14th July 2019
REEKIE COMPLETES HISTORIC DOUBLE AS GB&NI END WITH 14 MEDALS IN GAVLE
Jemma Reekie (club: Kilbarchan; coach: Andy Young) made history in Gavle, becoming the first British athlete to win double gold at the European Under-23 Championships as GB&NI claimed five medals on the final night to end with 14 overall.
Reekie ensured there was a golden glow to the British team as proceedings wrapped up in Sweden, storming to a second gold in the women’s 1500m final, less than 24 hours after doing exactly the same in the 800m which kickstarted her historic double attempt.
Spencer Thomas (Brighton Phoenix; Jon Bigg) raced himself onto the podium moments later, surging at the end of the men’s 800m final to win silver while Tom Gale (Team Bath; Denis Doyle) followed suit in a thrilling men’s high jump final that went to a jump off.
As Gale’s final was nearing its end, the men’s 4x400m relay team of Alex Haydock-Wilson (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow; Michael Baker), Lee Thompson (Sheffield & Dearne; John Henson), Joe Brier (Swansea; Matt Elias) and Cameron Chalmers (Guernsey; James Hillier) claimed silver as well.
The British women’s 4x400m relay team of Lily Beckford (Shaftesbury Barnet; Linford Christie), Finette Agyapong (Newham & Essex Beagles; Coral Nourrice), Yasmin Liverpool (Coventry; Stewart Marshall) and Hannah Williams (Herts Phoenix; Glyn Hawkes) then rounded things off with their own silver.
That pushed the overall British medal tally to 14 – three gold, eight silver and three bronze – with that return the best from the event since the 2013 European Under-23 Championships in Tampere, where the team won a total of 15.
Reekie’s second gold of the Championships was rarely in doubt. She sat the back during two slow first laps of the women’s 1500m final and thereafter took to the front. Her rivals tried to push ahead of her but with 200m to go, she kicked and that was it as she clocked 4:22.81 for gold – once again showing similarities to her European and Diamond League champion training partner Laura Muir.
She said: “I don’t think it has hit me yet. I am really tired, my legs are sore and the girls did not make that easy for me, both days, but I am really pleased. I just wanted it so bad, I know I said coming here that I would be happy with two medals but there was only one colour I wanted in both and I am really please I got it right.
“It has been amazing here, an amazing experience and an amazing team. I can’t thank British Athletics enough for all their support, not just here, but throughout the year so far. Yesterday I had to try and stay calm [on the podium] and not get too excited but now I can celebrate and I can’t wait to go home and see my family.”
Thomas followed Reekie onto the track for the men’s 800m final and it was his kick home that gave him silver. He kept in touch around the final bend, staying close with the leaders, and then powered through on the home straight to take second in 1:49.06.
He said: “It is such a great feeling. Words can’t describe how good it feels, it has been such a rollercoaster year and I just wanted to put something together today that really showed what I could do and what I have wanted to do for such a long time.
“I had a plan before the race and it didn’t unfold how I wanted it to. Going into the bell, all I wanted to do was stay close to the leaders and when it kicked off with 250m to go, I knew I had to get close. I worked and worked and worked and thought if I give up now I am always going to regret it.”
Gale, a European junior bronze medallist from 2017, was involved in a see-saw men’s high jump final that came down to a jump off between him and Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus at 2.29m. Gale was clean through 2.20m and came through a last chance saloon at 2.23m to increase his medal hopes.
First-time clearances at 2.25m and 2.27m – a season’s best by one centimetre – guaranteed a medal yet with three failures at 2.29m, Gale admitted he thought his competition was over. It wasn’t with a jump off with Nedasekau needed, however the Brit didn’t have enough to clear 2.29m for gold.
Gale said: “I’m crowning myself ‘Third Attempt King’. I needed a third attempt in qualifying and a third attempt at 2.23m today. I wasn’t the favourite to win it, wasn’t the favourite for silver so to come in and get another season’s best – I have been improving every competition – it was a good day.
“I would have really liked that 2.29m, my second attempt was massively close, it is 100 per cent there. I think I let the competition get the better of me though. I went mentally to somewhere else but I am proud of how I jumped. Going forward I need to be more aware of my position because I wasn’t aware that both of us were equal first, I thought Maksim had won it and my head went after that.”
