14th April 2018

MASS OF MEDAL JOY FOR THE HOME NATIONS ON THE GOLD COAST

The final athletics action within the Carrara Stadium saw a mass of success for the home nations across the board, with medals coming in the sprint relays, middle distances and field events at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Kicking off the session’s track action, and typically associated with the back end of a major championships or Games, were the men’s and women’s 4x100m relays, within which Team England were represented on both fronts, and though it hasn’t been all plain sailing for England’s male quartet in the lead up to taking to the track as a quartet, the previously unseen foursome delivered when it mattered most.

Led off by Reuben Arthur (Ryan Freckleton), Zharnel Hughes took up the baton and produced a blistering back straight to put England in charge leading into leg three.From there Richard Kilty produced the goods with a smooth and accomplished bend to extend the England lead, with Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Benke Blomkvist) taking the baton with a sizable lead to protect. That he did, with the fast finishing Akani Simbine of South Africa successfully held off as the English quartet clocked a swift 38.13 to reclaim their Commonwealth crown back from Jamaica.

Paying tribute to both Arthur’s contribution and the team as a whole, anchor leg Aikes-Aryeetey said:

“Reuben got a late call out – to put together a team in the manner which we have done, with Adam (Gemili) out there supporting us, it’s great. We won the World Champs with a different quartet. No doubt that the guys back home that would have been cheering us on too. We’re all well-drilled, it’s all down to our flat speed, so when we’re in shape, we do it.

“It’s only April and we’ve won a championship, that’s great for us. A huge shout out goes to our support staff and British Athletics too.”

Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, the Team England female 4x100m quartet went one better to strike gold in a English record time, a remarkable feat when considering the running order of Asha Philip (Steve Fudge), Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie), Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan) and Lorraine Ugen (Shawn Jackson) has never been seen previously with Ugen’s prowess lying as a long jumper.

Led out in typically barnstorming fashion by the electric Philip, Asher-Smith channelled her straight-line speed on the back straight before smoothly changing with Williams. Out in front by a distance but with Jamaica preparing to deliver to double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson on anchor, Williams handed over to Ugen, a 6.97m long jumper with fine flat speed herself, with the latter holding off Thompson and securing gold and a English record time as the baton was brought home in 42.46.

Team England’s lead off led, Asha Philip said:

“Respect to Lorraine (Ugen) today – we had the job of just getting the baton round to her with an ample lead, and after that she could do her job. Each of the girls here did what they were told, and we got a medal. After the men won gold, we couldn’t embarrass ourselves – we had to come back with something!”

Speaking on the experience and the amount of preparation she had managed to get locked in pre-race, Ugen said:

“I did my first changeovers earlier today, but it went pretty well. I knew if I was going to get called up that I’d only accept it if I knew I could do a good job. The girls gave me a really big lead so all I had to do was hold it. All I was thinking was ‘keep running, keep running’. I don’t think I’ve done a relay since university.”

A race which contained a mass of home nations athletes in the shape of Laura Weightman (England, Steve Cram), Eilish McColgan (Scotland, Liz McColgan), Steph Twell (Scotland, Geoff Wightman), Melissa Courtney (Wales, Rob Denmark), Emma Mitchell (Northern Ireland, Eamonn Christie) and Sarah Mercier (Guernsey, Lee Merrien) , the women’s 5000m final went off a pedestrian pace, a factor in which may have been the increasingly warm conditions.

Taken on by Kenya’s world champion Helen Obiri, the pace kicked on before slowing back down, a flow which played with many of the athletes in the field and left them struggling to find a rhythm in the race. By the mid-way point it was clear that the podium was likely to contain at least one if not two of Kenya’s representatives as Obiri and Kipkemboi strung the field out, though the fight for bronze was very much on behind the pair, with Weightman and McColgan two of those in the mix.

Timing her attack to perfection, established 1500m specialist Weightman sat on the heels of Uganda’s Chekwel before exploding past her with 200m to go, a kick Chekwel simply had no response to as Weightman streaked away to mark just her second 5000m outing with a major international medal.

Reflecting on the race and alluding to her future plans, Weightman said:

“I’m asking myself the question of why I chose the 5000m instead of the 1500m with the pain I’m in now. I like a challenge I suppose. I wanted to do something different. I’ve been doing 1500m since I was 21 so I thought, this was the chance to try the 5000m at a championships. I wanted to test myself and I’m really pleased I came here and did that.

“I’m absolutely delighted to get a medal. I’m going back to 1500m for this summer – it’s a little bit long for me right now. I was told to go out there and race and leave nothing out there. I was just thinking on the last lap, dig in and work hard – I’ve had a fantastic build-up to this race.

