5th March 2021
MARKOVC AND OCKENDEN EARN FIRST MEDALS FOR BRITISH TEAM AT THE 2021 EUROPEAN INDOOR CHAMPS
Amy-Eloise Markovc (coach: Chris Fox; club: Wakefield) and Verity Ockenden (Tony Houchin; Swansea) kick-started Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s medal haul at the European Athletics Indoor Championships with gold and bronze in the women’s 3000m final.
Markovc, Ockenden and Amelia Quirk (Mick Woods; Bracknell) were all in medal contention with two laps to go before a fall for Netherlands’ Maureen Koster saw the British trio locking out the medal positions.
Coming into the home straight, Markovic and Ockenden were neck and neck, but it was the Wakefield athlete who found an extra gear to shatter her personal best and take her maiden European Indoor title in 8:46.43, with Ockenden clocking 8:46.60, being pipped to the silver medal by France’s Alice Finot in 8:46.54.
Quirk, who was almost rewarded for a gutsy performance on her senior track debut, took nearly four-and-a-half seconds off her personal best set yesterday in the heats, coming home in 8:48.82.
After the race, Markovc said: “It’s unbelievable! That was the goal coming into it and I wanted to keep that winning mentality. It was definitely a bit nerve-racking and I’m just really pleased that I ran confidently, stayed calm and trusted myself when I went to make a move.
“I’m really pleased with the result and it makes it even better that I’m going to be standing on the podium with Verity [Ockenden] and had some great girls on the team in the final.
“Last year, I didn’t compete as well as I wanted to and along the way I think there was a little bit of self-doubt. I’ve been really focussed the last few races and I’ve just been really confident. Knowing that I was ready, trusting myself and trusting my instincts and having that positive self-talk throughout the race paid off because the last few weeks, things have really turned around for me and now I’ve crossed the line with the Union Jack around my shoulders, so that’s incredible.
“It’s a dream come true. That’s why we do this. We want to win medals and it’s going to be an amazing feeling standing on the podium.”
Ockenden, who claimed her first individual international medal, added: “It was a close race. What an incredible feeling to be Brits storming down that straight. We were both just really going for it, but having talked to Amy just now, we both really enjoyed using each other.
“The way we pushed each other, actually helped us hold other people off, but unfortunately not [Alice] Finot for me which was absolutely gutting. I knew she was there, but I just couldn’t lean quite enough, but that just makes me hungry to come back again. I’m going to go away, have a nice little break and get back to work.
“When I first saw that we had back to back heats and finals over two days, I thought it was going to be a really tall order, but in the end, I’ve kind of blossomed with it the way it was. I was really quite jittery yesterday in the heat and that possibly showed a little bit in the way I ran, but today I felt like a different person. I felt so calm and confident and that made all the difference today, so I’m really happy.”
Holly Mills (Laura Turner-Alleyne; Andover) ended her senior British debut with an impressive fifth position in the women’s pentathlon, finishing the day’s event with an overall score of 4517 points.
She got off to the best possible start with the fastest time of 8.22 in the 60m hurdles, just a hundredth of a second outside her personal best.
The high jump followed, and the Andover athlete cleared 1.74m, again very close to her indoor PB of 1.75m. In the final event of the morning’s session, the shot put, Mills threw a best of 13.22m. With two events to go, the European junior bronze medallist stood in eighth place with 2724 points.
She returned in the evening to put a mark of 6.10m in the long jump which saw her climb up to sixth heading into the 800m. A brave front-running approach in that race saw her finish third in 2:13.59 and climb to fifth position on her senior debut, just 120 points outside of the medal positions, in a competition won by Olympic champion, Nafi Thiam (BEL).
Following her full day of competition, Mills assessed: “It was a pretty solid evening. The long jump was a left leg PB after changing 16 months ago as well as going off a short approach. This was my first senior championships and to jump 6.10m is a pat on the back, I’m proud of that.
“Going into the 800m, I thought to myself ‘just run it like you do in training’. It wasn’t the time I know I can do or the time I wanted, but I took it from the front and thought ‘just don’t get stuck, just go with it’. It didn’t quite pay off, but 2:13.59 isn’t the worst time in the world.
“Fifth in Europe at my first senior championships against all of these really experienced heptathletes and pentathletes is really good. I was the youngest in the competition at the end. I was stood on the start line of the 800m and I looked to my right and left and they were all so much bigger than me! I thought to myself ‘oh my goodness!’, but I just went for it. I went into the 800m in sixth and I came out with fifth so that’s one place up.
European Under-23 Championship silver medallist over 1500m Piers Copeland (Bob Smith; Wimborne) produced an excellent sprint finish to secure fifth position in the men’s 1500m final in 3:39.99, with British compatriot Neil Gourley (Ben Thomas; Giffnock North) in 11th position in 3:45.99.
Following a scrappy start, Copeland bided his time in the pack and produced a trademark late surge, picking his moment to make his charge with impeccable accuracy to originally secure fifth spot, but was bumped up to fourth following the disqualification of race winner Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) for a short time, before the Norwegian was reinstated after midnight in Poland.
