18th March 2022


Several British athletes were in action on the opening morning of action at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade as the women’s pentathlon got underway, and five athletes progressed to the next stage of their events.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson (coach: Petros Kyprianou, club: Liverpool) and Holly Mills (Laura Turner-Alleyne, Andover) currently stand fifth and sixth in the women’s pentathlon overall after three events.

Holly Mills (Laura Turner-Alleyne, Andover) started the event off in style as she recorded an equal personal best of 8.15 which was joint quickest alongside Belgium’s Noor Vidts. In the same heat Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Petros Kyprianou, Liverpool) opened with a SB of 8.45 to put 1028 points on the board.

In the high jump, Johnson-Thompson was the last athlete to enter at 1.77m, and it was worth the wait as she cleared it with ease. She cleared 1.80m and 1.83m; the latter her best of the series.

Meanwhile, Mills came in at 1.71m, and needed a third and final clearance at that height to progress, but after that, she cleared 1.74m at the first time of asking. However, three fouls at 1.77m brought a close to the second event of five for the Andover athlete.

Heading into the shot-put event, the reigning champion Johnson-Thompson threw the best of her series on her first throw, landing a mark at 13.02m. Mills improved as the competition went on, her third and final effort measuring at 13.63m to give her a further 773 points.

Johnson-Thompson sits in fifth on 2773 points overall, while Mills is sixth on 2771 points with the long jump and 800m to follow during this evening’s session.

Marc Scott (Jerry Schumacher, Richmond and Zetland) showed his excellent recent form as he won the third and final heat of the men’s 3000m to book his spot in Sunday morning’s final.

After being part of the leading pack for much of the contest, he hit the front with a few laps remaining and controlled the pace as the field was strung out. He powered through to the line to clock a time of 7:54.90. In heat one, Jamaine Coleman (Preston) finished 11th in a time of 8:12.76.

Earlier in the session, Cheyanne Evans-Gray (Nat Senior, Croydon) and Daryll Neita (Marco Airale, Cambridge Harriers) both comfortably progressed to the evening session’s women’s 60m semi-finals.

Olympic finalist Neita won heat five in a time of 7.13, coming through strongly to hold off the threat of Shericka Jackson (JAM).

She said afterwards, “That was really good. It’s nice to get the first round out of the way and I’ve had a look at the stadium now, and I can see what it’s like and how bouncy it is. I am really excited for the semi-finals now. The track is nice, I hadn’t done my pre-meet here so I didn’t know what to expect but it feels good. It feels great to get that first race out of the way because that’s always the ‘rust-buster’ and I feel like now I can really focus on the next couple of rounds this afternoon.”

Evans-Gray lined up in the following heat and the British champion narrowly secured her spot as she bagged third place, an automatic qualifying spot. However, she was separated by mere milliseconds from Italy’s Aurora Bertonm both clocking 7.30, but the Briton was the one to progress.

With only two athletes guaranteed automatic progression to the women’s 400m semi-finals, qualification was tough for the British duo but Ama Pipi (Marco Airale, Enfield and Haringey) and Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) both advanced after second place finishes in their heats, to progress to this evening’s semi-finals.

Pipi lined up in her heat alongside Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medallist Femke Bol (NED), and as the Dutch athlete pulled away to win in 51.48, the Enfield and Haringey athlete became embroiled in a battle with America’s Jessica Beard for the second spot. However, the Briton held onto the inside lane and secured a safe passage to the semis.

For Knight, it was a rockier route as she was forced off the track at the bell as she became entangled with Czech Republic’s Lada Vondrava. She put all her hurdling prowess into action as she avoided the microphone, blocks equipment and advertising hoarding to stay on her feet. After initially crossing the line in second place, she was disqualified soon after for stepping inside the track but was later reinstated as the initial incident was deemed to be due to the Czech athlete cutting inside sharply.

Afterwards, Knight said, “I am quite proud of myself because the worst part of my race is the first lap, so I was really happy with how I ran it. However, I don’t think the others were expecting me to get out as hard. I don’t feel like I did anything wrong with the collision, I just felt like someone ran into my space. I got there first.

“I feel like I haven’t had much luck at major championships. But I can’t be annoyed with myself because I achieved top two, even after a bit of a kerfuffle.”

Guy Learmonth (Justin Rinaldi, Lasswade) and Charlie Da’Vall Grice (Brighton Phoenix) did not progress to the men’s 800m final, and sadly Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield), following warm-up, was forced to withdraw prior to his heat with a back injury.

With only the top two qualifying automatically into the final, the athletes knew what to do to be back in the showpiece on Saturday. In heat one, despite a strong effort, Guy Learmonth finished third in a time of 1:49.13, with Noah Kibet (KEN) and Bryce Hoppel (USA) securing the top two positions.

Grice was in heat three and came home in sixth position in a time of 1:50.17, so he did not progress.

Earlier in the women’s 1500m heats, Erin Wallace (Andy Young, Giffnock North) finished fifth in her heat but did not progress to the final. In a heat won by Ethiopia’s Axumawit Embaye, the Scottish athlete crossed the line in 4:12.46 which was not enough for the next fastest qualifiers positions.