11th June 2024


Keely Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter, club: Leigh) and the men’s 4x400m and women’s 4x100m relay teams all navigated qualification exceptionally on the penultimate morning of action at the European Athletics Championships in Rome, Italy.

Returning to the track following a comfortable victory in her heat just yesterday, reigning European champion Hodgkinson showed all of her class to lead the first of the women’s 800m semi-finals from gun to tape.

Going through 400m in just shy of 58 seconds after a swift opening 200m, Hodgkinson looked utterly supreme as she stretched away off the final bend, moving away from the pressuring Anaïs Bourgoin of France to  take victory in a swift 1:58.07.

In the same heat as Hodgkinson, and having stayed in touch with the automatic qualifying spots over the first 400m, Erin Wallace (Trevor Painter, Giffnock North) found herself jostling for a strong position down the back straight as other athletes made their moves for the front.

Keeping to the inside before needing to come wide for some much-needed room off the final bend, Wallace dipped for the line in 1:59.89, her third quickest time ever over the distance, but sadly her sixth-place finish was not enough to see her through to tomorrow’s final.

Reflecting on her performance, Hodgkinson said: “This is way too early for me and less than 24 hours since the last race. I felt good – I think today I wanted to be a bit more where I was comfortable with on the pace. A couple of the girls were saying thank you afterwards because they got PBs!”

For Wallace, it was a mixture of disappointment in the outcome, but pride with her time: “I think I give it my best shot but I kind of got stuck a few places. But I’m really, really disappointed to not make the final but I think you can’t be too disappointed running sub two like that. I still feel quite new to the event so any time under two minutes is great. But I’m pretty gutted to be honest.”

In the second of the two women’s 800m semi-finals, Alex Bell (Andrew Henderson, Leeds) finished fourth in 2:00.57, a placing and time both not enough to make the final.

Opting to push into third shortly after the 400m mark, Bell was reeled in by Poland’s Angellika Sarna and Swiss athlete Lore Hoffman and bumped into fifth, before then motoring back to push into fourth and cross over.

Post-race Bell said: “I don’t think I just missed; I think I was a long way off. I am happy and disappointed at the same time. Obviously, everyone wants to strive to be a finalist, you take the good with the bad and the bad with the good sometimes. A few weeks ago, I was at a low point and I didn’t think I would be coming to the championships anyway so I can still take a lot of positives from a negative performance if that makes sense.”

There was a commanding victory for the quartet of Lewis Davey (Trevor Painter, Newham & Essex Beagles), Michael Ohioze (Craig Cox, Shaftesbury Barnet), Toby Harries (David Sadkin, Brighton Phoenix) and Charlie Carvell (Stewart Marshall, Telford AC) as the men’s 4x400m team qualified into tomorrow’s final with victory in their heat.

Led out by a solid first-leg from Davey, the first handover into Ohioze saw Britain sat between third and fifth as athletes broke from their lanes at the 500m mark.  Making considered and timely moves to up Britain’s placing, Ohioze burst from fifth info third down the home straight before handing into Harries.

Ripping by both Poland and Italy down the back straight, Harries kicked away over the final 100m to give anchor Carvell a notable lead and a task to stick to.

Powering on down the back straight, Carvell did just that, as he kept the late charges of both Italy and Hungary at arm’s length, securing victory for Britian in a season’s best of 3:01.69

Lead-leg Davey said: “I just tried to get Michael in the best position possible. The main objective was to get us through the heat in the top three. It has given us a lot of confidence that we have finished first in the heat. We won this event in Munich in 2022, so we want to do it again.

Debutant on leg two of the 4x400m, Ohioze added: “I haven’t run second leg before so I thought I ran the first 200m well enough without having to go on the outside when it got to 200m. I could have pushed a little bit more, but I felt I was in a good position to bring it home, work on the final 100m and give Toby a position from where he could continue fighting on.”

Fresh from his superb leg, Harries said: “It went exactly as I wanted. My strategy from Martyn (Rooney) was just make space for Charie to finish it off, that was either in the first 200m or coming home in the final straight. For me, as a 200m runner normally, I just saw the pace they were going on the back straight and thought ‘I could come past these guys’

Carvell heaped praise on the work done prior to his leg, saying: “The boys set it up brilliant for me. Lewis got us off to a great start, Michael was consistent and worked the top bend so well. Toby got out so well and set it up for me so nicely, so I thought I’ve got to carry this home and not let the boys down.”

Following suit with victory of their own, the women’s 4x100m quartet set the track alight with a European leading time for safe passage into the final.

Kicked off by Asha Philip (Amy Deem, Newham and Essex Beagles), the team set out a strong start as Philip found individual 100m finalist Amy Hunt (Marco Airale, Charnwood).

Hunt ran a magnificent leg, both moving in on the Polish team outside of her and leaving those on the inside trailing heavily. Hunt safely found 100m gold medallist Dina Asher-Smith (Edrick Floréal, Blackheath & Bromley), with Asher-Smith then showing all of her class to whip round the final bend and find her team-mate Desiree Henry (Steve Fudge, Enfield & Haringey).

Running in what is her first European championships since 2016, Henry showed no sign of giving up any metre of lead, scorching down the straight and away from those in pursuit to cross the line in 42.25, a marker for both the team and the wider competition through qualifying.

Lead-leg Philip said: “I’ve been in the event for a few years now, and the athletes we’ve had in the relay in the past have been very talented, but the pool of athletes is so strong and so solid. It is what we want to see, we want to see Great Britain in the mix.”

On both the performance and her return to a British team, Henry added: “Honestly, this has been a journey. I’m back now, I’m healthy, and this is an exciting time. This has been years in the making. It is an honour to run with these girls. This is the level of British sprinting and I am honoured to be one of them again.”

There was disappointment for the men’s 4x100m team, as the quartet of CJ Ujah (Steve Fudge, Enfield and Haringey), Jona Efoloko (Ryan Freckleton, Sale Harriers Manchester), Richard Kilty (Gateshead) and Romell Glave (Michael Afilaka, Croydon) finished eighth in their heat.

Experienced lead-off leg Ujah set the team away from lane eight, handing over to Efoloko on the back-straight. In contention with leaders Poland and Germany, Efoloko reached to find the hand of Richard Kilty as the team endeavoured to keep the momentum among much changing of position in the lanes around them.

Coming off the final bend, an untidy final exchange left anchor leg Glave to bring the team over the line in eighth place with a time of 39.60.

Recognising this was the team far from their best, the highly experienced Kilty said: “It is a new team. We have never run that particular order before, we are trying things out for the Olympics, so we have to test people out on different legs before it, which makes sense. But, we are just really disappointed with that, it is all just very much a blur.

“The changeovers weren’t as great from the feeling of them. We’ll look over them and look at the data. There will be something analysed all over the track which we could have done better. We are a team; we are a unit. We win together, we lose together. We go back from this and learn from it.”

Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally:

GOLD: [2]: Women’s Half Marathon Team, Dina Asher-Smith – Women’s 100m

SILVER [3]: George Mills – Men’s 5000m, Georgia Bell – Women’s 1500m, Charlie Dobson – Men’s 400m

BRONZE [4]: Lizzie Bird – Women’s 3000m steeplechase, Romell Glave – Men’s 100m, Calli Hauger-Thackery – Women’s Half Marathon, Molly Caudery – Women’s Pole Vault

Results: https://live.european-athletics.com/ECH2024/lrs/home