8th August 2023


Debutant Ashley Nemits (coach: Trevor Painter, club: Wigan & District) obliterated her 400m personal best on the second morning of the European Under-20 Championships while a quartet of Brits – Success Eduan, Emily Newnham, Onyeka Okoh and Brook Cronin – all claimed wins as eight more British athletes made progress in Jerusalem.

Nemits began her campaign in the women’s 400m on Monday in the heats by lowering her personal best by 0.06 seconds to 53.95 and she well and truly blew that out of the water 24 hours later with a huge 53.38 clocking to underline her claims for a medal, qualifying for the final as the third fastest with just 0.07 separating the top three.

Eduan (Anita Richardson, Sale Harriers Manchester) meanwhile cruised through as the women’s 200m went from heats to a final, where she’ll be joined by Faith Akinbileje (John Blackie, Blackheath & Bromley) who automatically qualified herself. Kai Barham (Paul Head, Dartford) completed a set of four British athletes to advance to finals after keeping his composure in qualifying for the men’s hammer.

Newnham (Nick Dakin, Shaftesbury Barnet) and Okoh (Julia Benterman, Chelmsford) were both impressive as the women’s and men’s 400m hurdles began with the heats, both securing wins, as did Cronin (Andrew Kennard, Walton) in the men’s 200m, where he was the fastest qualifier after clocking 20.83, one of only two to duck under 21 seconds.

Okoh will be joined in the semi-finals of the men’s 400m hurdles by British teammate and 17-year-old Sam Lunt (Andrew Fraser, Wirral), who was also an automatic qualifier. It was another impressive effort from the British team on another hot morning in Jerusalem – four through to finals and four through to semi-finals.

Standout performer Nemits said: “I knew I could do it. It has taken a long time to get to where I can start showing everyone what type of shape I am in. I am just glad it is at this champs where it matters.

“I have been bringing it [her personal best] down by 0.01 every race and I just wanted to break that 54 barrier and now I am doing it and I am bringing that down. Now I have got my eyes on the 53 barrier I hope.”

Breaking the 54-second barrier in the 400m for the first time during the heats in the Holy City, Nemits returned 24 hours later for the semi-finals – and she went even better to underline her strong medal chances.

Nemits – who is making her major championship debut for GB&NI – attacked the entire race in the first of two semi-finals, impressively clocking 53.38, which lowered the personal best she set on Monday by a huge margin of 0.57.

She was caught at the line by Slovenia’s Karolina Zbicajnki so finished second and would rank third overall after Lurdes Gloria Manuel of the Czech Republic ran 53.31 in the second semi-final but Nemits was the only one to run a personal best, her second in 24 hours.

She added: “In the final it is about winning and the times will come. If you win, you will get a fast time because there are so many fast girls. I aim to get a medal and the time will follow 100 percent. Usually I like to chill on the back straight but this time I kept working and I knew I would have to do that to get through to the final.”

Eduan was the first of the three Brits up with the women’s 200m heats a battle to advance straight to the final – and she cruised through with a time of 23.47, beating her nearest rival in the race by 0.26 and qualifying third quickest overall.

She said: “My coach said just run hard and make sure you qualify safely. I do not mind heats or semi-finals. My coach told me there is nothing to change right now, so to just have fun and to do what I had to do.

“I’ve been in Germany, I was in Italy two weeks ago so I am kind of used to all kinds of conditions. But I do like this weather. I prefer it over the rain. The plan for the final – to have fun and execute the race right.”

Akinbileje followed in the next heat and also qualified automatically. Coming out of the bend she was in a line with four others with a late push and dip ensuring she finished second – the position required for automatic qualification – recording a time of 23.57, fourth overall.

Sophie Walton (Trevor Williams, Horwich) completed the trio in action in these 200m heats and ran a strong race to just finish outside the top two after posting 23.69 for third. Despite being the eighth quickest, Walton would agonisingly miss out on the final by just 0.04.

In the men’s hammer Barham had to overcome a lengthy delay – and his frustrations at the circumstance – as the start of the qualification Group B was pushed back because of an implement lodged in the cage.