As Gale’s high jump final neared its end, the British 4x400m relay teams both secured silver. Haydock-Wilson and Thompson got the men off to a fine start in their final while Brier held with his German rival before handing over to Chalmers.
Chalmers was agonisingly denied gold in the individual 400m 24 hours earlier and battled all the way to the finish however his three races previous in Gavle were still in his legs and the British team took silver in 3:04.59.
Haydock-Wilson said: “The stakes were high, we really went in wanting to win so I just knew I had to give something more than what I gave in the heats and I feel that’s what I went out and did.”
Thompson said: “Alex put me in a great position. I just wanted to get in the lead off the third bend, which I had to fight for, thankfully I made it. I just wanted to give Joe the best chance of giving it to Cam and bringing it home. We wanted gold but we can’t turn our nose up at silver.”
Brier said: “It felt alright. Lee gave me a great leg to work off. I let the German go past, which I shouldn’t have done, but I worked off him in the home straight and it felt good.”
Chalmers said: “I got it in a really good position, just a little bit behind Germany. I really wanted to go past him on the back straight, he was going a bit slow for my liking but I couldn’t really spot a gap. I gave it my everything. It has bene a week of nearly’s. If I was fresh I would have got there.”
The British women’s 4x400m relay team were also cruelly denied gold at the death after Beckford and Agyapong took control of the first two legs to put the quartet in real contention. Liverpool kept the lead on the third leg, diving over after passing the baton to Williams such was her commitment.
Williams went for it on the last leg however she was dramatically caught by her Polish rival just before the line in an agonising end in the final event of the Championships. The British quartet claimed silver in 3:32.91.
Beckford said: “It was really hard after the individual earlier in the week. I started too slow then, so I tried to go off fast and I died a bit, but it was a good leg.”
Agyapong said: “It was really exciting and really fun. I really enjoyed running with the girls and I think everyone here ran really well and showed a lot of maturity. I am really happy with the result.”
Liverpool said: “I just really wanted to make sure I got it over even if that meant stumbling. It was really exciting, my first international. I felt like the girls established a really good lead and I wanted to maintain that.”
Williams said: “It means a lot to us because I don’t think we went in really expecting a medal. I was annoyed that I couldn’t get the gold but we are all happy with the silver. We did a really good job.”
Jodie Judd (Chelmsford; Mick Judd) became the third British athlete to record a personal best as she clocked 15:51.67 to finish sixth in the women’s 5000m final.
With Denmark’s Anna Emilie Moller and Germany’s Alina Reh storming ahead very early, Judd – who’s sister Jodie won the World University Games 5,000m title earlier in the week – was in the chasing group for much of the race but showed great stamina to take sixth in a career best.
She was joined in the final by teammate Amelia Quirk (Bracknell; Mick Woods), who trains with Moller, who would impressively kick past Reh for gold, and she battled valiantly to finish 12th in 16:08.71.
The British women’s 4x100m relay team of Melissa Roberts (Birchfield Harriers; Matt Elias), Alisha Rees (Edinburgh; Leon Baptiste), Hannah Brier (Swansea; Glyn Hawkes) and Shannon Malone (Deeside; Glyn Hawkes) finished fifth in the final in 44.54. The British men’s 4x100m relay team did not finish.
Alice Hopkins (Oxford City; Marcia Marriott) was the first British athlete in action in the closing session and progressed to the latter stages of the women’s long jump final after opening with 6.12m. She was unable to improve on that however as she placed seventh. Alex Knibbs (Amber Valley & Erewash; Nick Dakin) kickstarted the last of the British action on the track in the men’s 400m hurdles and finished eighth in 50.82.
British Athletics medal tally (14):
Shemar Boldizsar – Men’s 200m
Jemma Reekie – Women’s 800m
Jemma Reekie – Women’s 1500m
Ellie Baker – Women’s 800m
Oliver Bromby – Men’s 100m
Cameron Chalmers – Men’s 400m
Piers Copeland – Men’s 1500m
Tom Gale – Men’s High Jump
Spencer Thomas – Men’s 800m
4x400m Relay – Men
4x400m Relay – Women
Cameron Fillery – Men’s 110m Hurdles
Emile Cairess – Men’s 10,000m
Callum Wilkinson – Men’s 20km Race Walk