17th August 2022
HUGHES, AZU & NEITA DELIVER EUROPEAN MEDALS ON DRAMATIC NIGHT IN MUNICH
Zharnel Hughes (coach: Glen Mills; club: Shaftesbury Barnet) claimed silver and Jeremiah Azu (Helen James; Cardiff) and Daryll Neita (Marco Airale; Cambridge Harriers) both took bronze as Great Britain and Northern Ireland claimed three medals in a matter of minutes on the second night of the European Athletics Championships in Munich.
Defending champion Hughes clocked 9.99 seconds in a compelling men’s 100m final, won by Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs in 9.95 – equalling the Briton’s Championship record, while teammate Azu grabbed a brilliant bronze after a great race and dip for the line saw him set a new personal best of 10.13. Reece Prescod (Marvin Rowe; Enfield & Haringey) placed seventh.
Minutes later Neita was awarded bronze in the women’s 100m final after a three-way photo finish at the line, battling to a time of 11.00 in a race that saw defending champion Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie; Blackheath & Bromley) pull up with cramp and Imani-Lara Lansiquot (Stuart McMillan; Sutton & District) place fifth in 11.21.
Prior to the drama in each of the 100m finals, Jacob Fincham-Dukes (Zivile Pukstiene, Leeds City) thought he had underlined his potential with an extremely mature performance on the way to long jump silver on his European debut.
His outdoor personal best of 8.06m was matched by two others in the field but a third-round leap of 7.97m would prove decisive as his better series – at that point in time – guaranteed him silver. A protest against that opening mark however would push his final position down to fifth.
On an evening packed full of finals action and drama for the British team, Andrew Butchart (Gary Lough; Central) was seventh in the men’s 5000m final and Sam Atkin (Mike Collins; Lincoln Wellington) was ninth. Jade Lally (Zane Duquemin; Shaftesbury Barnet) was also ninth in the women’s discus while Joel Clarke-Khan (Robbie Grabarz; Thames Valley) booked his own chance at a medal after progressing out of qualification for the men’s high jump.
The night built brilliantly to the two biggest events and the men’s 100m final was first up involving Hughes, Azu and Prescod. There wasn’t much between the field out of the blocks but Hughes and Olympic champion Jacobs would pull clear after 75 metres.
Jacobs just edged ahead of the defending champion to take gold in 9.95 while Hughes also ducked under ten seconds for silver in 9.99. Hughes said: “I’m happy. It has been a tough season and to come out here and deliver, I am very proud of myself.
“I am very proud of Jeremiah. He was in the zone from the heats and then he came out and did it again. I wanted the gold medal. I was close with every possible stride I could give but Jacobs was just better than me.”
The battle for bronze was fascinating and it went to Azu in a personal best 10.13. He got off to a great start and maintained his momentum thereafter, dipping for the line to grab that bronze by 0.03.
Prescod finished seventh in 10.18 while teammate Ojie Edoburun (McMillan; Shaftesbury Barnet) unfortunately missed out on a place in the final after a 10.25 clocking in the third semi-final. And Azu said: “I saw first come up, I saw second come up and I said ‘surely I have done enough to get third?’ and I was waiting and waiting and waiting and I saw my name and just screamed.
“I am fit. I had a little niggle mid-season, I came through it and I have come away with a bronze medal. I can’t complain. I ran a PB. I am chopping time slowly. Every time I step on the track, I am hitting 10.1, 10.1. Obviously, I’m British so I’ve had a windy 9.9 – I need to make that legal now.”
For the first time in European Championship history there were three British athletes in a women’s 100m final and it also lived up to expectation. After Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji stormed out of the blocks, Neita and Germany’s Gina Lueckenkemper began to reel her in with 25 metres to go.
At this point Asher-Smith had pulled up with what would be cramp with the aforementioned trio all eventually finishing neck and neck at the line with the photo finish giving Lueckenkemper gold, Kambundji silver and Neita bronze.
Just 0.01 split the trio with Neita’s time 11.00. Teammate Lansiquot would place fifth in 11.21 and Neita said: “I was cramping up a lot just after the presentation. I haven’t cramped all year, which isn’t great. If you actually watch, I was probably saying a prayer on the start line just to get through the line in one piece, which I did.
“I honestly wasn’t going to race but who is going to believe me if I say I was cramping up before? I did my best and got a medal somehow. I feel like I ran on one leg. I have been racing a lot but I felt great in the call room and warm up leading up to the race.
