18th March 2022


A fourth-place finish in the women’s pentathlon for Holly Mills (coach: Laura Turner-Alleyne, club: Andover) and a top eight finish for team captain Sophie McKinna (Great Yarmouth) headlined the British performances on the first evening of action at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Belgrade.

Mills rounded off the women’s pentathlon with an impressive fourth place finish, owed to a strong evening session, with compatriot Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Petros Kyprianou, Liverpool) withdrawing from the competition after the long jump.

Johnson-Thompson led the British duo heading into the evening session in fifth position, with compatriot Mills sixth on 2773 and 2771 points, but it was the latter who climbed to fourth owed to   a second-round best of 6.28m for 937 points, with Johnson-Thompson notching a season’s best of 6.08m for 874 points.

Mills concluded her campaign with a bold front-run in the 800m front-running most of the way to a personal best 2:09.97, good enough for third spot and 965 points, but saw her miss out on bronze by just seven points, recording an indoor PB of 4673 points.

After the conclusion of the event, Mills said: “I really did give it absolutely everything and to be honest I ran exactly how the plan was. I went through 400m in 62secs, I stretched out to 500m and that last 200m was messy with the other girls coming up, a few heal clippings so I can’t look back and think ‘what if’. I went at it with everything I had and today it wasn’t enough, by half-a-second, so obviously that’s gutting but I did exactly what I set out to do.

“I turned around and I saw Kendell [Williams] cross the line and I was like ‘oh my god, this is going to come down to single figures’ and it did and she got it today so fourth for me, just missing out on the podium.

“Right now, the feeling is one of disappointment because you go through all that pain of running the 800m and you cross the line and it’s relief that you’ve finished but at the same time you just wish there was that extra half-a-second, so at the moment, yes, I am gutted but tomorrow when I look back and see my points PB and coming fourth in the world it’s not the end of the world.

“I definitely think I was one of the youngest in the field, I am a 2000 baby and they are all like eight or ten years older than me so I know I’ve got a long career ahead of me. This is what’s going to make me learn and make me move forward. Even though I still see myself as quite amateur in terms of multi-events because I’ve been doing it for the least amount of time out of everyone, I am actually meant to be here and I don’t look out of place and that I can content with these kind of athletes which is amazing.”

Following her withdrawal at the end of the fourth event, Johnson-Thompson added: “I’m fit and I’m happy, but I knew I couldn’t give it my all for the 800m, so I decided to withdraw from the last event in the Pentathlon.

“This was my first opportunity to compete since Tokyo and I wanted to test myself in a competition again. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve now got a plan in place for the rest of the season, and I’m now really excited to get back out there and defend my titles.”

Noor Vidts of Belgium claimed the event victory with a 2:08.81 personal best and the gold medal with 4929 points, followed home by Adrianna Sulek (POL) in 2:09.56 with 4851 points. Kendell Williams (USA) claimed bronze by the skin of her teeth in a season’s best 2:19.23 saw her clinch bronze with 4680 points.

Team captain McKinna concluded her campaign in the straight final of the women’s shot put by claiming eighth place, with British compatriot Amelia Strickler (Zane Duquemin; Thames Valley) taking 13th spot.

Olympic finalist McKinna opened up her series with a solid 18.40m, improving to 18.62m in the second round for the best effort of her series to secure a spot in the top eight for three further throws.

McKinna could not improve on the mark set in the second round as she secured eighth position overall, with Strickler’s best effort of the final coming in the third round of 16.86m.

Reflecting on her performance, McKinna assessed: ““If you’ve had told me this time last year that I’d have come eighth at the World Indoor Championships I would probably have been bouncing of the walls. I think because my training situation has changed and I’m now training around world-class shot putters my expectations for myself have gone up considerably. So yes, I think slightly frustrated because I know I am way better than that and there’s more in the tank.

“To come off the back of a PB and then to throw close to a PB again is pretty good you know, I can’t complain too much. There’s loads more there for the outdoors so it’s kind of an exciting time for me as well.”

In the final British action of the night, European 3000m gold medallist Amy-Eloise Markovc (Chris Fox, Wakefield) claimed a respectable 15th position on the world stage in 8:53.57.

In a tempo that ebbed and flowed, Markovc looked smooth early on, but as the pace quickened, the 26-year-old found herself run out of things as the pack got more and more strung out.

Markovc assessed: “I was trying to get position and then I felt like as I was trying to move out my legs just didn’t have it which is really frustrating because I know from training I’m in the best shape of my life.

“I knew I was ready for a really big one but I’m just annoyed. I knew it was going to be messy because there were 20 women which is a massive amount indoors and it went out a bit slower than I anticipated.

“I’m disappointed I couldn’t do it today when it mattered but I have to learn from it and try not to hold my head down.”

Away from finals action, in the women’s 60m, Daryll Neita (Marco Airale; Cambridge) and Cheyanne Evans-Gray (Nat Senior; Croydon) did not progress into the evening’s final, finishing fifth and sixth in their respective semi-finals.

In a tough final heat, Neita clocked 7.15s to miss the cut for the final by just two one-hundredths of a second, with British indoor champion Evans-Gray bowing out in the first semi-final, however she recorded a superb personal best of 7.19s for sixth place.

Over two laps of the track, a late charge from Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) was not enough as she and Ama Pipi (Marco Airale, Enfield & Haringey) both missed out on a spot in the final of the women’s 400m.

After an eventful morning for the British Indoor champion, who was reinstated following disqualification for stepping off the track, Knight returned to the boards in the second semi-final, clocking a season’s best of 51.93 for fourth position.

In the first semi-final, Pipi could not keep pace with Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson and Femke Bol of the Netherlands, with the Briton clocking 52.95s for sixth place in proceedings.