8th August 2023
EZE & REGIS TAKE GOLD & SILVER IN DRAMATIC EURO U20 FINAL IN ISRAEL
Joy Eze (club: Gateshead/Harrow) and Renee Regis (coach: Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai, BFT Track Academy) produced a blistering European Under-20 Championships one-two in an enthralling women’s 100m final on the second night in Jerusalem as Sean Anyaogu’s (Ossai, BFT Track Academy) bronze ensured the British team got off the mark in fine style with three medals.
The British pair were almost inseparable at the line as GB&NI won their first medals in Jerusalem with Eze controlling the race from the start and Regis coming through like a train to take it to a near photo finish. Just 0.01 second would separate them as Eze took gold in 11.39 (2.0) with Regis claiming silver in 11.40.
Moments later two British medals became three as Anyaogu produced his own fast finish to claim bronze in the men’s 100m final in 10.34. Elsewhere Jessica Duncton (Paul Gripton, Birchfield Harriers) was seventh in the women’s 100m hurdles and Rhys Allen (David Callaway, Newham & Essex Beagles) and Cleo Agyepong (John Hillier, Blackheath & Bromley) were both eighth in the men’s discus and women’s shot put respectively.
A flurry of British athletes were also in qualifying action for finals later in the Championships on the second evening in Israel and Luke Ball (Jeremy Dale, Yate) was among the best of them as he produced a perfect series of four clearances through to 2.11m in the men’s high jump to advance as equal first overall.
World Junior Championship sixth-placer from last year Abigail Ives (Luke Gunn, Basildon) was also impressive as she made certain of her progress to another major international final in the women’s 800m heats while Harry Ross-Hughes (Andrew Fraser, Wirral) also reached the men’s 800m medal showdown, following a nervous wait, as a non-automatic qualifier.
The British team’s medal tally stands at an even one gold, one silver and one bronze with plenty more finals action to come in Jerusalem and Eze said: “This is mindblowing. It is just amazing to become the champion. Coming to this competition, I just wanted a PB and then to see what it is enough for. Just to be on the list of all the British champions is a big honour for me.
“The big reward is that my hard work has paid off. At the finish line, I do not know what was actually going on. I did not know where I was at the finish line or what time it was. When I just saw the confirmation, my mind was just going crazy.
“When it comes to the weather, I almost got a heat stroke yesterday. It is good to have hot weather because it allows you to run faster. It was about the recovery and the help of my physio – the whole team – they were working together to get my body back in shape, recharging to stay focused for the race.”
The women’s 100m final was a race for the ages as Eze and Regis battled it out – like the heats and semi-finals would suggest. Eze – bronze medallist for the 2021 edition of the Championships – powered out of the blocks and controlled the majority of the race.
She would have been aware of a fast-finishing Regis though with the European under-18 bronze medallist from this very track last year storming through the last 50m to make it a straight shootout between the two Brits for gold.
Both dipped at the line and it was not immediately certain which way it would go – the scoreboard flashed up Eze in gold medal position in 11.39 while Regis was just 0.01 behind for silver in 11.40.
Regis said: “If we were next to each other it would have been like the greatest race but I can’t hate on it. I came second, close to my PB, and I am happy with my performance over these couple of days.
“I saw her [Joy] in my peripheral vision so I had to make sure that I was near her. I saw that I was down but I made sure my top end technique was all correct. I am happy with silver. Last year I was third so now I’m second so I am just moving up slowly.”
Both Eze and Regis came out to cheer on Anyaogu in the men’s 100m final, where he similarly finished fast to take bronze in 10.34 (0.6). Ranked outside the top ten on times this season heading to Israel, Anyaogu was a class act on the track and grabbed bronze with both hands.
He almost clinched silver too but was just short of Sweden’s Isak Hughes, who posted 10.31. Anyaogu said: “I am a bit upset at first but considering the scale of the event, it is alright. I didn’t have the best start, but I kept to my phases, and I tried to execute. I could feel myself catching up and maybe with another ten metres I would have caught them.
“I am proud of what I have achieved. I came into this competition ranked 13th so to come top three is an achievement. I always race to win, a part of me is upset but a larger part of me is content and happy.”
Duncton took to the start line in the women’s 100m hurdles final very much in contention after a fine run in the semi-finals earlier in the session, clocking a windy but good 13.32 (2.3m/s) to qualify for the final in sixth with 0.03 separating her all the way up to second. Those semi-finals saw British teammate Mia McIntosh (Jake Awe, Harrow) unfortunately bow out as she clocked 13.42 (2.3) for sixth in the opening race.
In the final Duncton would run 13.53 (0.5) for a valiant seventh place on her European under-20 debut.
She said: “I wasn’t expecting to be in the final. I’d say I was a bit ill prepared, but I am happy I made it and that’s it. It’s my first year [at under-20 level] so it’s experience.”
Booking a place in the men’s discus final was less than straightforward for Allen on day one as he had to wait until the end of the second qualification group to learn his fate but, out on the night, he more than made the most of the opportunity.
Opening with a 54.69m, he produced a best of 56.92m with his second effort which would end up being his best as he placed eighth overall. Allen recorded marks in all six of his throws, going no lower than 54.29m thereafter.
He said: “I was very, very nervous this morning [after qualification]. I came out and got a 54m first round and I felt great. I thought I could definitely get something out further, maybe push 60m and go for a medal, but I am happy to be top eight, it’s not a bad sound.
