1st June 2021


Columba Blango produced the best run of his career as he won gold in the men’s T20 400m, while there was a silver medal for Kyron Duke [F41 shot put], and bronze medals for Ola Abidogun [T47 100m] and Emily Stewart [F38 Discus] on day one of the European Para Athletics Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

The record-breaking run by Columba Blango (Chris Zah; Shaftesbury Barnet) was the standout performance of the evening as he broke the European record and his personal best with an exceptional time of 47.90 which ranks him number one in the men’s T20 rankings in Paralympic year.

In the final Blango knew his closest rivals were in the two inside lanes from him, so he powered around the first bend and back straight to hold a narrow advantage over his opponents. As he entered the home straight, the gap kept extending from Charles-Antoine Kouakou (FRA) as he earned a breakthrough win on the continental stage.

The 28-year-old had earlier smashed the European record too as he won his heat in a time of 48.54 from Spain’s Deliber Rodriguez Ramirez which qualified him through to the final with ease.

A delighted Blango said post-race, “I cruised the heat this morning, but I knew tonight I would need to go hard from the beginning in the final. I knew I could pick up from 200m, I just had to keep going and going.

“I’ve been chasing a time under 48 seconds for a while now, so it is a big surprise for me today. I am so glad I could get it today; it is all part of the process.

“I’ve always dreamt of this moment since I was a kid. I don’t think it’ll be my last time [on the podium], there is much more to come, but I want to enjoy it. I’m going to cherish this moment.”

Kyron Duke (Ryan Spencer-Jones; DSW Para Academy) sealed another European silver medal as he finished second in the men’s F41 Shot Put.

The first three throws were completed in reasonably fine conditions, 13.39m his best effort in round three. However, the rain started to pour during the final three throws for the athletes so there was no improvement from the world medallist. However, he earned his place on the podium with Poland’s Bartosz Tyszkowski winning with a best of 13.51m.

Duke commented afterwards, “I’m really happy to be fair, and so is my coach. We are training through this Championships to get ready for Tokyo, so this result is acceptable and I’m making good progress ahead of the Paralympic Games.

“The first three throws were dry and nice. Then literally after the split, it was a downpour, so I couldn’t make an improvement. But I’m happy with today.”

There was a bronze medal for Emily Stewart (Janice Kaufman; Gateshead) in the women’s F38 Discus. Competing at her first senior championship for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the north-east athlete earned a spot on the podium with a best of 24.41m.

The furthest mark came on the opening throw for the Gateshead athlete which put her in second place overall after one throw. In the second round, Poland’s Natalia Jasinska improved to 24.62m to push the Briton into third spot, and she remained in that position to earn herself a visit to the podium later in the day. Czech Republic’s Eva Datinska won with a throw of 26.78m.

Stewart said afterwards, “When I got the call for the Championships, I was really shocked, I just had no words. My coach Richard Kaufman and my parents have been really supportive, as well as my training partner, Anna (Nicholson). They believed I had a chance at a medal, but I didn’t want to put any false hope on that until it happened, so the fact that it has actually happened is really surreal.

“The first throw settled the nerves for me. I would have liked a PB, but some days that just isn’t the case. The fact I have won something, and I get to take a medal home is very overwhelming to say the least. I have been so nervous over the last few days. It has all been a bit of a whirlwind, it’s all been so exciting.”

On her moment on the podium, she added, “I’ll be lucky if I’m not crying. I’m so happy to have won a bronze medal, it’s all so exciting.”

Seven years after winning his last European medal, Ola Abidogun (Steve Thomas; Horwich) secured the bronze medal in the T47 100m. After injuries disrupted his winter training, it was a relief for Abidogun to produce a solid display at the 2021 edition of the Championships.

He started well and looked assured of third as he entered the second half of the race, posting a time of 11.31 (-0.2) behind Poland’s Michal Derus in 11.00 and Russia’s Nikita Kotukov in 11.08.

The Paralympic bronze medallist, commented after, “It is good to be on the podium again. It is good not the leave it! It’s nice to still feel relevant – seven years from my last European medal. 2019 was my fastest year so I know I can get back to that shape, this is part of the process so I will learn from this and take it forward for the rest of the summer season.

“It was not a bad run. I’ve been having a couple of troubles this year with races in bad weather or injuries. But it is amazing to be out here and have a Championships this year.”

Team captain Stephen Miller (Ros Miller; Gateshead) was fourth in the men’s F32 Club Throw with a season best of 29.48m. 25 years after his first British vest, Miller was just outside the medal placing by 14cm.

29.48m was his best effort of the competition which came on his third attempt. The multiple Paralympic medallist had two further throws in 29 metre mark, 29.21m and 29.03m to finish fourth overall with Czech Republic’s Frantisek Serbus winning with a Championship record of 34.31m.

Nathan Maguire (Ste Hoskins; Kirkby) opened his week with a fifth-place finish in the T54 100m final, clocking at time of 14.79 (0.8). Maguire, who has the 400m and 800m to go later this week, pushed well in the contest and was narrowly edged into fifth by 0.04 seconds by Rens van de Waterlaat (NED).

Maguire comfortably guided his way through the heats earlier in the day, in wet conditions, finishing third in a time of 15.16 (0.5).

On her senior British debut, Mel Woods (Rodger Harkins; Red Star) finished seventh in the women’s T54 100m. With the 1500m coming up tomorrow for the Scottish athlete, she pushed strongly in her first major final, recording a time of 18.34 (0.8).