21st July 2022
BRITISH RECORD FOR AIMEE PRATT AS THREE GB&NI ATHLETES REACH WORLD FINALS ON DAY SIX
Aimee Pratt (coach: Vicente Modahl; club: Sale Harriers Manchester) smashed another British record to secure the best ever finish by a Brit in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at a World Athletics Championships as five of her teammates secured themselves another run – three a final – on day six in Oregon.
The only Brit in finals action, Pratt ran her own race in the 3000m steeplechase but what a race it was as she stormed to seventh, obliterating her own national record by more than three seconds in clocking 9:15.64 while also securing a British best since the event was first introduced into the World Athletics Championships schedule in 2005.
Matt Hudson-Smith (Gary Evans; Birchfield Harriers) was arguably the most impressive Brit on the day as he stormed into the men’s 400m final in a time – 44.38 seconds – that was just 0.04 shy of him lowering the national record once again at Hayward Field.
Joining him in another final in Oregon are Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall; Dundee Hawkhill) – who held the previous British best in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at a World Championships with tenth – and Jessica Judd (Mick Judd; Blackburn Harriers), who worked together to progress out of women’s 5000m heats as the Championships passed the halfway stage.
Elsewhere, Daniel Rowden (Matt Yates; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) and Kyle Langford (Jon Bigg; Shaftesbury Barnet) both advanced to the men’s 800m semi-finals after world leader Max Burgin’s (Ian Burgin; Halifax Harriers) unfortunate withdrawal through injury.
While not making progress themselves, Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist; WSEH) and Victoria Ohuruogu (Christine Ohuruogu; Newham & Essex Beagles) both recorded significant personal bests in the men’s and women’s 400m semi-finals respectively.
Pratt lined up in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final – her first World Championship final after making her global debut in Doha in 2019 – having reduced her personal best by almost seven seconds and the British record by over half a second to qualify out of the heats.
The three medallists would all clock sub nine minutes but Pratt didn’t let the difference in the race put her off, demonstrated by a huge sprint down the home straight to complete not one but two slices of British history with a national record and best ever performance.
She said: “I’m just a bit overwhelmed! I don’t know what’s just happened! I knew it was going to go out really hard so I just tried to be sensible and work my way back to the field which I feel like I did quite well.
“I feel like I still had juice left in my legs at the end, I wasn’t on the floor, so I think there is more to come I just need to take it one step at a time. My coach told me to be sensible and we knew from the heats when it went out at a crazy pace that it was always going to go out crazy again. I’m not quite in world record pace shape at the minute! I just tried to run a sensible race.
“I’ve been dying for a race like that for a long time. Those races don’t come by very often and I wanted to make sure I took the opportunity when it came. I wanted to finish top eight and I’m still quite early on in my career. Steeplechase is a mature event, you can’t rush the event, you need the years on years, but I think I am at a good place in my career right now and the next few years I’m expecting to step up a lot.”
Hudson-Smith returned to the track where he broke the men’s 400m British record after nearly 25 years in May and looked supremely impressive in reaching the world final in a time just outside his new national mark.
He moved well early on and was in front after the stagger around the final bend. World leader and American home hope Michael Norman would just edge ahead as the line drew closer but both exchanged a glance to suggest the result was immaterial.
Hudson-Smith’s final time was 44.38 – 0.03 shy of equalling the British record – and good enough for second overall and the UK champion said: “It was a good 350m, I went long, I looked to my right and felt Norman, so I went long and he capitalised on that. He got the victory because of that.
“I can win this. I’ll get ready for the final. I had something left but I messed up big time on the last 50m, big time. I just went long, [that means] I started striding long and it broke my speed, just like doing the chicken dance – that’s what we call it. If I correct those two things, I’m on my way through.”
Teammate Haydock-Wilson ran a very impressive race in the third of the men’s 400m semi-finals, looking strong past the halfway mark and then powering around the bend and down the home straight.
At one stage it looked as if he could push for the top three and a place in the final but he had to make do with fourth, still knocking almost half a second off his personal best in clocking 45.08 for tenth overall, 0.11 away from advancing.
He said: “That was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was fun, exciting, I got to run with some of my heroes, and I PB’d. I cannot be happier.
“These are the guys I’ve grown up looking at and wondering how they did it, and now I’ve done the thing I thought was impossible for so long. It’s all been hard work, belief and perseverance, and that’s what I’m most proud of, the fact that I did it my way.
“What is to come is a lot of fast running! Hopefully turning some of that fast running into bling! I’m going to go for it every time I can, but I’m not going to be obsessed with it. I just want to enjoy the journey of what is to come.”
In the women’s 5000m heats McColgan and Judd supported each other as both made their second final in Oregon. McColgan led the second of two heats for a portion of the race before Judd took over with two laps to go.