Gourley was forced to work hard to hang onto the leaders and ultimately paid the price, unfortunately being run out of things to finish 11th.
“I’m pretty happy with the result I think,” Copeland assessed. “If you’d have said that to me before the champs I would have taken that with both hands but on the day I feel like maybe I could have got a bit higher up but the legs just weren’t quite there.
“I thought what was going to happen happened, Jakob was going to take it out and try and run the legs out of everyone in the last 400m which he did in the end, but it built up from 200m in and I was just trying to go with the pace. The legs just weren’t quite there so I couldn’t quite go with it but overall, I’m really happy.”
Jacob Fincham-Dukes (Matt Barton; Leeds City) was the only Briton in final action in the field, taking seventh position in the men’s long jump with a second-round best of 7.79m.
Despite two fouls, the Leeds City man produced a consistent series, backing up his best effort with two 7.78m efforts to cap off his maiden senior final with a strong showing.
Four British athletes made safe progress into finals and semi-finals on the second evening of action in Torun, led by strong performances from the men’s 800m duo of Jamie Webb (Adrian Webb; Liverpool) and Guy Learmonth (Justin Rinaldi; Lasswade).
Learmonth stormed to victory in his heat, timing his charge to perfection, arcing round the outside of reigning world indoor champion Adam Kszczot (POL) at the bell and powering away to open up a healthy lead from the rest of the pack stopping the clock in 1:49.66.
Webb left it until the final 200m to make sure of his safe progression into the semi-finals, clocking the fifth fastest time of the session of 1:48.72, taking second position in the final heat.
The 2018 silver medallist was forced to move out wide to put himself in a strong position heading into the final stages but showed his prowess and form, cruising around the outside to take second position and ensure safe progression behind Belgium’s Eliott Crestan.
In the high jump, Emily Borthwick (Fuzz Caan; Wigan & District) recorded a four centimetre personal best with a third-time clearance at 1.91m to qualify for the final of the women’s high jump, but British compatriot Morgan Lake (Fuzz Caan; WSEH) did not progress following a 1.87m best.
Borthwick required a third-time clearance at a personal-best equalling 1.87m to keep herself in the competition but saved her best effort for last as she leapt over 1.91m at the third time of asking to secure the final qualification spot for the final.
More than anything, it was about just backing myself and believing that I could be up there with those girls,” she reflected. “Jodie [Williams] is my roommate and her speech definitely resonated with me and today that has shown and I couldn’t be happier.
“I had two attempts at 1.91m and I was like ‘it’s now or never. If I jump this, I’m in the final’. It’s a big PB and to be honest, I just enjoyed myself and that was the most important thing about coming here.
“I’ve only recently over the last five years chosen high jump as my main event, so to see these girls on TV and to be one of them is crazy.”
Over 400m, Jodie Williams notched an indoor 400m PB as she made safe progression into tomorrow’s women’s 400m final, but fellow Britons Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) and Ama Pipi (Linford Christie; Enfield & Haringey) both bowed out on their senior British debuts.
The British team captain produced a measured run, taking the bell in the lead before tracking Dutchwoman Femke Bol to the line, cutting the tape in 52.09s to take 0.18s off her previous best.
Speaking after the race, Williams assessed: “I’m really happy. I was pretty worried about the schedule, but coming from a 200m background, two 400m rounds in one day is heavy, so I was unsure about what I could do, but to run those two times within a seven hour gap is really pleasing.
“I’ve been in a European final before over the 60m and outdoors over the 200m, so it’s nice to be here over another new event. I’m really enjoying the process.
“It’s kind of my forte, so me going through a 24 isn’t really that hard, it doesn’t take a lot out of me and I can come back with a decent enough time to hold on, so it makes the most sense to me. Running tactically would be a little more difficult, but I think I can do it if I’m forced into that position, but my preferred seems like it’s turning into running from the bell.”
Pipi clocked a season’s best in the opening semi-final of 52.54s but was pipped to an automatic qualification place in the final five metres by Romania’s Andrea Miklos, while Knight found herself run out of things in a tough second semi-final, recording a 52.22s effort as Poland’s Justyna Swiety-Ersetic took victory in a national record 51.34s.
Having qualified safely from this morning’s 400m semi-finals, Lee Thompson (John Henson; Sheffield & Dearne) and James Williams (self-coached; Liverpool Harriers) could not progress into tomorrow’s final, coming home fourth and fifth respectively.
Thompson gave it his all in a hotly contested heat that all came down to the final corner. Thompson was well placed as he came off the top bend but as the field began to spill out, the Sheffield & Dearne man was forced into lane six and could not advance, clocking 47.42s for fourth.
In a tough first heat, Williams found himself playing catch-up early on and could not match the pace of Dutchman Tony van Diepen, who clocked 46.05s for victory with Williams fifth in 46.97s.