16th July 2023
LEONARD ADDS 10,000M GOLD AT RECORD-BREAKING EURO U23 CHAMPS FOR GB & NI
Great Britain and Northern Ireland topped the medal table after a stunning final day for the team as Rory Leonard made it a clean sweep on long distance track titles with gold in the 5000m, and a silver and two bronzes were added to the final tally at the European U23 Championships.
Ethan Hussey came through for silver in an entertaining men’s 800m contest, while there were bronze medals for Shannon Flockhart in the 1500m and the men’s 4x400m relay to round off a scintillating week for the team in Espoo, Finland as they topped the medal table for the first time in the Championships history.
It was Morpeth’s Rory Leonard who stole the show during the morning session as he dominated the contest to take home the 10,000m gold.
Following the impressive performance by Alice Goodall in the women’s race yesterday, Leonard and teammate, Tomer Tarragano (Dean Miller, Brighton & Hove) were looking to make it a clean sweep of titles across the 5000m and 10,000m for GB & NI.
Content to stay within the chasing pack, both Leonard and Tarragano kept an even pace in the early stages, passing the 3000m mark in 8:57.23 and 9:00.23 respectively. It wasn’t until the 4000m point, that Norwegian duo of Philip Massacand and Abdullahi Dahir Rabi upped the pace of the chasing pack, with GB’s Leonard hot on their heels. The runners were tightly packed and setting a swift pace.
Leonard and Tarragano held firm, with Leonard going through the halfway mark in 14:58.10, sitting in fifth place and Tarragano in 14:59.79, in 22nd place, the group still showing no signs of thinning out, until Spain’s Adria Ceballos took the lead at 6000m, and increased the tempo significantly to stretch out the field.
The increase in speed suited Oklahoma student, Leonard, as he extended his stride to stay in fourth place, just behind Norway’s Rabi. Tarragano meanwhile was in a smaller group some paces back with France’s Guilhot and Norway’s Buras, and still looking strong.
Making a break for it at the 8000m mark, Leonard lead the pack to reel in Poland’s Gos, and overtake him, and this swift acceleration led to him dropping the rest of the field. It was then a one-man show at the front, with Leonard strolling to the finish line in 29:08.33.
It was a different story for European Cross Country finalist, Tarragano, as the battle continued with Guilhot and Buras, but Tarragano stayed strong and passed both men to take 20th place in a time of 30:33.52.
Speaking afterwards Leonard said, “It feels really good today. I’ve pictured this moment a million times before, whether it’s at European Cross or on the track. I’ve lost a lot of people in the last three years, and with that comes a lot of grief. I have so many good people in my corner, who have saved me so many times through my grief. So going out today, I knew I was running for more than myself and even with putting in the training and the miles, I knew I could dig deep to find that extra little bit.”
Tarragano reflected on his experience, adding, “It was tough out there today. The 10,000m is a really long length, and I’m not sure I put in my best performance, but I was really happy to be there. I never thought I was a track runner, but I think today I proved that I am.”
In the men’s 800m Ethan Hussey (Andrew Henderson, Leeds City) added a silver European medal to his collection, having won Bronze at the World U20 Championships last year, after a strong final sprint to the line.
After finding himself at the back of a group of six with 300m to go, Hussey negotiated himself out of the traffic to reach the final bend in third position alongside Frenchman Paul Anselmini but he had enough to accelerate passed him to secure the silver medal in 1:45.95, narrowly just 0.03 seconds behind France’s Yanis Meziane in gold.
Teammate, Sam Reardon (Nigel Stickings, Blackheath & Bromley) came through in fifth place in a time of 1:47.06, before swiftly returning to the call room to join the 4x400m relay team which would set off just 30 minutes later.
The men’s 4x400m relay was some of the fastest work on the track during the championships, with the top six all finishing in season’s bests or record times, with Italy record the fastest time of the Championship in 3:02.49, and Turkey in second position in a national record of 3:03.04 and the GB & NI team winning bronze in 3:03.12.
The GB & NI team of Ethan Brown (Lloyd Cowan, Blackheath & Bromley), Brodie Young (James McMenemy, Glasgow Jaguars), Sam Reardon (Nigel Stickings, Blackheath & Bromley) and Edward Faulds (James Wright, Rugby & Northampton) produced a great display to hold off Poland to win the British team’s final medal of the Championships.
The young quartet were determined to medal at these Championships, with Brown saying afterwards, “Obviously we wanted to win, but we are pleased to win the bronze medal and we took three seconds off our time yesterday,
Young added, “We are a really young team, and there’s a lot of talent coming through, and a lot of us will be back here in two years. We are still developing so it will be good to come back in two years and try to beat today.”
It was a battle royale in the women’s 1500m as Shannon Flockhart (Mark Vile, Cambridge & Coleridge) produced a fine piece of running to capture the bronze medal as Ireland took gold and silver in the form of Sophie O’Sullivan and Sarah Healy.
GB & NI had three athletes through to the final, with Shannon Flockhart, Sarah Calvert (Lewis Walker, Livingston) and Alex Millard (Bill Foster, Invicta East Kent).
The women started off with a strong pace with Flockhart sitting in the top three alongside Ireland’s Sophie O’Sullivan and Sarah Healy. Millard was just behind in the chasing pack, with Calvert tucked in a few places behind her.
However, as the race unfolded, Flockhart was the main protagonist of the trio and even as the Irish duo pulled away from her, Flockhart opened up enough of a gap to secure bronze in a PB of 4:08.37, while Millard finished in sixth place, also with a PB of 4:11.67, and Calvert finished in 10th place in 4:15.03.
After a celebration lap of the track, Flockhart commented, “The aim coming here was a medal, so to get a PB as well, is the cherry on top. It was a really fast race, but I tried not to look at the clock, but I knew coming down the home straight that it was going to be a PB.”
Making her European Champion debut, Lauren Farley (Mark Chapman, Blackheath & Bromley) ended the competition 10th in the women’s Javelin.
Starting her series off with a 52.34 mark, that set the foundations for the competition. She could not improve over the next two rounds, though, so her event came to a close after three rounds.
In an extremely fast men’s 3000m Steeplechase final, Luca Minale (Wayne Vinton, Gateshead), Making his Championship final debut, finished in a time of 9:02.18, in 13th place.
Following Day one of the Decathlon, Jack Turner (Coach: Kevin Skinner, Club: Exeter) was in fifth place overall with 4138 points but sadly his campaign would come to an end after eight events as he did not finish.
However, he started the day with a time of 15.47 (w/s -2.6) in the 110m hurdles, and then threw 38.71m in the discus. Sporting a heavily taped left leg following an injury earlier in the competition, and with the wind picking up during the warm-up to make conditions tricky, Turner entered the pole vault competition with a clearance of 4.20m on his first attempt.
Failing his first attempt at 4.30m, Turner cleared it on the second try and went on to clear at 4.40m and 4.50m in his first attempts. The 22-year-old went on to attempt 4.60m but ended the competition with a height of 4.50m to add 760 to his points total of 6515. Unfortunately, his earlier injury meant Turner withdrew from the competition at this point.
In the men’s 200m semi-finals, James Hanson (Jake Awe, Woking) came excruciatingly close to qualification for the final, finishing a mere 0.001 away from that qualification places. It was a tough call for the 200m man, as he finished fifth in his semi-final in 21.37 (0.365), so he narrowly missed out on a non-automatic qualification spot.
It was a fantastic Championship overall for the talented European U23 team, finishing at the top of the medals table with seven gold, three silver and four bronze medals.
Results can be found here
Watch the action live via allathletics.tv