23rd August 2018
QUINTET OF CHAMPIONS LIGHT UP BERLIN AT THE WPA EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
It was a fantastic night for the British team at the World Para Athletics European Championships, winning five gold medals, three silvers and one bronze to take their tally to 31 overall.
Sophie Hahn (T38 200m), Dan Greaves (F64 Discus), Hannah Dines (RR3 100m), Gavin Drysdale (RR3 100m) and Graeme Ballard (T36 100m) all captured European titles on a frantic evening of track and field action, adding to the gold from Aled Davies earlier in the day in the F63 discus.
Kayleigh Haggo (RR3 100m), Rafi Solaiman (RR3 100m) and Ben Rowlings (T34 400m) won silver while Nathan Maguire was upgraded to bronze after two disqualifications in the T54 800m.
For Sophie Hahn (Charnwood, Joe McDonnell), the title completed the Grand Slam of 200m titles, adding to the Paralympic, world and Commonwealth gold medals she has won over the last two years. It was another stunning effort from the 21-year-old, who stormed the bend but was pressed hard by Germany’s Lindy Ave and Hungary’s Luca Ekler before taking it in a Championship record of 26.51 (-1.8m/s).
Hahn had to battle for her title and said after: “To win another title means so much to me. I have worked so hard and I am going to just keep getting quicker and stronger. I am really happy with my performance. I was only really concentrating on my own race, so it wasn’t until I have just watched it back I realised how close it was.
“I am really excited for next year, it’s not going to be easy, so I am going to work hard and get stronger.”
Ali Smith (Guildford & Godalming, Paul MacGregor) finished fourth in 28.80 while Eve Walsh-Dann (North Down, Roger Sexton) – making her senior British debut – was sixth in a personal best of 30.74.
Graeme Ballard (Wigan & District, Trevor Painter) rolled back the years as he won his first European title in the T36 100m leading to a full victory lap after crossing the line at a similar pace to the race.
The Wigan athlete had a storming start and the rest of the field could not contain him, powering away over the final 50m to take it in 12.32 (-0.8). He composed himself after a false start brought the field back to the starting blocks for a second time to win the title.
A delighted Ballard – 38 – spoke afterwards: “When the false start went, I just had to refocus, I just had to gather myself and go again. I gathered my thoughts, I looked down my lane and there was no one else in the race in my eyes. I was ready for it. Training has been amazing, so I just had to go out there and show my stuff.
On his moment on top of the rostrum, he added: “It’s going to be electric standing on the podium – it’s going to be absolutely amazing.”
Dan Greaves (Charnwood, self-coached) won his third European title on the bounce, his 57.65m effort in the second round sealing a meaningful triumph for the Loughborough-based athlete who has fought back from disappointment after last year’s World Championships in London. He was all smiles in Berlin, defeating the bronze medallist from London 2017, Ivan Katanusic (CRO), to capture the European title to go with those from Swansea and Grosseto.
Greaves commented post-event: “You come to a Championships like this and it is all about titles at the end of the day. I have come here for a medal, I take it very seriously, for me it is a case of walking away with gold and nothing else. I just wanted to put a bit of a show on for everyone who came down to watch – it’s just a shame I didn’t beat the 60-metre barrier – but I am so over the moon with gold.
“I was a bit annoyed with the distance. I started off really well – I got 57.01m in the first round, and then went 57.50 or .60 in the second. I hit the 60 tape in warm-up so I knew something big was there but it just never happened. It’s always frustrating but looking back it’s great.
Taz Nicholls (Shaftesbury Barnet, Alison O’Riordan), making his British debut in the event, threw a best of 42.02m in round five. Greaves reserved a special mention to the debutant in the class:
“It’s my fifth Europeans and my fifth title so it is great and for an older athlete like me it is great to see Taz [Nicholls] coming through the British ranks. The future bodes well for him.”
Great Britain and Northern Ireland had earlier got off to a brilliant start, securing gold and silver in both the Men’s and Women’s RR3 100m; RaceRunning the new discipline to these championships.
After both setting world records in their classes in the morning’s heats, it was expected to be a competitive final and it certainly lived up to the billing. Hannah Dines (Red Star) was pushed all the way to the line by teammate Kayleigh Haggo (Red Star, Janice Eaglesham), and stopped the clock in 19.00 (-0.7) – 0.13 seconds outside the world record she set in the heats – to beat her compatriot but both secured their place on the podium.
