25th February 2023
RECORDS FALL & WINNERS CROWNED AFTER SUPERB WORLD INDOOR TOUR FINAL IN BIRMINGHAM
Gudaf Tsegay (ETH), Grant Holloway (USA), Keely Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter; club: Leigh), Neil Gourley (Stephen Haas; Giffnock North) and Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie; Blackheath & Bromley) were all on record-breaking form as Birmingham hosted a World Indoor Tour Final to remember with seven athletes walking away with overall victory at the Utilita Arena.
There was talk of world records falling in Birmingham and, while they didn’t, plenty others did as Hodgkinson in the women’s 800m, Gourley in the men’s 1500m and Asher-Smith in the women’s 60m all set impressive new British records on their way to wins in World Indoor Tour events as the series concluded.
Hodgkinson and Gourley would also win the overall World Indoor Tour titles – Asher-Smith tied on overall points in her 60m but missing out having run just hundredths of a second slower than Aleia Hobbs (USA) – while unbeaten Holloway set a new meeting record, stadium record and world lead in the 60m hurdles to guarantee himself a crown as well.
Tsegay was perhaps the closest to setting a world record but fell 0.09 seconds short in setting a meeting record in the women’s 3000m with victory for Hamish Kerr (NZL) in the men’s high jump, Alysha Newman (CAN) in the women’s pole vault and Jereem Richards (TTO) in the 400m ensuring they won their respective World Indoor Tour titles.
Eccentrically dressed Marquis Dendy (USA) won the men’s long jump but Thobias Montler (SWE), who was sixth, had already done enough earlier this season to win World Indoor Tour title while special mention goes to British athlete Faye Olszowka (Coral Nourrice; Bexley), who set a personal best 8.09 on the way to victory in the women’s para 60m event that helped open the day’s action.
Hodgkinson kicked on after the halfway mark of the women’s 800m and reeled in her own British record – set at this meeting last year – and her own world lead. The field couldn’t keep up with her as it became a race against the clock – the world record still intact but the British record and world lead falling to 1:57.18 minutes. That was also three wins from three World Indoor Tour appearances and the overall title secured.
“It was pretty smooth running, but the line got away from me towards the end so I’m a bit gutted because I feel like I’m capable of faster than that,” said Hodgkinson, who saw British teammates and newly crowned UK champions Issy Boffey (Luke Gunn; Enfield & Haringey) and Ellie Baker (Jon Bigg; Shaftesbury Barnet) finish third and fifth respectively in 2:00.25 and 2:00.86.
“Nevertheless I’m happy to come away with another British record. When you set your goals high, you want to achieve them. It was a tough record to get the world record, but I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep coming back to give it a go. For me now, it’s straight into the Europeans next week and that’s my focus now.”
With so many world-class performances on the day, Gourley’s win – the first of the day for a British athlete in a World Indoor Tour event – was right up there as he waited patiently in the men’s 1500m before powering around the final lap to clock that British record of 3:32.48.
Josh Kerr (Danny Mackey; Edinburgh), the British record holder before the race, led it out but faded after the bell as Gourley upped the pace and stormed home for the second fastest time this year and could hardly have had any better preparation for next week’s European Indoor Championships.
Gourley’s surge helped Adel Mechaal (ESP) to a Spanish record of 3:33.28 in second while Kerr was fifth in 3:34.93 and fellow Brit Piers Copeland (Bob Smith; Pontypridd) eighth in 3:40.64. The win saw Gourley crowned the World Indoor Tour champion and he said: “That race was something else, I knew it was going to be quick, it was a case of hanging on and using my pace in the last 150m and thankfully I managed to do that.
“This track is quick; the surface is quick. The race has set me up nicely for next week. I’m expecting it to be a similar race to this, it will be a case of seeing if I have the wheels at the end of the race to take the gold. I knew I could run a time like this, but it was all about being able to execute it, and I’m glad I have finally been able to do that.”
After a scintillating British record of 7.03 in the heats of the women’s 60m, Asher-Smith was professional as she followed it up with a win in the final in 7.05. Victory always appeared on the cards after a fine start with British teammate and newly crowned UK champion Neita (Marco Airale; Cambridge Harriers) taking second in 7.13.
Destiny Smith-Barnett (USA) completed the top three with a 7.15 clocking while the other Brit in the final Asha Philip (Newham & Essex Beagle) was eighth in 7.30. Asher-Smith said: “I’m really happy to have run a British record. I was aiming for sub-7 but it’s good and it’s good that I’m frustrated running so fast. It bodes really well and everything has been going really well in training so I can’t complain.
“I think for me indoors is always about getting ready for the outdoors. I like to perform at the major championships and I work back from things like Budapest, things like Oregon last year, I work back and map out my season. I haven’t done indoors for so long properly, I thought we would give it a shot this year and I’m happy.”
