1st August 2021
BIRD, IROZURU AND SAWYERS REACH OLYMPIC FINALS
British record holder Lizzie Bird made history by reaching the final of the women’s 3000m steeplechase on a morning that also saw Jazmin Sawyers and Abigail Irozuru qualify for the long jump final at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
No Team GB athlete had ever reached the showpiece of the women’s 3000m steeplechase at an Olympic Games before, but Bird (Pat Curry, Shaftesbury Barnet) looked comfortable throughout her heat and was less than two seconds outside her British record.
She joined a front pack of five in the final few laps and ultimately crossed the line in fifth place, behind heat winner and former world champion and Olympic silver medallist Hyvin Kiyeng.
Despite finishing outside the top three automatic qualifying spots in the third and final heat, Bird’s time of 9:24.34 was enough to see her book a spot in Wednesday’s final as the fifth of six fastest losers.
“Wow I didn’t know that [being the first British woman to reach the Olympic 3000m steeplechase final – that’s pretty cool,” said the 26-year-old, who will be back for the final at 12pm BST on Wednesday.
“I didn’t know what time I needed to get; it was just about trying to finish as high as I could.
“I didn’t want to come here and just be here for the experience, I wanted to compete and get as high as I can, and this year more than ever, I knew I could be competitive.”
Aimee Pratt (Vicente Modahl, Sale Harriers Manchester) also made her Olympic debut in the morning’s 3000m steeplechase heats.
Pratt finished 11th in 9:47.56 in heat two, behind the likes of world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN) and heat winner Courtney Frerichs (USA).
Meanwhile, Sawyers (Lance Brauman, City of Stoke) and Irozuru (Aston Moore, Sale Harriers Manchester) joined Bird in making an Olympic final by progressing through long jump qualification.
Making her long-awaited Olympic debut after narrowly missing out on being selected for London 2012 and then suffering an untimely ruptured Achilles ahead of Rio 2016, Irozuru hit the automatic qualification mark of 6.75m (+0.3) exactly with her third and final jump.
That was the eighth-longest jump of the morning, as Rio 2016 bronze medallist Ivana Španović topped the qualification standings with a leap of 7.00m.
Irozuru said: “It was a nice confidence boost to get a season’s best, to finally jump over 6.70 this season and to hit the auto qualifying because that’s literally what I came here to do.
“There is more to come, there’s things that I’ve been working on and I’m starting to execute as I’m building through the rounds, so hopefully with six rounds in the final it will come.
“I really want a personal best because it’s always nice to do that at the major championships.”
Though she didn’t reach the automatic mark, Sawyers’ third-round effort of 6.62m (-0.5) was also enough to see her qualify for Tuesday morning’s final (2.50am BST) in 11th place, five years after finishing eighth at Rio 2016.
“I was so nervous, I have never been so nervous,” she commented after the competition. “I’m not sure why I was way more nervous than usual, but I was and I don’t know if that’s what came out in my jumps.
“I’m confident there’s a lot more in the tank. As long as I am in the final, that’s what counts.
“We know how finals go, anything can happen, I’ll be back in two days’ time, ready to attack, because when I am in a final I’m there to try and take those top spots.”
Lorraine Ugen (Dwight Phillips, Thames Valley) finished in 28th place with her opening round effort of 6.05m (-0.5) and will not compete in Tuesday’s long jump final.