7th July 2022
GB & NI FINISH EUROPEAN U18 CHAMPS WITH RECORD 16 MEDALS
Great Britain and Northern Ireland enjoyed another medal-laden evening on the final day of the European Athletics U18 Championships in Jerusalem. The team won a total of five medals this evening to take the overall medal tally to 16, beating the previous Great Britain and Northern Ireland total of 13 medals in 2016.
Ophelia Pye (400m Hurdles) and the girls medley relay both won gold whilst Stephanie Okoro (400m Hurdles), Iris Downes (800m) and the boys medley relay won bronze.
Ophelia Pye (coach: David Hemery, club: Marlborough Athletics) and Stephanie Okoro (Tony Benton, Havering) started the final day for Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal haul with gold and bronze in the evenings opening track event, the 400m hurdles.
Pye produced a stunning final 150m to take the gold medal with a Championship Record time of 58.09 – a time that improved upon her national record that she set in the semi-finals yesterday by nearly 0.5 seconds.
Okoro stormed the first 300m and held on to take the bronze medal in a personal best time of 58.44.
Speaking after the race Pye said, “It was a bit scary at first, everyone did seem to set off quite fast – particularly on the back straight, I was worried I was going to get left behind. But I stuck to my race plan and managed to battle it out and in the end and just about got it!”
Okoro added: “It’s amazing, to finish third in such a strong field is incredible. I came here really wanting to run a personal best and a medal would have been fantastic. Words cannot express how I am feeling!”
In the penultimate event of the championships, the girls medley relay won gold in dramatic fashion. 100m bronze medallist Renee Regis (Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai, BFT Track Academy) and 200m champion Faith Akinbileje (John Blackie, Blackheath & Bromley) got the team off to a fantastic start over the opening 100m and 200m legs. Akinbileje handed the baton to Rebecca Grieve (Francis Smith, Pitreavie) for the 300m leg. At the final changeover, the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team were sat in second position. Etty Sisson (Grant Barker, Charnwood), who finished fourth in the individual 400m final last night, sat on the shoulder of the Italian athlete until the closing stages to take the win on the line. The team’s time of 2:07.18 was a new Championship Record and a European U18 Best performance.
Speaking about that final leg, Sisson said, “I had to make sure I saved something for the home-straight, so I just sat on the Italian’s shoulder and gave it all I had at the end to bring home that gold medal for the girls.”
In a slow and tactical 800m final, Iris Downes (Colin Lancaster, Shrewsbury) hit the lead with 200m to go in her bid for a medal. As the finish line approached, she was in second place until a late lunge by Jana Becker (GER) saw Downes pipped on the line for the silver medal. Downes time of 2:09.56 saw her finish in the bronze medal position.
Ella Greenway (Joanna Evans, Cleethorpes) narrowly missed out on a medal finishing fourth in 2:10.30.
Speaking after the race Downes said: “When we hit that final 200m I thought ‘it’s a final, I may as well take it on’. My legs felt great at that point until around 50m to go and the other girls caught up with me.”
The final track event of the championships was the boys medley relay. Teddy Wilson (Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai, BFT Track Academy) got the team off to a great start on the 100m leg handing onto 100m sixth place finisher Dejaune Lingard (Ryan Freckleton, Cambridge Harriers) for the 200m leg. Dean Patterson (Norrie Hay, Glasgow School of Sport) stepped up in distance after his 200m final yesterday to run the 300m leg handing onto Tom Gaunce (Jake Awe, Dacorum) in second. Gaunce took the lead early into the leg but with 100m to go was caught by the chasing team and crossed the line in fourth place in a time of 1:53.75. However, it wouldn’t be a relay without any drama and a disqualification to the Danish team saw the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team promoted to the bronze medal position.
In the 2000m steeplechase final, Luke Birdseye (Shireen Higgins, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) narrowly missed out on a medal finishing fourth place, running a huge eight-second personal best to finish in 5:44.45. Oliver Patton (Robert Hawkins, Kilbarchan) finished 15th in a time of 6:09.25.
Laura Kerr, Team Leader, said: “These young athletes have embraced the opportunity to step onto the international stage. With 16 medals and 22 personal bests, many of them have significantly outperformed their rankings. I have been very impressed with their preparations, behaviours and execution and want to thank their parents and congratulate their personal coaches. It is vital these athletes continue to refine their skills, abilities and behaviours in order to fulfil their potential as senior athletes.”
Dan Wagner, British Athletics Performance Pathway Manager and Team Delegation Leader added: “The international age group championships are a key part of the Great Britain & Northern Ireland pathway, supporting & providing the experience to learn the key skills, abilities and behaviours needed to progress onto the senior international stage. This European U18 team have showcased exciting potential for the future with their performances but also their approach in preparation before and during the championships. Congratulations to athletes and their coaches and thank you to the tireless efforts of the team staff who guided them through the championships.”
Gold: Cleo Agyepong (shot put), Mia McIntosh (100m Hurdles), Nia Wedderburn-Goodison (100m), Charlotte Henrich (400m), Faith Akinbileje (200m), Annie Mann (1500m), Ophelia Pye (400m Hurdles) and Girls Medley Relay.
Silver: Jess Bailey (3000m)
Bronze: Edward Bird (3000m), Renee Regis (100m), Paige Stevens (shot put), Tendai Nyabadza (1500m), Stephanie Okoro (400m Hurdles), Iris Downes (800m) and Boys Medley Relay.