Moments after Asher-Smith’s 7.03 British record in the heats of the women’s 60m, Tsegay’s own record attempt began. In what was essentially a race against the clock in the women’s 3000m, she was comfortably inside world record pace after five laps and then cut loose from the pacemaker with six to go.
Tsegay appeared to slow as the laps ticked down before putting in a huge effort over the final 200m with it genuinely on a knife edge whether the world record, which has stood for more than nine years, would fall.
She would finish an agonising 0.09 short as she clocked a huge meeting record 8:16.69 for the win with compatriot Mizan Alem (ETH) in 8:31.20 while Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER), who had the European record in her sights at one stage, was third in 8:35.14. British home hope Eloise Walker (Painter; Edinburgh) was tenth in 9:02.80.
Tsegay said: “I’m so happy, it was so close. My body is more tired from the travelling, but I am sure that I will get the world record next time. I enjoyed the track, it was very good, and I want to thank the crowd in Birmingham and all of the event organisers.”
Muir followed the lead of Gourley and Asher-Smith in claiming victory against international opposition as she comfortably won the women’s 1000m. She attacked the race in pursuit of the world record but couldn’t quite come close to it as she posted 2:34.53.
Claudia Mihaela Bobocea (ROU) managed to reel Muir in somewhat to finish second in a Romanian record of 2:35.35 while the other British athlete in the race Katie Snowden (Stephen Haas, Herne Hill) finished fifth in 2:37.46.
Muir said: “I was going to go for it, and I think when you are running at that pace it’s going to hit at some point and it’s at what point it’s going to hit. Unfortunately, it hit a bit too soon, but I had to go for it, and I had to run those times at the start.
“I know I’m in a good spot [ahead of European Indoors], it’s hard to get that perfect. I gave it a good shot and I’m feeling strong in training. It’s got to be the gold. It’s the only colour medal I’ve won there so I want to keep that record up.”
It wasn’t a world record, but Holloway ensured his career unbeaten run in the men’s 60m hurdles comfortably continued as he clocked a world lead, a meeting record and a stadium record 7.35 – the fourth quickest time all-time – for the win.
It was billed as a head-to-head with Daniel Roberts (USA) with his compatriot going into the race ahead in the World Indoor Tour standings. Second for Roberts in 7.47 saw him relinquish the lead and hand the World Indoor Tour title to Holloway.
Newly-crowned UK champion David King (Tim O’Neil; City of Plymouth) was sixth in 7.70 and Andrew Pozzi (Antiago Antunez; Stratford) was eighth in 7.80 and Holloway said: “It was a great race, the stadium record makes it that much better. To come out here and execute feels great and I’m looking forward to the outdoor season. I can’t wait to get back home, see the family, see my pup and get back to work. My goal was to come out here, have a little bit of fun and go out there and I did that. The future is bright for me.”
In the women’s pole vault, Canadian Newman arrived in fine form following victory in Madrid and would need a similar performance to leave Birmingham with the World Indoor Tour title – which is exactly what she did.
Newman was supremely impressive as she went through 4.41m to 4.71m completely clean. The next height 4.78m proved no problem either but 4.84m was just a step too far. By that point the win – and World Indoor Tour title – was secured with Tina Sutej (SLO) clearing 4.71m but not managing 4.78m.
As for the British interest Sophie Cook (Scott Simpson; Halesowen) placed eighth with a best of 4.41m while new UK champion Jade Ive (Sutton & District) unfortunately failed to register a height. Overall World Indoor Tour winner Newman said: “Indoor champion sounds so great, I haven’t heard it for a while.
“I love jumping with these girls, they push me to be the best athlete I can be and push me to my extremes. To get the wildcard slot so early for World Champs next year [courtesy of being Tour champion] is a huge weight off my shoulders, it allows me to focus on each event as it comes.
“I love the crowd here; they always get behind me and all the athletes. They make the sport what it is and long may it continue. We do this not just for ourselves but for the crowd, and if I can inspire one or two in the crowd then I have done my job.”
A bucket-hat donned; mask-wearing Dendy lit up the men’s long jump at the death as he took the win with his final attempt. He leapt out to 8.28m moments after Tajay Gayle (JAM) had set the challenge with a 8.13m leap with his final effort.
Victory pushed Dendy to 20 points in the World Indoor Tour standings but sixth-placed Montler, who pulled out after three rounds, arrived in Birmingham with 22. Brit Reynold Banigo (Matt Barton; Sale Harriers Manchester) was fifth with a best of 7.81m while Jack Roach (Lukasz Zawila; Harrow) was seventh with 7.60m.
Dendy said: “This is what I have been practising for. I knew it was going to be a long tour. I had a few hamstring problems, but I’ve kept going and this is where I wanted to be. I’m a hat guy and now, after this, it has become my lucky hat so it will be following me to the outdoor season for sure.”
Meanwhile World Indoor Tour champion Montler, who leapt 7.63m before withdrawing, said: “I already knew that I had won the Tour, so it was all about practice and Europeans. I have a great trophy to take home with me even if I would have liked to have jumped better. I have two [European indoor] silver medals in the backpack, so I am really going to try and make that a gold. My body and mind is ready for it.”
