10th August 2023
GB & NI CLAIM 4X400M RELAY GOLD & TWO SILVERS TO END EURO U20S ON HIGH
Captain Charlie Carvell, Jake Minshull, David Race and Sam Lunt ensured the European Under-20 Championships had a golden ending in Jerusalem as they combined to claim the men’s 4x400m title while Abigail Ives and the women’s 4x100m quartet added silvers as Great Britain & Northern Ireland ended with ten medals in total.
Carvell (coach: Stewart Marshall, club: Telford) delivered a captain’s performance on the opening leg with Minshull (Coventry) building a huge lead which Race (Kyle Bennett, Gateshead) maintained before Lunt (Andrew Fraser, Wirral) comfortably held off a German charge for the British men’s 4x400m team to defend their European under-20 title in the final event of the Championships in a time of 3:06.89 minutes.
Ives (Luke Gunn, Basildon), who finished sixth at the World U20 Championships in Colombia last year, had earlier set the GB&NI team on their way with a superb silver in the women’s 800m final as 16 athletes competed across eight events on the closing night at the Givat Ram Stadium.
The British women’s 4x100m relay quartet of Renee Regis (Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai, BFT Track Academy), Sophie Walton (Trevor Williams, Horwich), Joy Eze (Gateshead/Harrow) and Success Eduan (Anita Richardson, Sale Harriers Manchester) claimed the second silver of the final night in Jerusalem, 0.08 outside the national record in 43.86 seconds.
Three Brits fell just short of the podium in fourth place. Emily Newnham (Nick Dakin, Shaftesbury Barnet) was the most agonising of them all, scorching to a personal best of 57.02 but missing out on bronze by less than a thousandth of a second in the women’s 400m hurdles and James Dargan (Mick Woods, Aldershot Farnham & District) unfortunately just missed out on the podium in the men’s 5000m.
Natasha Phillips (Dundee Hawkhill) was fourth in the women’s 5000m in different circumstances as she battled her own race to take the position while there was joy for Lunt even before the 4x400m relay as in the men’s 400m hurdles final as the 17-year-old took another 0.30 off his personal best to clock 50.89 for seventh. Elsewhere Harry Ross-Hughes (Fraser, Wirral) was eighth in the men’s 800m final.
The golden ending in the men’s 4x400m relay – which saw captain Carvell, who was part of the team that won the European under-20 in 2021, claim a second medal in Israel after silver individually in the one-lap event – pushed the overall medal total for the British contingent after four days of action to ten, two gold, four silver and four bronze.
Carvell said: “Two years ago I came here with a different set of boys, it is good to be back-to-back. The 4x400m is a team effort and Alex and Otis put in a shift in the heats and they got us to that final and big shout out to coach Jake, he set us up well. It is an honour to be European champions.”
Carvell has been leading by example these entire Championships since being named captain and his opening leg in that 4x400m relay final was no different. He almost reeled in his French rival by the first 100m and definitely had done so by 200m.
He dug deep down the home straight to hand over to Minshull in the lead, who then at the cut in was five metres ahead of Germany. From there it was clear where the battle would be, but Minshull extended away to pass to Race with an advantage of ten metres.
Race, who competed in the 800m at these Championships, ran a faultless third leg to keep it that way and kept his composure to hand over to Lunt – back out on the track minutes after smashing his 400m hurdles personal best.
The gap between Lunt in the lead and the German team in second did narrow to a couple of metres but the 17-year-old was never going to let it slip and powered around the final bend to stop the clock for the British quartet at 3:06.89.
Carvell added, “My job was just to get the boys off to a good start. Get a bit of a lead and just make that gap as big as possible. I think I set it up well for the boys and they did the rest.”
Minshull said, “Charlie got me into a great position and I just thought, get a clean changeover – and like David – I have got a bit of 800m experience. Hit the line through 200m, put the afterburners on the back straight and make sure they can’t catch me on the last 200m.”
Race added, “A came into the Championships not knowing that I would be doing the 4x400m relay and I have come out of it with a European gold medal – I can’t really complain at all. Props to the boys for helping us out through it and being a great help.”
As for Lunt, he said, “I got a nice little PB in the 400m hurdles and this was a bit more relaxed to a degree – still a lot of pressure – but I used to hitting lactic now. It was good, a very good experience bringing it home. He [Germany] was never catching me. He thought he was, I was teasing him.”