“I was 21st when the first start list came out, so I am way up there and I am glad to be way up there. I was trying to calm myself down and next time, no matter what happens, I know I can come back from it. If anything does happen in the future, I know I can make the final.”
At the same time as the women’s and men’s 100m finals and Allen’s discus final, Agyepong was in action in the women’s shot put final. She recorded a foul with her first effort but settled into the competition with a distance of 13.60m second time out.
The third round saw Agyepong hit 14.28m, which would be her best with marks of 13.80m and 14.02m thereafter before a foul with her last attempt. Her best of 14.28m placed her eight overall, like Allen.
Ball appeared at the Givat Ram Stadium earlier in the evening on the second night as the 12th ranked men’s under-20 high jumper in Europe this year but belittled his season positioning as he cruised through to the final, clearing every height he attempted first time in qualification group A.
That amounted to 1.98m, 2.03m, 2.07m and 2.11m with Ball never missing a beat – one of three to progress to the final perfect and so ranking him equal first overall as officials opted not to move to 2.14m with 14 athletes qualifying.
Ball is among a number of Brits making their GB&NI international debut in Jerusalem and admitted he will take a lot from his qualifying outing. He said: “Warm up was a bit dodgy if I’m honest. I slipped over on one of the jumps, knocked off another, so I was a bit worried.
“But I got into the competition. I cleared all first time and then they stopped it. It is really good confidence, especially as I know the track now. I think those warm-up jumps have made me realise it’s quite a fast track, potential to slip a little bit so i have to make sure I move my run up back a bit, put my foot in the right place and hopefully I can do something decent.
“Coming into this competition the whole aim was to get to the final, that’s where I sit in the order. Now that I have done that I can focus on myself and try and get a PB and see where that puts me in the end.”
Six other Brits were attempting to follow Ball’s lead as he finished, with the women’s 800m heats the next in the running order. Iris Downes (Colin Lancaster, Shrewsbury) was the first up in heat one and went through the first lap in 63 seconds in her personal pursuit of the final.
She was well positioned in third at the bell as the field bunched before the leaders started pulling away. Downes produced a strong final 100m to place fourth in that heat but 2:08.38 minutes was unfortunately not enough.
Ives was next up in heat two and looked strong at the front throughout the first 600m. From there Adela Holubova of the Czech Republic tried to pull away but Ives kept her close and as the line neared, she had a look around to see if more was needed.
It wasn’t with a top-two automatic qualifying position secured with a time of 2:06:46. That left heat three involving Indienne King (Trevor Painter, Wigan & District) needing to go a similar pace to bring non-automatic qualifying positions into play.
It was a quicker run race as well, which was strung out through 300m, with King keeping her composure in fourth. Bigger gaps appeared with 300m to go as the leaders pulled away – King battled valiantly to the line but would place fifth in 2:07.60 to narrowly miss out.
That means Ives will be the sole British finalist as fourth fastest overall, 12 months after finishing sixth at the World U20 Championships, and she said: “I definitely wanted to feel controlled doing it to give me that little bit of confidence for the final. It was still a little bit tough, but I think often running the heats is a little bit more tough than the final because it is about getting through but not using all of your energy.
“Colombia [World Juniors] last year gave me so much experience. It wasn’t only my first championships but my first time running three rounds in three days and that was a massive learning curve. Learning how to recover in between was super important as well.”
The men’s 800m heats were next with Ross-Hughes’ opening heat the one that would eventually set the pace for the other two to follow. The field was strung out at the bell, but Ross-Hughes stuck with it in fourth and pushed all the way to finish in 1:49.55.
With the top two in each heat qualifying automatically, fourth put Ross-Hughes in the second of two non-automatic qualifying spots at the point and with a wait on his hands. Heat two involving Finlay Hutchinson (Dean Miller, Notts) saw the Brit settle toward the back before he attempted to pick off places down the back straight with 300m to go.
Hutchinson kicked down the home straight to finish sixth in 1:50.80 only to be disqualified for an infringement, with Ross-Hughes’ still in contention for that non-automatic qualifying spot. David Race (Kyle Bennett, Gateshead) meanwhile positioned himself in third through the first 200m of the third and final heat and was part of a lead three nearly all in a line at the bell.
It began to string out thereafter and Race was second at one point however Jakub Dudycha of the Czech Republic started the kick with 200m to go with the Brit digging deep to finish fifth in 1:50.89. Ross-Hughes’ wait was now over and with third place in the third heat slower, he advanced to the final on his European under-20 debut.
The first event on the track on the second evening in Jerusalem with British interest was the men’s 110m hurdles featuring Joseph Purbrick (Tony Jarrett, Shaftesbury Barnet), who looked very good through more than half of the second of three semi-finals.
However, as Croatia’s Janko Kisak in the lane next to him appeared to stumble at hurdle eight, Purbrick couldn’t clear hurdle nine cleanly and ran through the last obstacle as his hopes of making the final appeared, at the time, to end in unfortunate circumstances after a promising start. He was placed eighth in his semi-final in 15.17.
However, after a successful appeal from the British team due to the incident in the race, Purbrick was given a solo rerun for a shot at the medal race, where he would need to run 13.48 or quicker to be added as a ninth finalist. Over an hour after he first appeared, Purbrick refocussed and came back out and battled but would clock 13.89.
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medallists:
Gold:  Joy Eze [Women’s 100m]
Silver:  Renee Regis [Women’s 100m]
Bronze:  Sean Anyaogu [Men’s 100m]