The pace upped after the bell and the British pair lost touch with that lead group however they didn’t let that mark the end of their final bid – both digging deep in the first event of the day with British action.
McColgan would overtake Judd as the line drew closer, clocking a season’s best 14:56.47 for seventh in the second heat, while her British teammate was a place behind in 14:57.64 – both progressing to the final as non-automatic qualifiers.
“I’ve had a bumpy ride to get to this champs,” said McColgan. “I feel my fitness is there but I’m not sharp at all. I’ve missed so many races – usually I would have done a couple of 1500m races in the States early in the year but I couldn’t do them due to covid, and then I got laryngitis.
“I feel like I’m not turning the way I would like. I know I can run a strong pace so I knew I had to take that out in sub 15. I knew sit and kick wasn’t going to cut it. It’s not where I want to be but it is where we are at. But I’m proud to have made the final.”
Judd had never made a World Championship final in three attempts prior to arriving in Oregon but, after making her second in a row, she said: “Someone said ‘this could be my year’ and I didn’t believe them – but that was good. I really enjoyed that.
“I just wanted to make sure I did qualify as I would have been gutted if not and I know they say to drive through the line but there was no more driving left. I thought I would go for it and I’m really happy I did. Then I was tiring quite fast and I had to dive over the line.”
Amy-Eloise Markovic (Chris Fox; Wakefield) battled valiantly as the first Brit in action in the first heat of the women’s 5000m but struggled, despite recording a season’s best 15:31.62, finishing 12th and outside the qualifying places.
After the unfortunate late withdrawal of Burgin with a calf injury – the world leader warming up at the stadium but pulling out as a precaution – Langford backed his trademark kick as the first of the Brits in action in the men’s 800m heats.
Langford kept himself in contention through the second of six heats and, fifth around the final bend, kicked excellently for home down the final straight to finish as an automatic qualifier in second in 1:45.68.
That ranked him 11th overall going into the semi-finals and he’s taking inspiration from teammate Jake Wightman’s (Geoff Wightman; Edinburgh) sensational 1500m gold and Laura Muir’s (Andy Young; Dundee Hawkhill) 1500m bronze.
He said: “It’s been amazing. Laura winning a medal gave the team a boost and then Jake winning just sparked us – we were all cheering watching in the lounge, crying, tearing up.
“For me it really lit a spark up and I wasn’t really too bothered for the whole week and even yesterday, right up until Jake’s race and then I after it I felt ‘OK, I’m excited to go now.’
“I didn’t feel very good until the last 100m, but as long as I was in contention it doesn’t matter how I feel for the rest of the race. I didn’t work too hard, so I’m happy with that.”
British teammate Rowden followed Langford in the sixth and final heat and went for a gun to tape tactic, storming to the front from the very start. He led for all but the last 100 metres but had almost done enough to ensure his progress.
With the benefit of knowing the pace of the other five heats, Rowden dug in down the home straight as his rivals closed but was comfortably assured progress to the semi-finals, finishing third in an equal season’s best 1:45.53.
Rowden ranked tenth overall going into the semi-finals and said: “I had the benefit of being in heat six so I knew exactly what time I had to run to progress. I had some pretty good kickers in my heat, and no real frontrunners.
“I could have either risked it and let it go slow, and hope I could outkick them, or I could have done it the hard way, and I thought, lets do it the hard way. I tried to stay relaxed in the call room but there are screens up, so you do see the times. I knew what I had to do, so I’m glad I did that and qualified.”
Ohuruogu was the pick of the three Brits in action in the women’s 400m semi-finals, finishing strong down the home straight in the first of three races to duck under 51 seconds for the first time in her career.
She posted a personal best 50.99 but it was just short of a place in the final as she finished fifth in that opening semi-final – and 11th overall – while teammates Nicole Yeargin (Boogie Johnson; Pitreavie) and Ama Pipi (Marco Airale; Enfield & Haringey) – also just missed out.
Ohuruogu said: “I knew if I was going to try and make that final, I was going to have to run a PB. It may have seemed like a crazy idea but I set my expectations high. But I’m really pleased to have set a PB and run under 51 seconds, only just, and it all looks promising for the relay later in the week.
“It’s the World Champs so you know the races are going to be tough, so you don’t come here for the easy ride, but this is the kind of company I want to be racing against and I can’t shy away from it.”
Yeargin picked off Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek to finish fourth in the second semi-final in 51.22 while Ama Pipi, the last of the British trio to go, went out quickly but struggled late ending eighth in 52.28.
In her own first major championship semi-final, Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong; WSEH) couldn’t up her pace enough in her women’s 400m hurdles semi-final to battle for progression, clocking 55.39 for seventh.
Great Britain and Northern Ireland Medal tally:
Gold: Jake Wightman – 1500m
Bronze: Laura Muir – 1500m