When it did finally start though, Barham kept his composure to ensure he reached a second successive final in Jerusalem after reaching the medal showdown at the European Under-18 Championships in the same cage last year.

He landed all three attempts with his best of 68.44m coming in round two to place him fifth in Group B and 11th overall. The final follows on Wednesday evening and Barham was adamant that in more normal circumstances he would certainly improve.

He said: “We had to wait an hour between warm ups and the start of competition. We didn’t get any warm up throws after that so basically the entire field was cold. I am happy I came through it.

“The feeling physically was pretty bad because of the long pause but the energy got me through. Getting through to the final was my main goal, it is just a shame that other people were robbed of the chance. It’s a shame they couldn’t reschedule or something like that.

“Ultimately I got the right result so I am not going to be too annoyed, I just feel bad for the other guys. It’ll be a big refocus now and get my head right. Hopefully I can PB in the final. If I can throw 68m in the conditions [in qualifying] I can PB for sure.”

Cronin was the last of the nine British athletes to compete and he rounded off a great morning’s work for the team with a strong race in the third of four men’s 200m heats. There was slight drama to start as Sweden’s William Trulsson was disqualified for a false start.

When the race did start though Cronin and Italian Daniele Groos were easily clear after the bend with the British debutant pushing ahead to stop the clock in 20.83 – a time that would rank him comfortably quickest overall.

He said: “I just want to get experience, a medal would be optimal but experience comes first. I have never travelled this far for a competition – the coaches, arriving by plane – is a completely different experience.”

In contrast to Cronin, Newnham was the first British athlete to compete on the second day of the Championships and made smooth progress out of the women’s 400m hurdles heats. Drawn in lane one, she was shoulder to shoulder with the athlete in lane two by 150m after a fine opening.

Coming out of the bend at 300m, Newnham was slightly behind Kylie Lambert but was in great stride and reeled the Belgian in to win the heat by 0.12 in a time of 58.36 as she officially got her maiden European Under-20 Championships underway in fine style.

Newnham will now have the semi-finals in 24 hours time and she said: “When I saw I was in lane one, it was obviously difficult because you are on the inside. But I was speaking to my coach and he was like ‘it is only the 400m, find the rhythm and you are in’. So I just needed to go out, see where I was and just try to control it and I just won it. I don’t have a preferred lane, my coach is trying to train me out of that.”

Okoh followed Newnham’s lead, qualifying in the fifth of five men’s 400m hurdles heats as a comfortable winner. He looked strong throughout the race and had the lead in the latter stages, eventually winning by 0.14.

Winning meant he took the scalp of the current European No.2 Jere Haapalainen of Finland with Okoh crossing the line just shy of breaking 52 seconds in 52.01. He said: “The plan was to go out hard, keep it safe until hurdle ten and hopefully be in the lead.

“I wanted to be number one in my race to get a good draw in the semi-final. It is nice out there, conditions are good. I like the hot weather. I need to keep myself hydrated, keep myself out of the sun as much as I can now.

“I will just keep the same plan for the next race – will start hard and hold on to it, keep the race clean. I tried it [in the heats] and it kind of worked. It was just a bit windy but not too bad.”

Lunt was first up in the heats of the men’s 400m hurdles and also did enough himself to advance to the semi-final. The youngest in heat three aged 17, Lunt started well as he sought to ensure a top-four finish for a place in the next round.

He was second entering the home straight and, despite Lasse Schmitt of Germany and Bator Birovecz of Hungary pushing ahead to take the one-two, Lunt did enough to ensure he was next in third in 52.20.

He said: “It was good. It is good to get the first run out. I slowed up with 150m to go, I saw I was in third or second and thought I wouldn’t go all out. It wasn’t superb but I will take it into the semi-finals, which I’m going to treat as my final.

“I will give it my all out there and hope for the best. It’s not the easiest being the youngest but it gives you something to prove. I enjoy it. It’s been a beautiful experience – once in a lifetime that not many people can say [they’ve done].”