11th June 2024


Daryll Neita (coach: Marco Airale, club: Cambridge Harriers) and Megan Keith (Ross Cairns, Inverness) clinched exceptional European silver and bronze medals in the women’s 200m and women’s 10,000m respectively, while there was a seventh-place finish for Lina Nielsen (Tony Lester, Shaftesbury Barnet) in the women’s 400m hurdles on night five at the European Athletics Championships in Rome.

Bringing the curtain down on the penultimate evening of action at the championships was the women’s 200m final, with Neita lining up as both the European leader in the event, and the fastest athlete through yesterday’s qualifying.

Considered as something of a straight head-to-head between Neita and defending champion Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland, the race kept to the narrative as both Neita and Kambundji flew out of the blocks from lanes eight and six respectively before running fine bends to slingshot off the bend with almost nothing between them.

While Kambundji found a slight lead with 70m or so to run, Neita then appeared to reel her in from the outside lane, the two neck-and-neck as the finish line drew closer.

In what was a genuine photo finish, it was Kambundji’s name that flashed up as the gold medallist, her time of 22.49 edging out Neita’s 22.50 – the same time the Brit ran in qualifying yesterday and an equal season’s best – as the Swiss athlete reclaimed her title by the width of a vest.

For Neita, the result and silverware marked an improvement on the European bronze won in the same event two years ago, while also adding to the already impressive 2024 the 27-year-old has enjoyed.

On the result, and the close shave between her and gold, Neita said: “I am honestly just so disappointed because I really wanted that medal, I know how much I should have got that [the gold]. I thought it was close on the line, I could feel myself dipping which isn’t my strongest thing.

“I am happy for the winner – I’m not a bitter athlete. I’m upset at myself because I came here for the gold. I’m grateful to finish the race healthy. It is still the middle of the season so I can’t let this dictate how my season goes – there are bigger things happening this season.”

Lining up in a monster field of 33 in the women’s 10,000m, the British trio of Keith, Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall, Dundee Hawkhill) and Jessica Warner-Judd (Mick Judd, Blackburn) set out for 25 hard laps against the backdrop of yet another warm evening in the Italian capital.

The field separated into two distinct packs early on, with Slovakian representative Lukan leading the front pack through 1000m in an honest 3:07, and all three Brits in tow.

Lukan continued to clip the breakaway pack of eight along through 3000m, still including all three Brits, as they checked in at around 9:15, with the distance ever increasing back to the 25 or so other athletes down the field.

The breakaway eight became six before the halfway mark, with Keith sitting on the heels of Van Es (NED) for fifth, and McColgan settled in a few metres her fellow Scot. Having been open about recent injury struggles in the lead into the championships, shortly after McColgan sadly stepped off the track at the 6000m mark with some apparent reluctance and anguish.

Keith, however, sensed opportunity and tucked into third as home athlete Battocletti (ITA) hit the front with others, including previous unofficial pacemaker Lukan, fading off. Keith hit the front at the 7500m, perhaps sensing Battocletti was slowing and surging the pace somewhat and endeavoured to keep it honest and moving.

Keith still led at 9000m though both Battocletti and Van Es stuck as the clear podium make-up with 1000m to run. Both moved past either side of Keith with 800m to run, with Battocletti stretching the legs and winding up the pace as they came round for the bell. The Italian was clear and gone, responding to the roar of the home crowd, with Van Es some 15m back in silver, and Keith a further 15m back still in bronze.

There would be no change from here, with Battocletti ripping away to take the crown ahead of Van Es, with Keith coming home in a brilliant 31.04.77 for European bronze, a first-ever senior medal in a British vest at just 22-years-old.

Post-race, an elated Keith said: “I’m really happy with that – with the start lists going in, I knew Nadia (Battocletti) was always going to be difficult to beat, but I gave it a shot and I’m just really happy to come away with a bronze medal tonight.”

“I felt comfortable, perhaps in hindsight, a bit too comfortable with 1500m to go because I know the last lap is never going to be my strength. When I went to the front, I probably should have committed harder to it, but I also knew those girls had a kick. My thing is grinding in the laps. I gave a new tactic a shot because I knew a medal was secure with a kilometre to go. I’m happy that I tried it and I know for next time what works for me and what doesn’t.”

Having struggled with illness this year and having lost touch with the leading pack from around the half-way point, Warner-Judd was also sadly unable to finish the race after withdrawing with around 600m remaining.

Explaining her withdrawal, McColgan said: “To drop out – I am absolute gutted, but there was nothing there. I got to halfway and thought ‘I’m in trouble today’. I knew straight away going through 5k I was going to struggle to keep going, I even felt a little bit dizzy toward the end.

“I don’t really have a reason other than I was hoping for maybe a little bit of a miracle today after a lack of training, but yeah, miracles don’t really exist in distance running. If you’ve not put the work in, you’ll get found out. I’ve got a couple of weeks now to get myself in a strong position to be picked [for the Olympic Games].”

Having gone sixth on the British all-time list with a personal best time of 54.43 in qualifying yesterday, Lina Nielsen lined up in the final of the women’s 400m hurdles full of confidence.

Pushing out from lane eight, and with many eyes on the imperious Dutchwoman Femke Bol, Nielsen appeared to run a solid opening half of her race to keep herself in the mix coming round at the 250m mark.

From here, both the pace up in front and yesterday’s personal best exertion perhaps began to tell, with hurdles six and seven sapping the legs somewhat. Nielsen dug deep over the final three barriers however, pushing on to dip for the line in 55.65 finish in her first individual European final as she pipped Portugal’s Diallo on the line for seventh place.

Reflecting afterwards, Nielsen said: “That was bad, it was messy. Not the place to do it at a European final. I don’t know how I’m feeling. I hit hurdle three, maybe I got a bit too excited and then lost my stride at five, and then its game over from there – it is hard to bring it back.

“I’ve learned a lot from that first major final experience. I think that those medals are in my reach so I’m very disappointed. But I’ll take that disappointment to training and drill in those mistakes and get them better.”

Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally:

GOLD: [2]: Women’s Half Marathon Team, Dina Asher-Smith – Women’s 100m

SILVER [4]:, Georgia Bell – Women’s 1500m, Charlie Dobson – Men’s 400m, George Mills – Men’s 5000m, Daryll Neita – Women’s 200m

BRONZE [5]: Lizzie Bird – Women’s 3000m steeplechase, Molly Caudery – Women’s Pole Vault, Romell Glave – Men’s 100m, Calli Hauger-Thackery – Women’s Half Marathon, Megan Keith – Women’s 5000m