31st July 2021


Pole vaulter Harry Coppell cleared 5.65m to reach the final on his Olympic debut as five British athletes moved through to semi-finals on day two in Tokyo.

In a qualifying group with world record holder Armand Duplantis, Coppell (Scott Simpson, Wigan and District) cleared 5.30m, 5.50m and then 5.65m all at the first attempt.

The British record holder couldn’t clear 5.75 but gained a coveted Olympic final spot on countback as joint 12th place in qualifying.

“I thought I was done, but then it was obviously a roller coaster emotionally. It was a close call in the end,” said the 25-year-old.

“I’ve just got to get ready now and change tactics a little bit so we are ready for those bigger bars, but I can’t complain.

“My preparation hasn’t been the best so to come here, have a great training camp and have a competition with no failures, it’s really paid off.

“I’m just so happy I put together a good series of jumps so now I have to get ready to make those bigger bars for the final.”

On the track, Elliot Giles qualified from the quickest men’s 800m heat in Olympic history on a morning where trackside temperatures reached 34 degrees.

Giles and fellow 800m star Dan Rowden, sprint hurdle sisters Tiffany Porter and Cindy Sember and 400m hurdler Jessica Turner are now one race away from Olympic finals.

Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield) sat in the pack in his heat and watched Ferguson Rotich (KEN) launch a move at the bell, forcing him into a burn-up just to make the top three automatic qualifiers.

The British champion produced the goods with 1:44.49 and could even cruise the final 32 metres, coming home third.

Ahead of him, Rotich ran an incredible 1:43.75 – the fastest heat or semi-final clocking in Games history – including a 51.3 last lap.

“You expect that running in the semis, it was insane,” said the 27-year-old, set for Sunday’s 800m semi-finals.

“They kicked at 400 and I wasn’t interested, not up for it in the heats as we have to run tomorrow.

“I thought the boys would come back to me, but they managed to hold it in the heat which was absolutely phenomenal.

“I was running to qualify, that was always the main aim. I see tomorrow’s race being exactly the same.”

By contrast, 1:45.73 was enough for 2020 British champion Rowden (Matt Yates, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) to take second and ease down behind USA’s Clayton Murphy.

Rowden said: “I haven’t actually raced in a while, so it was good to get a run out and just feel the racing in my legs. It was a good confidence booster.”

Meanwhile Oliver Dustin (Graeme Mason, Border) couldn’t get in the right position to produce his strong sprint finish, leaving himself too much to do and missing qualification with sixth in 1:46.94.

In the opening heat of the women’s 100m hurdles, Rio 2016 fourth-placer Sember (Jeff Porter, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) clocked 13.00 (+1.0) to go through.

“I didn’t have a very good reaction to the gun, so I think that threw me off,” said Sember, joined by her sibling in tomorrow’s semis.

“But I know for a fact that tomorrow I will be better. It is not a true representation of how training has been going so I’m excited to make it through and I’ll move on.”

It was a similar tale for Porter (Jeff Porter, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) in the fifth heat, as she qualified by finishing fourth in a time of 12.85 (+0.3).

Over lower barriers, Turner has brought down her personal best four times this season and navigated one of the faster 400m hurdles heats to seal automatic qualification for Monday’s semi-finals.

In a heat with one athlete not starting and another false starting, Turner produced 56.83 and held off the charge of Australia’s Sarah Carli, finishing fourth.

“I think I’ve got the potential to go to the final if I can run what I have been running this season,” said Turner who competes again on Monday.

“I’ve had a tough run-up to this race, so I’ve not been able to train properly due to injury but I’m just happy to get around in one piece and to get that automatic spot.

“I think if I can run a good 54 or a PB I’m confident I can get through to the final, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Meghan Beesley (Benke Blomkvist, Birchfield) finished seventh in her heat, her ninth major Championships outdoors coming on the biggest stage of them all.

The 31-year-old made a typically fast start, holding a visible lead over the second barrier and cut the tape in 55.91.

Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) took a heavy fall at the first hurdle in a heat featuring world record holder Sydney McLaughlin and did not finish.