13th July 2023
MEGAN KEITH CROWNED EUROPEAN U23 CHAMPION AS SERENA VINCENT SEALS SILVER
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland team hit the ground running on day one of the European U23 Championships in Espoo, Finland, with medals for Megan Keith [Gold – 5000m] and Serena Vincent [Silver – Shot Put] on the opening evening session.
Multiple European cross country medallist Megan Keith (coach: Ross Cairns, club: Inverness) secured her maiden continental track title as she won the women’s 5000m.
After a steady beginning, GB & NI’s Megan Keith and Eloise Walker (Trevor Painter, Edinburgh AC) sat comfortably in fourth and fifth positions in a race lead out by Germany’s Blanka Dorfel and Lisa Merkel. The U23 women kept an even pace until eight laps to go when Walker pushed forward to move into first place, with Spain’s Maria Forero hot on her heels, and Keith moving into third place.
The leading bunch of three continued to pull away from the rest of the race, until the final 200m, when Keith overtook both her teammate and Spain’s Forero to take first place, which she firmly held across the line, to finish in 15:34.33.
Behind Keith, there were scenes of concern for GB athlete, Eloise Walker, as she fell only 20m from the finish line having given it her all but made a valiant recovery to push across the line in fifth place in a time of 15:55.87.
Celebrating her gold medal, Keith said, “I told myself when I make a move, I needed to make it decisive and I’m really proud that’s what I did. I’m really happy to come away with the win, as we knew the race was going to be unpredictable. I looked at the screen around 300m to go, and hoped to have enough to keep going, as I saw I had made a gap. I ran at this track last year, and was disappointed how I ran, but I’ve been working hard since then and gained a lot of experience and I’m really happy with how it has gone.”
Earlier in the session, GB & NI’s first medal of the Championships came in the field as Serena Vincent (Mike Winch, City of Portsmouth) became Britain’s first women to win a shot put medal at the European U23 Championships.
It was a competition of ups and downs for the City of Portsmouth athlete after her excellent qualification to the final earlier in the day.
The U23 European Throwing Cup champion threw a personal best of 16.92m with her second attempt which consolidated her silver medal position which she would hold until the end of the competition. A curve ball came in the third attempt, with a throw of 13.66m, resulting from a slight injury to her finger, but she came back even stronger by increasing her lifetime best once again – by a marginal one centimetre.
The history maker commented afterwards, “To come away with a silver medal and two PBs, you can’t ask for more, especially on a European stage, so I’m really pleased with that. The level of shot put at the moment is so high, which is great to see, and the atmosphere here today was great, which pushed us all to throw better. It was always going to be one of those competitions that goes to the very last round.”
Jeremiah Azu (Marco Airale, Cardiff) took the Men’s 100m semi-finals by storm, setting a new Championship Record and PB of 10.04 (w/s +1.0). It was an improvement to his Welsh record set at the UK Athletics Championships last weekend.
The European Championship Bronze medalist was 0.24 seconds ahead of second place Nsikak Ekpo (Netherlands), proving he is setting his sights firmly on retaining the U23 Championship title he last won in 2021.
Commenting on his record breaking performance Azu added, “I hold the Welsh record, so to lower it again was great. I am a Championship performer, so I’m excited for tomorrow, to see what else I can give. I have been gifted a talent, and I’m grateful to be able to express this in front of people.”
Azu will compete in the men’s 100m final on Friday 14 July at 6:50pm (BST).
World U20 gold medallist, Yemi Mary John (Alan James, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) set the standards in the women’s 400m semi-finals as she flew into the final as the fastest qualifier after a superb performance.
Silver medallist at the European U20 Championships two years ago, John pushed hard from the very off, clocking a time of 51.80, ahead of Norway’s Henriette Jaegar in 52.78, to secure her spot in the final.
Olympic 800m Silver medalist, Keely Hodgkinson (Trevor Painter, Leigh) ran a solid race to advance to the final in a time of 52.44, to finish second in her semi-final, just behind Dutch athlete, Zoe Sedney, who was the second quickest qualifier with 52.11. Both British women will continue to the 400m final on Friday evening at 5.05pm (BST).
In the shorter sprints, Glasgow Jaguars’ Alyson Bell (Anne Scott) ran in a hotly contested 100m semi-final, equaling her PB time of 11.31 (w/s +1.7) to finish third and qualify automatically through to the final on Friday afternoon at 6:50pm (BST).
However, Aleeya Sibbons (Coral Nourrice, Newham & Essex Beagles) narrowly missed out on a place in the final, finishing in fifth place in a time of 11.42 (w/s +1.1).
Elise Thorner (Joe Franklin, Wells City) ran an extremely strong 3000m Steeplechase race, leading from the start to the finish to comfortably earn a place in the final, crossing the line in 9:52.95.
A very pleased Thorner said afterwards, “I haven’t done a steeplechase for longer than usual, so this was a bit of a test to see where the legs are. I’m really pleased with how this went and I’m happy that I can focus comfortably on the final”.
In the second and slower 3000m steeplechase heat, it was a more tactical affair but GB & NI’s Sarah Tait (Linda Smith, Glasgow Jaguars), navigated it well, holding strong into the final 1200m before a final push to seize fourth place in her heat, in a time of 10:06.35, to qualify through to the final.
After finishing the morning session on 1863 points in sixth place overall, Jodie Smith (Ashley Bryant, Windsor Slough Eton Hounslow) competed in the heptathlon shot put and 200m on Thursday evening.
In the throws events, her furthest distance of her series was 11.66m which added 639 points to the overall point tally. Back out on the track for the fourth event of the day, she ran a time of 24.65 (2.0) – just 0.14 outside her PB – to finish day one with a points total of 3421. Smith is currently sitting in eighth place heading into the final three events on Friday.
Kenneth Ikeji (Paul Head & Brandon Amo, Basildon) threw a best of 65.78m in a competitive men’s Hammer qualification group but that was not enough to see him advance to the final.
Over in the jumps, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow’s Temi Ojora also bowed out of the women’s triple jump qualifying. The NCAA Division 1 athlete jumped 12.93m (w/s -0.8) on her third attempt but she was not in the top 12 so did not progress.
Results can be found here