“I set up my blocks and did my push out and was like ‘I’m cramping bad’ but what can you do in that moment. I am a fighter, so I got on the start line and ran and still somehow got a medal.”
Team captain Ashleigh Nelson (Leon Baptiste; City of Stoke) did not reach the final as she clocked 11.47 in the semi-finals while Asher-Smith was quick to dismiss talk of injury. She said: “I got cramp in my calves. I can’t be running on two cramping calves, which is crazy. I’m going to go back, have a chat with my recovery, have a chat with how I am hydrating and stuff. I came out the blocks feeling good. I am in good shape, which is why I am frustrated.”
Fincham-Dukes enjoyed what he thought at the time was the competition of a lifetime in the men’s long jump final. He could have hardly asked for a better start, leaping out to an outdoor personal best 8.06m – two centimetres shy of his outright career high mark – to set the tone.
Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou would overtake him with a second-round effort of 8.23m and go on to win gold with a Championship record 8.52m but for Fincham-Dukes his own series was to prove decisive, as the competition went on and ultimately finished, in the hunt for silver.
After a 7.63m second time out, it was his third effort of 7.97m that looked to have made the difference as Fincham-Dukes would be one of three athletes to leap 8.06m. His 7.97m was better than Thobias Montler’s and Jules Pommery’s next best.
In a dramatic final round neither the Swedish nor French athlete could go better. However, following a protest, his first jump [8.06m] was deemed a foul by the Field Referee. Great Britain and Northern Ireland appealed the decision, but this was reviewed by the Jury of Appeal and upheld so Fincham-Dukes will now place fifth in the competition.
Paula Dunn, the Team Leader, said, “We are obviously very disappointed for Jacob as the mark was originally given a green light in the competition. If it had been ruled a foul, it would have changed the whole complexion of the competition.
“We appealed the decision, but the Jury of Appeal agreed with the decision of the field referee. We did everything we could do, so we are sad for Jacob that this is the final decision.”
He was joined in the final by Reynold Banigo (Matt Barton; Sale Harriers Manchester) who placed tenth with a best of 7.66m.
In the first final involving British athletes to finish on the evening, Butchart was the top Brit in the men’s 5000m. In a relatively quiet first half of the race, Butchart was comfortable at the front before some drama was injected by a fall from Frenchman Felix Bour.
That didn’t impact Butchart who was in front of it, but it did look to hamper Patrick Dever (Alistair Cragg; Preston). The pace surged when world champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) decided to go for home with two laps to go with Butchart battling to hang on.
The medals would become unreachable, but Butchart pushed on to finish seventh in 13:31.47 while teammate Atkin powered through the field to finish two places behind in ninth in 13:32.35. Dever would end 21st in 13:45.89.
Butchart said: “It was hard, as expected I’d say. I’m disappointed not to medal but that’s the way it is. I felt comfortable but I just didn’t have the legs to go with the move. It’s annoying, seventh place again is beginning to feel like my unlucky number.”
Competing in her third successive European Championship final, Lally placed ninth in the women’s discus. She improved throughout the first three rounds going from 54.83m to 56.56m to 57.08m. That 57.08m was just shy – less than half a metre – of securing her a place in the top eight and a further three throws, however.
Clarke-Khan, and teammate David Smith (Ken Allan / Aston Moore; Shaftesbury Barnet), were the first Brits in action on the second evening in Munich in qualification in the men’s high jump.
Drawn in group B Clarke-Khan had a dramatic outing after clearing 2.12m immediately and 2.17m with his second effort. Down to a third and final attempt at 2.21m, he succeeded when it mattered most but needed an appeal to confirm his place in the final.
Smith meanwhile unfortunately couldn’t clear with three attempts at 2.21m in group A and, after having his place in the final made official, Clarke-Khan said: “That was a bit of a challenge. I’ve not made it easy for myself by leaving it to the third attempt but a final is a final, so I’ve done what I needed to do to get there.
“If I can just turn a few things around in the next couple of days, and be firing a bit technically better, that will be better in the final. I feel a lot more relaxed now that I’ve made it through, and I look forward to seeing what I can do on Thursday evening.”
Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal tally (4):
Silver: Eilish McColgan – 10,000m
Silver: Zharnel Hughes – 100m
Bronze: Jeremiah Azu – 100m
Bronze: Daryll Neita – 100m