Reigning world indoor champion Richards ran a controlled race to add the World Indoor Tour men’s 400m crown to his collection as the action gathered pace in Birmingham. A strong start saw him hit the front and despite the best efforts of Vernon Norwood (USA) wouldn’t be passed as he clocked 45.74 for the win and overall World Indoor Tour title.
British pair Ben Higgins (Stewart Marshall; Sheffield & Dearne) and Samuel Reardon (Nigel Stickings; Blackheath & Bromley) were fourth and sixth respectively and Richards said: “It’s been a competitive series and has really driven me forwards. Every time I step out on the track I try and improve and every race I have done every race so far this season. I’m grateful and very happy with it.”
Commonwealth champion from Birmingham last summer Hamish Kerr (NZL) completed his perfect record in this season’s World Indoor Tour with a second victory in the men’s high jump on his return to the West Midlands, that seeing him crowned the overall winner.
After victory in Poland with 2.27m, Kerr went one better to seal the World Indoor Tour title with a best leap of 2.28m. He tried once at 2.32m but would fall short with the win coming on countback after Erik Portillo (MEX) also jumped 2.28m but had one failure at it while he couldn’t clear 2.30m. Will Grimsey (Graham Ravenscroft; Woodford Green Essex Ladies), the only Brit in the field, was eighth with 2.14m.
Kerr said: “Warming up I didn’t feel amazing, I was trying to get my head into the competition, and I was able to do that. I’m in the form of my life at the moment so it’s time to go home and get ready for the outdoor season. Indoors to outdoors is a little bit of a change but we are used to it, you start a little bit lower than you are used to but it’s a challenge and I’m really looking forward to it.”
A women’s para 60m was second on the programme and history repeated itself as Olszowka stormed to her second victory in Birmingham in the space of a week, smashing her best personal in the process as she recorded 8.09.
Esme O’Connell (John Shepherd; Dacorum) and Ali Smith (Benke Blomkvist; Guildford & Godalming) were with her through the first 20m but Olszowka would power away to lower her personal best by 0.07. O’Connell and Smith remained neck and neck with the former taking second in her own personal best of 8.38.
Olszowka said: “It’s really good to have got the win for the second time. I’m happy to have got the win again and lots of people are here watching. I like the track here. It’s onto outdoors for me, that’s my focus now.”
An action-packed day kicked off in style with the men’s para 60m and Zac Shaw (Leon Baptiste; Cleethorpes) claimed a fine victory a week after having to settle for second on the same track at the UK Athletics Indoor Championships.
Last weekend’s winner Kevin Santos (Michael Utting; City of Norwich) got the better start but Shaw battled back and powered through the final 30m to take the win in 7.01. Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker (Joe McDonnell; Newham & Essex Beagles) was second in 7.08 while Santos was third on this occasion in 7.12.
Shaw said: “Last week I didn’t want to make excuses, I had some injuries and only ran two days before the event. I put a bit of confidence back in myself because last week it did not feel like me. I am happy with this, not necessarily with the win, but the race.”
In an all-British 60m Charlie Dobson (Blomkvist; Colchester) came out on top in a race that saw three athletes disqualified for false starts on two separate occasions. Dobson kept his head as first Jeremiah Azu (Marco Airale; Cardiff) and Ojie Edoborun (Stuart McMillan; Shaftesbury Barnet) went early before Richard Akinyebo (BFT Track Academy; Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai) took off before the gun himself as the field lined back up.
The now field of five were all in a line through the first 30m as the race officially got underway but Dobson pulled away superbly as he clocked 6.64 to win by 0.04. The battle for second was extremely tight with 2017 world 4x100m relay champion Adam Gemili (Blackheath & Bromley) awarded second in 6.68, just 0.03 separating him from the other three athletes.
Dobson said: “It [the false starts] was very stressful at the time when you are trying to get prepared and then you have to come back twice in the end. You just have to deal with it and move on. This is my final indoor race of the season, so it is nice to end it on a good one. For me indoors is a chance to sharpen up for outdoors and getting ready for that, and that’s what I feel like I have done.”
As is tradition when Birmingham hosts the World Indoor Tour, the event kicks off with the best up-and-coming young talent getting the chance to step first on this newly-laid track in the form of four ClubConnect relays for under 13 and under 15 girls and boys.
If the opportunity wasn’t already special enough, Amber Valley & Erewash and Rugby & Northampton made it even more memorable as they both took victory in a national record in the boys under 13 and girls under 15 races respectively.
Amber Valley & Erewash clocked 1:51.19 for their win while Rugby & Northampton crossed in 1:46.03. There was a home victory in the boys under-15 race as Birmingham-based Birchfield Harriers came out on top while in the remaining event there was another West Midlands winner as Tamworth won the girls under 13 event.
For full results from the Birmingham World Indoor Tour Final follow this link