13th July 2023


The opening morning session of the European U23 Championships in Espoo, Finland kick started in blistering hot conditions as several Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes ensured their progression.

Olympic silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson (Coach: Trevor Painter, Club: Leigh) and World U20 champion Yemi Mary John (Alan James, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) both serenely qualified for the 400m semi-finals.

Co-Captain, Hodgkinson, who has stepped down to the 400m distance in Espoo, won heat four in 53.08, while John, who is competing at this age group for the first time, won heat two in 53.16.

Hodgkinson said, “It’s a different race than the 800m and I’m still working out how to run the 400m, so today was good practice. I don’t get the chance to do many 400m as I’d like to so today was a great opportunity to race, and the conditions were good, with a little bit of wind on the back straight. I’ll go back now to speak to my coach to assess my performance ahead of the next round.”

John added, “The weather and the track are both good and I’m looking forward to the rest of the competition and hopefully I’ll get some fast times.”

Both athletes will compete in the semi-finals at 3.55pm (BST) this evening.

A first round effort of 16.35m saw Serena Vincent (Mike Winch, City of Portsmouth) automatically qualify for Thursday evening’s [16:05 BST] women’s shot put as the top ranked athlete. The European U23 champion from the Throwing Cup earlier this year, is one of the favourites for the event, and she further consolidated that with her performance on the first morning of competition.

Following her event, Vincent commented, “This is going to be my last chance for age group Championships, so I wanted to come out here, knowing what I was capable of doing, and hopefully get a medal. I’m really excited for the final, and now I get to relax a little before this evening.”

After starting her 2023 season in the form of her life, Charlotte Payne (Paul Dickenson, Reading) made light work of women’s hammer qualification as she sailed into Friday’s final. It was relatively straightforward for Payne as she achieved the auto qualification mark on her second effort with a mark of 66.92m, the second furthest overall.

Speaking afterwards the UK senior champion said, “I am so relived, as I never usually auto-qualify, I’m normally fighting for those spaces. I’m really proud of that, even if I wasn’t getting those big throws, I got the job done, so now I can move onto the final”.

Team Captain and reigning European U23 champion Jeremiah Azu (Coach: Marco Airale, Club: Cardiff) showed his class to smoothly move into the men’s 100m semis after clocking a steady 10.44 (0.7) to finish second in his heat.

Aleeya Sibbons (Coach: Coral Nourrice, Club: Newham & Essex Beagles) and Alyson Bell (Coach: Anne Scott, Club: Glasgow Jaguars) moved into the women’s 100m semi-finals which take place this evening. Both athletes finished second in their heats to qualify; Sibbons in 11.52 (-0.9), while  Bell clocked 11.42 (0.6) in a later heat.

Commonwealth finalist Matthew Stonier (Sonia & Chris McGeorge, Invicta East Kent) qualified through to the men’s 1500m final with ease. With the top six automatically advancing to the final for a shot at the medals, he manoeuvred his way into fourth position across the line in a time of 3:45.47.

There was further means to celebrate in the women’s pole vault as Jade Spencer-Smith (Richard Humby, Harrow) cleared 4.20m to make it through as part of the top 12. She will be back in action on Saturday afternoon.

Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow’s Jodie Smith (Ashley Bryant) was one of the first British athletes in action on day one as she began her women’s heptathlon campaign.

Over the 100m Hurdles she finished third – and third fastest overall – in her heat with a time of 13.62, giving her 1033 points. Such is the quick turnaround of the combined events, she was soon back out in the hot conditions in the high jump. After first time clearances at 1.62m and 1.65m, Smith needed all three jumps to get over the 1.68m bar. Three fouls at 1.71m meant she finished the morning on 1863 points in sixth place overall.

Despite a throw of 52.52m, Chukwuemeka Osammor, (James Taylor, Sheffield & Dearne) narrowly missed out on a place in the final. Anything above 53.14m would have seen him through but his first round effort was to be his best.

Brodie Young (James McMenemy, Glasgow Jaguars) missed out on a place in the men’s 400m semi-finals after finishing fourth in his heat. With only the top three going through automatically, his time of 46.99 was not enough to see him go through as a non-automatic qualifier.