“When I went past the Ugandan athlete at 200m to go and she didn’t respond, I knew I’d got it. That last 100m I thought ‘ I can’t believe I’m about to do this’.”

Behind Weightman, McColgan concluded her second Commonwealth Games with a strong sixth place finish, clocking 15:34.88, with Melissa Courtney following up her bronze over 1500m with ninth in 15:46.60. Northern Ireland’s Emma Mitchell was 13th (16:02.80) ahead of Steph Twell (14th, 16:05.65), while Guernsey’s Sarah Mercier clocked 17:00.52 for 16th.

In field action, and fresh from a fourth place finish at the IAAF World Indoor Championships back in March, Morgan Lake (Fuzz Caan) put together a fantastic competition to claim high jump silver, narrowly missing out on gold behind Levern Spencer as the pair headed to a jump-off for gold.

Opening up with a first time clearance at 1.80m, Lake went over 1.84m, 1.87m, 1.89m and 1.91m with a real sense of confidence and ease, with her clearance at 1.93m at the second time of asking putting her in pole position for gold on the strength of her series. It wouldn be 1.95m that decided who topped the rostrum, however, with Spencer’s first time clearance putting the ball in Lake’s court.

One failure down at 1.95m, Lake opted to go for broke, stepping up to challenge 1.97m, a height that would have been a lifetime best had she gone clear. Though two unsuccessful attempts left her claiming Commonwealth silver, a breakthrough result on the senior international stage for an athlete who is still just 20 years of age.

Elsewhere, a clutch jump at 1.84m kept Bethan Partridge (Fuzz Caan) in the reckoning before a series of close attempts at 1.87m to close up in eighth, with Team Scotland’s Nikki Manson (Ken Allan) one place ahead at the same height, while failures at 1.84m saw Northern Ireland’s Sommer Lecky (Niall Wilkinson) bow out for tenth.

One of many Team Scotland athletes to have doubled up at these Games, Jake Wightman’s (Geoff Wightman) decision ultimately proved to have been a wise one as the Scot followed up his fourth place finish over 800m with a breakthrough senior medal in an entertaining 1500m.

One of three home nation athletes present in the race alongside Charlie Da’Vall Grice (Jon Bigg) and Chris O’Hare (Terrence Mahon), the hesitant early pace saw the field bunch as any outright front-runner failed to emerge, the opening 400m clocking in at 1:00.95.

The pace for the next 400m was a near replica before then being turned up a notch as Manangoi and Cheruiyot of Kenya looked to open up a gap at the front, with Wightman running a smart race all the while just wide of lane one to ensure a clear vision of traffic ahead.

Come the final lap burn-up it was all to play for with no clear stranglehold on the medals, though the pace of the aforementioned Kenyan’s saw them begin to put daylight between themselves and the rest at 300m to go, at which stage Wightman and Da’Vall Grice were hanging on to Jinson Johnson of India who occupied bronze.

Opting to strike on the final bend as he did during his memorable victory at the Oslo Diamond League, Wightman went outside Johnson and dug in deep down the home straight to hold on to bronze ahead of Da’Vall Grice, the pair clocking 3:35.97 and 3:37.43 for bronze and fourth respectively with O’Hare eighth in 3:39.04.

The penultimate track race of the Games, the women’s 4x400m saw teams from both England and Scotland take to the track among a strong field. Led out by Anyika Onuora (Rana Reider) and Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna) respectively, England forged the stronger start and floated between third and fourth throughout the first three legs of the race With Scotland two places back.

Second legs Finette Agyapong (Corai Nourrice) and Kirsten McAslan (Michael Baker) took up the baton and continued to chase down leaders Jamaica before both teams pushed on during leg three courtesy of Perry Shakes-Drayton (Chris Zah) and Lynsey Sharp (Terrance Mahon). Emily Diamonld (Jared Deacon) and Eilidh Doyle (Brian Doyle) took up final leg duties with the teams placed in third and sixth, but with individual 400m champion Amantle Montsho chased her down Diamond was just edged into fourth on the home straight as England fell out of the medals.

For Scotland, a typically rapid relay leg from Doyle saw the nation come home in a national record time of 3:29.19, a first sub-3:30 clocking.

Nathan Douglas (Aston Moore) came out fighting in the final of the men’s triple jump, a first-round best of 16.35m (-2.1m) elevating Team England’s athlete into the bronze medal position for a number of rounds only for Cameroon’s Marcel Mayack II and India’s Arpinder Singh to pull bigger jumps out of the bag to leave the 35-year-old chasing their tails.

In need of an improved mark in the region of 16.80m, four fouls followed to leave Douglas settling for a fifth place finish at his third consecutive Commonwealth Games.

Athletics action at the Commonwealth Games concludes with marathon action, the timetable for which can be found here.

#Represent