Newly crowned European champion, Dines said the competition from her compatriot only makes the pair stronger: “Having the opportunity to compete on the world stage is incredibly important and I am delighted to be given the opportunity and win gold.
“I think I am going to have to train pretty hard to stop Kayleigh grabbing that off me,” Dines added.
Silver medallist Haggo – who set a time of 19.46, said: I can’t put into words how much I enjoyed it. I went out there to have fun and I certainly did that. Hannah and I train together so it’s really good having each other to push one another. When I am racing her, I just love it and I love trying to catch her and trying to keep up.”
The next race on the track also saw a British one-two as Gavin Drysdale (Red Star, Janice Eaglesham) surged to victory in the men’s equivalent, with Rafi Solaiman (Sheffield & Dearne) taking the silver medal, the times 17.37 (-1.0) and 19.33 respectively.
Drysdale, from Scotland – had an impressive start which set the tone for the rest of the contest. He surged to the gold medal with his compatriot battling hard to secure his first international medal for the GB & NI team.
Drysdale said: “I felt like I had already won a gold medal just by being here so to win a real one is absolutely incredible. It means the absolute world to me to be competing here in Berlin, I still can’t believe we are actually here, I am usually cheering everyone from my TV screen at home and now I am on the other side having just competed.
“Race running is one of the very few sports I can do independently so to be given this opportunity to come and compete at a European Championships and something which I can participate in independently and, more importantly, something I love has just been totally surreal.”
The silver medallist from Worksop, added: “It feels great to be a silver medallist – I can’t believe it. I came here to medal, and I have done it. It was absolutely exhilarating. From the minute the gun went off, I was in the zone and it was good.”
Ben Rowlings (Coventry, Ian Mirfin) claimed his first medal of the Championships with a silver in the men’s T34 400m, while fellow Brit Isaac Towers (Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde, Peter Wyman / Jenni Banks) was edged into fourth position by just 0.01s by Switzerland’s Bojan Mitic.
Rowlings gave his all in the back straight and final bend to open up enough of a cushion to put himself in medal contention and still had enough to power home in 55.92, as Henri Manni (FIN) took gold in a Championship record 54.40. Towers pushed hard to the line but his 56.32 was agonizingly just outside a spot on the podium. Shaun White (Sutton & District, Christine Parsloe), making his British debut in Berlin, came home fifth in 1:10.82.
Speaking afterwards, Rowlings said: “I am happy with it – it’s an improvement on the past couple of Europeans I have done so it is all going in the right direction. I would have liked to have been a little bit closer to the front but it’s a silver medal I can’t complain. Unfortunately, I wasn’t good enough to come away with the win, but silver is a nice prize to take home.
The final medal of the evening came from Nathan Maguire (Halton & Frodsham, Ste Hoskins) in the T54 800m final, as he claimed bronze following two disqualifications.
Maguire had originally crossed the line in fifth place in 1:40.82, 0.02s outside of the medals. But following a double disqualification ahead of him for France’s Julien Casoli and Germany’s Alhassane Balde, he was rewarded with a spot on the podium. The result also promoted Dillon Labrooy (Weir Archer Academy, Jenny Archer) into fifth position after he recorded a time of 1:42.51.
Zak Skinner (Tonbridge, Aston Moore) concluded his Championship with a fourth-place finish in the men’s T13 100m. After coming through this morning’s heat in third, Skinner produced a solid run with a vastly improved start, but could only clock 11.41, missing out on bronze by less than 0.1s.
James Arnott (City of Plymouth, Ryan Freckleton) ran an excellent bend in the men’s T47 200m but was pipped to bronze on the line by Ricardo Bagaini (ITA). Arnott registered 23.39 (-1.2m/s) as his Championships end with two fourth place finishes.
Callum Hall (Leeds, Ian Thompson), another British debutant, finished the T53 800m final in fifth place, crossing the line in 1:52.18 as France’s Pierre Fairbank broke the Championship record to take gold in 1:43.74.
Steve Morris (Cardiff, James Thie) made easy work of progressing through his T20 800m heat, powering to the front and running a smooth race to qualify for the final in 2:00.21.