23rd June 2023
NUTTALL, AZU AND SEDDON STAR ON DAY ONE OF EUROPEAN TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
Great Britain and Northern Ireland got off to a fantastic start on day one of European Team Championships First Division, sitting second in the standings behind Italy on 131.5 points after 12 events.
There was a second-place finish for Hannah Nuttall (Helen Clitheroe, Charnwood) in the women’s 5000m, as well as third positions for Jeremiah Azu (Marco Airale, Cardiff) and Zak Seddon (Geoff Wightman, Bracknell) in the men’s 100m and 3000m steeplechase respectively, all adding crucial points to the team total.
Hannah Nuttall produced a superb display of 5000m running in only her second ever track 5000m race, as she finished in second position overall in a time of 15:29:49.
In very hot conditions at the Silesia Stadium, the leading pack built up the pace throughout the contest with the Briton at the forefront for the majority of the 12 and a half laps. However, with 600m to go, the Italian Nadia Battocletti, Nuttall and Agueda Marques (ESP) broke away from the rest of the field, a move that proved to be a decisive one. That top three remained the same at the finish line, with Nuttall fighting hard to keep ahead of the Spaniard to earn 15 points for GB & NI.
A delighted Nuttall said afterwards, “It went really well because I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it going in as I’ve only raced one 5000m before, so I just wanted to put myself at the front and give myself the best opportunity to move up if I felt good. And I did that with about two laps to go. I am really proud that I actually went for it because sometimes I hang back for a bit too long and let a gap go but I didn’t do that today, so I am really happy.”
In the final track event of day one, Jeremiah Azu (Marco Airale, Cardiff) – who is bound for the European U23 Championships next month – posted an equal season best of 10.16 (0.6) to secure third place in the men’s 100m. In lane nine, Azu was in the mix throughout the race with just 0.03 separating the top three. Full points went to Italy’s Samuele Ceccarelli with Raphael Bouju (NED) in second, but it was European bronze medallist Azu who took 14 points to the British team score.
After his top three finish, Azu commented, “Super happy with that, I’m just grateful to have this opportunity. I’m a big man of faith and I feel as though it is all coming together nicely, and God is putting me on the right path. I got some good points for the team which I am really pleased about. This event is not just about me which made me a little more nervous than normal. But I played it to my advantage, so I am really happy with my run.”
There was a fine performance from Zak Seddon (Geoff Wightman, Bracknell) to secure 14 points in the men’s 3000m steeplechase. In his fourth race in 11 days, Seddon looked fresh as he positioned himself well amongst the field, working hard to hold the inside lane in the closing stages. With 200m to go, pressure fell upon the Briton’s shoulders from Daniel Arce (ESP) and Emil Blomberg (SWE) who would eventually take the top two places, but Seddon chased well to cross the line in 8:27.42.
Afterwards, he said, “It was a bit slow at the start, so you know there is going to be a kick at the end, so I spent three or four laps just trying to get in a good position. I thought I had and today it got me third, so I am pleased.”
Charlotte Payne (Paul Dickenson, Reading) continued her excellent 2023 form as she finished fourth in the women’s hammer throw. The Reading athlete opened her series with a throw of 66.28m which placed her within the top seven. There was no improvement in the next two rounds, but she secured a top eight placing which guaranteed her at least two more throws.
She excelled herself after this point, extending her best to 69.81m in round four to move up to fourth position, and then in round five came the biggest mark of the lot, 71.14m taking her up to third. A foul in round six coupled with a throw of 71.18m from Poland’s Malwina Kopron moved her down to fourth, nevertheless it was a fantastic series for Payne.
Post event, she reflected, “Coming into today, I wanted to throw something in the 70s. I broke that mark last year, and I’ve thrown a couple of really big throws over the last few weeks, improving my PB to 72m. I definitely made it hard work for myself today. I was relieved to get myself into the top eight after the first three throws. After that I started to find my rhythm and getting onto a 71m gave me a huge confidence boost.
