world record back and Wales’ second Commonwealth title at the Carrara Stadium after Olivia Breen’s victory in the T38 long jump a day ago.

English sprinter Asha Philip (Steve Fudge) was favoured to run herself onto the podium as well in the women’s 100m final but she finished an agonising fourth for the second Games in a row after clocking 11.28 seconds, 0.06 shy of bronze.

On a busy day Melissa Courtney (Rob Denmark) and Steph Twell (Geoff Wightman) led home six Home Nations qualifiers into the women’s 1500m final and world indoor champion Andrew Pozzi (Benke Blomkvist) looked good in reaching the men’s 110m hurdles medal showdown.

Richard Chiassaro (Jennifer Banks) was equally dominant to advance to the men’s T54 1500m final, one of four qualifiers for the Home Nations, while Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna) and Emily Diamond (Jared Deacon) did the job automatically in the women’s 400m heats to reach the semi-finals.

Emma Mitchell (Eamonn Christie) set a new Northern Ireland record in the women’s 10,000m final but finished outside the medals with Welsh Paralympian Arnold’s insular approach proving spot on when it mattered in Australia.

She said: “I am over the moon. My whole series wasn’t amazing. I could feel it there, it was ready, but there was just a timing issue. I didn’t realise the world record was broken in the first round, I knew it was far, but I was not focussed on her, I was focussed on me.

“On the last one, I knew I could take it, I knew I could win it, I am the Paralympic champion and all I saw was 44m and I was like ‘I’ve done it’ and I screamed, I’ve never screamed so loud. I am so happy. It has been a rough few months for me, up and down, but I am so glad to be Commonwealth champion.

“We are rock and roll Team Wales, we have got a strong team, a strong Para team. We are doing great and hopefully we can keep pushing on and hope to bring back a few more medals and smiles.”

Philip was the quickest qualifier into the women’s 100m final after clocking 11.21 and got off to a great start but was to be beaten into bronze by Jamaican Gayon Evans while Trinidad & Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye took gold and Christania Williams silver.

“I don’t know what to say. I am for the first time lost for words. I came fourth in Glasgow, I have now come fourth in Australia, fourth seems to be my favourite number,” said Philip.

“I didn’t have the indoor season I wanted, I haven’t started the outdoor season the way I wanted, it is sport, I am better than this, I know what I have done over the winter. To come and run that, I ran faster in my semi-final, I should have done better than that.

“That’s not who I am, I don’t know what it is, clearly I need to work on something. I have just got to get over these little hiccups I am having. I’ll be fine, I am strong enough so I’ll be OK.”

The two women’s 1500m heats saw as many as seven Home Nations athletes involved with Courtney and Twell both keeping their nerve to automatically qualify for the final after finishing fourth in each race – the latter avoiding a faller on the home straight.

Courtney led home a Home Nations quintet in heat one with Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan), Ciara Mageean (Steve Vernon), Katie Snowden (Denmark) and Jess Judd (Mick Judd) all facing a wait to see if they would progress after missing out on the top four.

The second heat, which saw Sarah McDonald (David Harmer) fail to progress, was significantly slower and the quartet all advanced to the final with the Home Nations set to occupy half of the field.

The first final of the second day of athletics to be decided was the men’s T38 100m. Rhys Jones (Christian Malcolm) and Amar Aichoun (Clarence Callender) were outside the medals in seventh and eighth respectively.

Mitchell lowered her Northern Ireland record in the 10,000m by almost two seconds, finishing with 32:49.91 for 15th place, while Wales’ Jenny Nesbitt (David Walker) set a new personal best herself by over a second as her 32:58.14 put her 17th. Scotland’s Beth Potter (Mick Woods) placed 18th a matter of days after competing in the women’s triathlon in Australia.

England’s Rabah Yousif (Carol Williams) just missed out on a fastest loser spot in the men’s 400m semi-finals with his 46.05 effort not enough to progress. Teammate Dwayne Cowan (Lloyd Cowan) and Guernsey’s Cameron Chalmers (James Hillier) both also failed to advance.

The decathlon is at the halfway stage with John Lane (Toni Minichiello) of England leading the way for the Home Nations in seventh after five events with 3986 points. Ben Gregory (Aston Moore) is two places behind him in ninth with 3691 but his Welsh teammate Curtis Mathews (Lawrence Moore) did not take to the blocks in the last event of the day, the 400m.

Early in the morning in Australia, world indoor champion Pozzi picked up where he left off last month, cruising to the final of the 110m hurdles as the quickest from the heats after clocking 13.29 in the opening race. However, that will be it for the Home Nations with David King (Hillier), David Omoregie (Blomkvist) and Ben Reynolds (Tom Reynolds) all failing to make it out of the second heat.

Clark and Diamond were both automatic qualifiers into the women’s 400m semi-finals while Anyika Onuora (Rana Reider) was the second of four fastest losers to complete a Home Nations sweep of progression.

Chiassaro laid down a marker in reaching the men’s T54 1500m final, setting a new Games record of 3:06.76 in the second of two heats. He dictated the pace with ease, eventually moving away with 300m to go but England teammate Nathan Maguire (Steve Hoskins) and Northern Ireland’s Jack Agnew (Heather Ardis) did enough to join him in the medal showdown.

Dillon Labrooy (Jenny Archer) was the only Home Nations athlete in heat one in the same event and kick started the full clean sweep into the final.

Only one Home Nations athlete missed out in qualification for the men’s high jump final as Robbie Grabarz (Fuzz Caan), Allan Smith (Bryan Roy), Chris Baker (Sharon Heveran) and David Smith (Paul Harrison) all cleared 2.21m to reach the medal showdown, Tom Gale (Denis Doyle) the man failing to progress.

#Represent