Ives is an experienced campaigner having finished sixth at the World U20 Championships last year and she made sure she was positioned in third at the cut in shortly after the first 100m of the women’s 800m final.
She was fourth at the bell as Norway’s Malin Hoelsveen tried to muscle in. Ives remained cool, calm and composed however and with 200m to go made a move that would essentially wrap up silver despite the efforts of those behind her in the latter stages.
Ives claimed the British team’s first medal on the final night of these Championships in Jerusalem in 2:05.89 and she said: “It didn’t play out to how I thought it would at all. I thought it was going to be quite quick. It ended up going off quite slow, which is something you have to adapt to because you can’t plan a race 100 per cent out.
“I am really happy with how I executed it. I stayed calm, especially down the back straight because I was a little bit boxed in and I was thinking ‘do I try and go wide’ but I stayed patient and hoped a gap would come and it did.
“I do back myself – even if it was four abreast – but the fact that it did string out just meant I had to maintain it instead of actually trying to extend. I think it just played out really well in the end.
“I have had a bit of a difficult season with a niggle but my aim this whole year has been to medal here, and I am just really happy. Thankful that my coach got me here in time – it was a trust the process moment this season and it has paid off.”
Three of the British women’s 4x100m relay quartet were bidding for their second medal of a busy Championships of racing as the final arrived in the middle of the session – Regis, Eze and Eduan.
Unchanged in line up and order, Regis, the 100m silver medallist here in Jerusalem, started the British quartet’s medal charge and ran a strong opening bend before handing over to Walton on the backstraight.
There was little to separate the field at this stage but when Walton handed over to 100m champion Eze after a fine second leg, the French had made a huge mistake, although the Brit remain focussed on getting to Eduan.
She ran a great second bend with Eduan presented with the chance to chase down Germany’s Holly Okuku on that last leg. The 200m bronze medallist came extremely close after a superb effort with very little separating the two nations at the line.
Germany were awarded gold in 43.82 with the British quartet clocking 43.86 – just 0.08 outside the national under-20 record – as they medalled in the event for the eighth successive European Under-20 Championships.
Regis said, “I feel happy with our performance. Obviously we all aim for the gold but we got a season’s best, we can’t be mad about it. The baton got around safely so it is good. I am glad about the two medals – I wish it was gold but that’s life. I am so proud of our performance, and I can’t wait to see what’s more.”
Walton added, “It is amazing running with the team. They are all very, very quick girls and all medalled at the Championships. We have been doing this relay, practicing all year for it with the Futures programme. Doing that has really helped us to prepare for these Championships. We’ve won a medal, got the baton round and I am happy with how I did.
“The 200m was really close. I am gutted I didn’t make it to the final because I know I could have shown more but it was just one of those things. It will make me better for the next one.
Eze said: “Our changeover was a bit iffy but we still managed to get it and maintain a medal position around the bend and I gave it to Success and hoped for the best. We literally tried our hardest, you can’t expect much more from us.
“Some of us having been racing two days in a row, to come out there and still give our best, we should be proud of ourselves regardless of the outcome. I am feeling it right now.”
Eduan said, “2021 was the same thing, we had to chase them down as well but obviously this wasn’t the same [result]. I am really, really grateful for the team, for the girls that we have been around.
“We are really happy that Sophie was able to make the team and make the relay. We are thankful to the Futures programme. We have been doing the relay for three years. We have such a good chemistry. We know each other really well.”
The first of the eight finals featuring British athletes on the closing night went effectively the same way as the last one of the morning did with Newnham missing out on a medal in the women’s 400m hurdles by the width of her vest.
Attacking the final, Newnham was part of a group of four coming around the final bend and surged into medal contention in third. She dug deep through the last 100m but would be edged out of bronze at the line by barely any margin at all.
It took a photo finish to separate Newnham and Alexandra Stefania Uta of Romania – both awarded 57.02 – a significant personal best for the Brit and the only one in the final to run quicker than they ever have done before.
The margin between Newnham in fourth and Uta in bronze couldn’t have been smaller as the Brit – a debutant at these Championships – missed out on a medal by less than a hundredth of a second.
The British men’s 5000m trio – Dargan, Conan Harper (Joe Boardman, Giffnock North) and George Couttie (Joanne Day, Harrogate) – had to wait the longest of all of the team to take to the track at the Givat Ram Stadium – being patient until the penultimate event of the entire Championships involving GB & NI athletes.