“I have grown up watching a lot of these athletes on TV for years and I’ve always looked up to them, so I was fangirling them a bit. But I am learning to keep my cool and I am seeing myself as one of them, so I know I can take them on now.”
Back on the track, Ama Pipi (Linford Christie, Enfield & Haringey) ran a season best for fourth place in the women’s 400m. In a race won by Femke Bol (NED) in a Championship record of 49.82, Pipi remained focused on her lane, and started the race strongly. She came into the home straight in third position and fought well but was just pipped by Cynthia Bolingo (BEL) in the final few metres. Regardless, she added an important 13 points to the team total.
Running out in lane eight in the men’s 400m, Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) had to work hard to get himself into prime position to attack the field in the closing stages. He did just that and was in contention as they entered the last 50 metres, eventually crossing the line in fifth, edged out of fourth by 0.01 by the German Manuel Sanders. His time, 45.25, was a season best.
On his senior GB & NI debut, Jude Bright-Davies (David Johnson, Thames Valley) scored 14 points with a brilliant fifth place finish in the men’s triple jump. He got off to a solid start in round one with a jump of 16.24m which would ultimately be his furthest mark of his series. Bright-Davies, who competed for GB & NI at the European U18 championships in 2016, added two 15 metre jumps and two fouls to the scorecard but his opening round effort earned him a top five spot.
Ben Pattison (Dave Ragan, Basingstoke & Mid Hants) was embroiled in one of the best races of the first session in the men’s 800m A race, just missing out on the win to Sweden’s Andreas Kramer who won it by the finest of margins. The 800m B race was quicker, so Pattison finished sixth overall on times, but the A race had all the drama.
Pattison held the inside line with 200m to go, but a bold move by the Pole Mateusz Borkowski, which the Spaniard Adrian Ben followed, resulted in Pattison having to navigate his way out into lane two to prevent being boxed in. In doing so, he freed up space to attack the sprint finish. He looked set to take the race win, but a fast-finishing Kramer dipped well on the line to take it by two hundredths, with Pattison clocking 1:46.94.
Team captain Bianca Williams (Enfield & Haringey) delivered a season’s best of 11.29 (0.1) in the women’s 100m which was her fastest time since the birth of her son three years ago. Out in lane nine, Williams was purely focused on her own lane and produced her best time since 2018 for fifth in the race; sixth on times after both heats were amalgamated.
A delighted Williams said post-race, “It’s been such a journey from having my son. You don’t realise how much you go through mentally to get to this moment. My son is three and it is only now that I feel physical strong. I feel like I’m capable of anything now.
“I’m so proud I came out here and smashed it as team captain. I read my captain speech again coming on the bus. It made me feel strong, like I am a superhero. I am so proud to come out here and inspire the youngsters on the team. I am so proud to be captain of this team.”
Another top six finisher in the field was Jade Lally (Zane Duquemin, Shaftesbury Barnet) in the women’s discus. 58.08m was the best of her series and that came in round two. It earned her a fourth and fifth attempt but with no improvement, she collected 11 points for the British team.
An under pressure third and final attempt at 5.30m kept Adam Hague’s (Trevor Fox, Sheffield & Dearne) pole vault journey alive as he ended the competition in joint 13th overall. After clearing his opening height of 5.10m with relative ease, he knocked the bar off at 5.30m on his first two efforts. However, with all eyes on him, the Sheffield and Dearne athlete cleared when he had to. Two more fouls at 5.45m brought an end to his competition due to the rule of competitors only being allowed four fouls during their series.
Sarah Omoregie (Brandon Amo, Cardiff) was the first Great Britain and Northern Ireland athlete to enter the field of play in Silesia, and on her senior international debut she finished 15th in the women’s shot put. After a technical fault meant a restart to the competition after the first few athletes had already thrown, Omoregie, who was 16th in the order, fouled her opening two throws. Needing to get a throw in to earn points for the team, she put a mark of 14.43m. With only the top eight progressing to further throws, her competition ended in round three.
The event will be streamed live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website & app over the three days, and from 14:00 on Saturday 24 June.