11th July 2019


Emile Cairess (Leeds City; Philip Townsend) claimed Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s first medal of the European Under-23 Championships with a superb 10,000m bronze on an opening night that saw a clean sweep of qualifiers in Gavle.

Cairess ran smart in a messy race that closed the opening day of the Championships, staying near the front as the field stretched out before making a move with the leaders with three laps to go to win bronze in 28:50.21 in his first major outing on the track for the British team.

His bronze capped an impressive opening day for the British team where everyone qualified, 14 athletes making progression in the evening led by heat winners Jake Heyward (Cardiff; James Thie) in the men’s 1500m, Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan; Andy Young) and Ellie Baker (Shaftesbury Barnet; Jon Bigg) in the women’s 800m and Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford; Tom Cullen) in the women’s triple jump.

Equally impressive and also heat winners were Cameron Fillery (Woodford Green Essex Ladies; Michael Baker) in the men’s 110m hurdles and Aimee Pratt (Sale Harriers Manchester; Vicente Modahl) in the women’s 3000m steeplechase while Oliver Bromby (Southampton) was equal quickest in the men’s 100m semi-finals and Adam Hague (Sheffield & Dearne; Trevor Fox); Joel Leon Benitez (Notts; Robert Philips) and Charlie Myers (Middlesbrough; Chris Boundy) eased through in the men’s pole vault.

Frenchman Jimmy Gressier took gold and Israel’s Tadesse Getahon silver in the men’s 10,000m and Cairess, who was ranked fourth going into the  final, said: “I am ecstatic to get the bronze. It was a really tough race against some really good guys. On paper I was maybe ranked fourth or fifth so to do better than that is really, really nice. My plan was to follow the leader until the end, and if you are not too far behind the leader at the end then you will be in a good position. I was nervous the whole race, we weren’t jogging but we weren’t going really quick either and I just hoped that I was feeling it easier than the other guys and I guess I was. It went my way there.”

Cairess’ fellow Brit Jake Smith (Cardiff; James Thie) ran well and was with the leading pack for the majority. As it stretched the medals were out of reach but he still clocked a fine personal best by exactly 14 seconds, his 29:01.08 putting him eighth while Mahamed Mahamed (Southampton) was 14th in 29:10.46.

Smith said: “It was a messy race, everyone was pushing, so we couldn’t really get going. I am really happy with eighth, eighth in Europe isn’t bad at all and there were some absolutely top guys in there so I will take that in a messy race.”

On an evening packed full of heats and qualifiers, European junior champion Heyward was the last Brit to secure progression and did so in style winning the second of the men’s 1500m heats with a smart run and the fastest time overall, 3:47.08.

Heyward had the benefit of watching the opening heat, which saw British teammate Piers Copeland (Wimborne; Bob Smith) automatically qualify after finishing third in 3:47.72, and punched the line to ensure the win in a close tussle in the final metres.

Heyward said: “3:47 isn’t fast for me and I didn’t mind leading part of it because I know I have got so much in reserve. I am just really enjoying being back healthy and running and getting in good quality races. As an athlete you can do all the hard winter sessions but coming here and racing is what it is all about.”

Pratt was impressive in her heat in the women’s 300m steeplechase, running for much of the race on her own out in front. She clocked 10:05.79 for victory by almost ten seconds ahead of her nearest rival with that time the third fastest of the two heats.

She said: “I was hoping it would be a bit faster and a few more girls would be up there but there was no one there so it felt natural running at my own pace. I need to attack the final, the Danish girl [Anna Emilie Moller] is so far ahead of everyone else but it’s anyone’s after that. I’ve not really had a decent race this year so I know there is a lot more in there.”

European junior silver medallist over 800m from 2017 Baker and European junior champion over 1500m from the same event Reekie both controlled their heats to comfortably progress. Baker pushed to the front with 300m to go and had time to check her shoulder on the home straight as she clocked 2:07.14 for her win and seventh overall.

Meanwhile Reekie, who will run the 1500m as well as the 800m this week, sat on the shoulder of the leader early on and then broke away to cross home first in 2:04.74 and place first overall after the third of the three heats.

Baker said: “My coach told me that if I found myself in front, not to kill myself, have a look and just go comfortably home. I was trying to save some for the final as well. I am really excited for it, I got silver at the Euro juniors two years ago and I would love to get the gold this year so we will see what happens in the final.”

Joining Reekie as a quickest qualifier for a final was Bromby in the men’s 100m after a fine first semi-final saw him better his effort in the heats and dip for the line in 10.49, equal fastest overall alongside Marvin Schulte of Germany. Bromby said: “It was nice to be back out there but it was tough coming back just six hour later. The final is anyone’s race so we’ll see how it goes.”

Teammate Dominic Ashwell (Shaftesbury Barnet; Marvin Rowe) was third in the second of the two semi-finals in 10.63 to also secure himself a lane in tomorrow evening’s final – sixth quickest overall and the 11th successive British qualifier at that point on the night in Gavle.

Fillery became the third Brit on the first evening to claim victory as he ran a controlled race to win the fourth of five heats of the men’s 110m hurdles – James Weaver (Enfield & Haringey; Laura Turner-Alleyne) and Tade Ojora (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow; Caryl Smith-Gilbert) both also qualifying for the semi-finals either side of his outing.

Trials winner Fillery clocked 14.05 for second overall while Ojora was comfortable in placing second in heat five in 14.15 for sixth overall while Weaver set the tone for the British trio with a 14.21 for second himself in heat three and eighth overall.

Fillery said: “I focussed on my own race and got going nicely for the semis. I got a personal best in Switzerland a week and a half ago, so morale is high and I am hoping it is going to go well here. If you look at my championship performances, I always get quicker through the rounds especially when it is two races in a day.”

Much like the men’s 110m hurdles, all three British men’s pole vaulters – Leon Benitez, Hague and Myers – comfortably progressed to the final, needing just a clearance at 5.20m to do so. Not needing to progress to the 5.45m automatic qualifying height, Leon Benitez and Myers, who has set a 5.71m personal best already this season, entered at 5.20m while European finalist from Berlin last year Hague cleared 5.05m before adding a further 15 centimetres successfully.

Leon Benitez said: “It was much easier than I thought it would be, one jump and over. I would never say too easy, I have never had that experience before at a qualifying meet, I have usually had to do a couple of bars, it is a pleasant surprise. It’s crazy to have three Brits in the final, the standard is incredible and I feel lucky to be a part of it. Let’s see how I can jump in the final.”

Seemingly just as easy as the British trio in the men’s pole vault, another European finalist from Berlin last year Ogbeta qualified for the women’s triple jump final needing just one jump of 13.57m, which like several of her teammates before her, would prove to be the best overall.

Action continues tomorrow morning from 08:30 BST. The timetable for the Championships can be found via https://bit.ly/2JurM5T.

British Athletics medal tally (1):


Emile Cairess – Men’s 10,000m