They turned up though and led through the first 400m before Hungary’s Gabor Karsai decided he would go out on his own. The British trio would be in a line chasing him down and with six laps to go he was effectively caught.
A lap later Turkey’s Utku Goler had pushed to second as Karsai went again. Dargan was now the lead Brit, being joined by Harper with three laps to go. The penultimate lap saw a lot of change as the group chasing Karsai became five but still involving Dargan.
At the bell Karsai was reeled in and Dargan kicked around the back straight for bronze. There were still four in contention by this point however and coming into the home straight Dargan was unfortunately the fourth of them.
He battled to line to claim fourth place in 14:15.52 while Harper was 17th in 14:36.20 and Couttie was 20th in 14:47.82.
After his fourth place finish, Dargan said, “I pushed a bit early I think. The lactic hit me hard in the last 100m. It was really, really tough to see it slipping away but I am really happy – I can’t be disappointed with a fourth.
“The guy that took it out at the front was flying – I was thinking ‘what on earth is going on here’. I had to sit and hope for the best. I was waiting for the top three to come through, they were always going to come through so I wanted to sit and hope I could cling onto them at the end. It didn’t quite work out.
“It was a long wait, trying to keep focussed, but I think it worked out quite well. It was nice to acclimatise and get myself together. I’ll be back next year. I want to be singing the national anthem, I want to be up on the podium. I’ll take this loss and build from it.”
The women’s 5000m went off at a rapid pace with the whole field – which included Phillips and Olivia Martin (Bernard Wilkins, Abingdon) – spread with barely a lap gone.
Phillips would run the vast majority of the race on her own in fourth place as the lead three surged ahead and later strung out themselves. Martin meanwhile remained in the main pack behind. She had company with nine laps to go as she was joined by Turkey’s Edibe Yagiz but the Briton soon dropped her and kicked on to comfortably secure fourth place in 16:23.63. Martin would battle to the end, placing a valiant 19th in 17:25.58.
She said post-race, “It was tough to keep going on. I probably should have stuck to more of a group but I have only done it twice on the track before and once was solo, so I didn’t have much experience. I am just happy it wasn’t a tactical race as I really hate them.
“She [the Turkish athlete] kept clipping my heels and I have never had that before in a race – and I needed to get away from that. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. The last 200m I looked around and was like ‘wow’. It was absolutely incredible.
“It has been a long wait – some people were done on Monday – it is tough waiting until the end. I am really pleased and what an incredible experience. Fourth in Europe sounds pretty good and I was ranked fourth coming in and I came fourth, so I have held onto my place.”
The British personal bests followed back-to-back as shortly after Newnham’s, 17-year-old Lunt blitzed his way to his second in as many days at the Givat Ram Stadium as he finished seventh in the men’s 400m hurdles final.
Lunt showed tremendous speed throughout the race, which would be displayed in the time as despite appearing to make a slight error at hurdle six, he stopped the clock in a time of 50.89 – exactly 0.3 faster than he went in the semi-finals.
He only raced the 400m hurdles for the first time in 2021 and after exceeding expectations in the Holy City he said, “It was an amazing race. It is a privilege to be here. To come away with that time, be able to break the age group British record held by my friend Onyeka, is absolutely brilliant.
“I expected to come to these championships and hopefully make the semis and I made the final – so there’s not much more I could ask for. Technically it wasn’t my best race of the year, but I want to say thank you to Andy my coach. He got me here; he gave me something to live for – I am just so grateful for him every day.
“We always thought we could get sub 51 but it just wasn’t clicking, and I got it to click there. Hopefully I can go into world juniors next year even faster hopefully and even more experienced at these big stages. This is my first one and it’s been very good.”
Ross-Hughes positioned himself towards the rear of the pack as the men’s 800m got underway and the field was almost single file up to the bell. He was just starting to make his way through the field when he appeared to be obstructed by Germany’s Alexander Stepanov. That derailed Ross-Hughes’ charge but he kept battling to line to cross in eighth in 1:52.68.
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medallists:
Gold:  Joy Eze [Women’s 100m], Men’s 4x400m relay
Silver:  Renee Regis [Women’s 100m], Charlie Carvell [Men’s 400m], Abigail Ives [Women’s 800m], Women’s 4x100m relay
Bronze:  Sean Anyaogu [Men’s 100m], Bradley Giblin [Men’s 3000m], Success Eduan [Women’s 200m], Michael Allison [Men’s javelin]