8th June 2024


World indoor champion Molly Caudery (coach: Scott Simpson; club: Thames Valley) was the best of the four British qualifiers on the second morning of the European Championships in Rome as Jade O’Dowda’s (John Lane, Newham & Essex Beagles) pursuit of a top-eight finish in the heptathlon neared a successful conclusion.

Caudery is the best female pole vaulter in the world right now and showed exactly why on another warm morning at the Stadio Olimpico as she made easy work of qualifying for a second successive European final, needing just one jump at 4.50m.

Meanwhile O’Dowda continued in the heptathlon with her chances of a top-eight finish or better given a boost after she recorded a best of 6.48m in the long jump to move up from ninth to eighth with 4656 points.

Elsewhere in qualification, Jake Norris (Paul Dickenson, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) and Mark Pearce (Luke Gunn, Shaftesbury Barnet) joined Caudery in booking a spot in a final in the men’s hammer and 3000m steeplechase respectively.

Amy Hunt (Marco Airale, Charnwood), who trains in Italy and is making her senior European debut, had to navigate the heats of the women’s 100m but did so with ease as four British athletes in total continued their competition to another day in Rome.

Such is the form Caudery is in, she chose not to enter qualification in the women’s pole vault until the bar had been raised to 4.50m by which point she would have been out on the track for comfortably over an hour.

That height proved very comfortable for the world indoor champion as she cleared at the first time of asking before another wait ensued to determine whether she would need to gear back up for 4.55m.

As it transpired that height was not needed with 12 clear at 4.50m and so Caudery’s morning was a long one but extremely straight forward. She was one of five athletes to clear 4.50m at the first attempt with the final set for Monday in Rome.

Caudery said: “As pole vaulters we always expect that [a long wait] but you know the weather is lovely, so it isn’t too bad. I’ve got ice towels and ice packs just to put round my neck to keep nice and cool out there, I just stay in the shade as much as possible and not move around too much. Simple things really.

“I was really, really happy to save some energy and do one jump and have my best preparation for the final.”

Caudery was joined in qualification of the women’s pole vault by Olympic bronze medallist Holly Bradshaw (Kate Rooney, Blackburn), who – hampered by a back injury – unfortunately couldn’t clear 4.25m after passing at 4.10m and so missed out on a place in the final.

Bradshaw said: “I have been struggling with my achilles a little, but it felt good. Out on the warm up track I put my back out. I did it three weeks ago and I just got rid of it. Today I was literally doing an innocuous jump and I put my back out and I was like ‘oh great’.

“I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the warm up, I had a lot of run-throughs because it’s going into extension. As I am coming to the end of my career, I am having thoughts like what if I really hurt myself, what if I hurt my back and I can’t play with my kids. It’s crap, but I’m trying not to live in the minute, I’m looking at the bigger picture.”

After four events on day one, O’Dowda just had the long jump to contend with on day two morning in Rome and enjoyed a fine competition as she ticks off the places overall.

She recorded 6.44m and 6.48m with a foul in between, the latter a season’s best, to move from ninth to eight with a total of 4656 points and the javelin and 800m to come.

One of a number making their senior European debut in Rome, Norris looked at ease from the moment he took to the circle in qualification for the men’s hammer and it showed in his performance.

Opening up with an effort of 75.69m, he pushed that out to 75.73m with his second attempt, which all but guaranteed that first European final appearance. As a result, he passed with his third attempt and was ranked fifth overall, a sign of a good morning’s work.

Norris said: “Warm-ups felt really nice, I felt really connected – really on it! And then pretty much the same thing happened in the first round. Second round I saw I was fifth overall so I thought I wouldn’t need another throw for the third round and I decided to save my energy.

“I’m really confident because the effort I put into the throw didn’t feel particularly hard, or as though I was at my absolute peak and really going for it. It makes it exciting. My thing now is I want this feeling for the final and I think I’ll be golden.”

Pearce was the first British athlete out on the track on day two of these Championships and ran a smart race to book himself a place in his maiden European final on debut in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.

Needing a top-eight finish to progress out of the heats on another very warm morning in Rome, Pearce was never out of contention for that and claimed the final place with a clocking of 8:34.46.

Pearce said: “That was cagey but really how we expected it to pan out. I am really pleased with how I executed my race plan and positioned myself for a really fast-finish. I have raced a couple of busy races so far this year, so I was prepared for this.”

Zak Seddon (Geoff Wightman, Bracknell) went off in the second of the two men’s 3000m steeplechase heats and looked good for much of the race, even after suffering a fall just before the halfway stage.

Seddon was back up almost immediately and with a lap to go still looked good for the top eight. Unfortunately, as the pace increased over the last 300m, eighth drifted away with Seddon placing tenth in 8:28.50.

He said: “I did what I wanted to do early on, which was get behind the leaders and stuff, but I fell on a water jump around 2km. It was really busy and I kept getting clipped.

“I fell over and got back up, and I then fought for my original position, when I think I should have just settled and I might have come through for top eight. That fall and then the surge just tired me out so I didn’t have it for the last lap. It is really frustrating.”

On a morning busy with qualification for British athletes, Hunt produced a strong performance in the third of the women’s 100m heats. Drawn in lane three, and after a good start, she surged through the final 50m to clock 11.26.

That was comfortably enough to advance to the semi-finals as the fifth quickest overall on what is her senior European debut in the country where she trains. Hunt said: “It was good, the aim was to focus on the first 30m, and I got a good start out. For me I find I warm up a lot going through the rounds, so the heat for me is always the hardest race.

“So we came out here and got the qualifying done, and we’ll be ready to turn it over and go again. This is my adopted home country, so I have got used to the heat. I run a lot better when it is super-hot, so it was good to have the heat.”

Alex Haydock-Wilson (Earl Herbert, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) – like Hunt – had to navigate heats as he went in the men’s 400m. He was strong through the first 100m and shoulder to shoulder with Switzerland’s Lionel Spitz coming round the bend.

Spitz surged ahead and Portugal’s Omar Elkhatib also came through as Haydock-Wilson finished third in the second of three heats in 46.04, which unfortunately would rank him 15th overall and just one place outside qualification.