1st March 2024


Jemma Reekie (coach: Jon Bigg; club: Kilbarchan) and team captain Laviai Nielsen (Tony Lester; Enfield & Haringey) impressively led the British qualifiers as the World Athletics Indoor Championships kicked off in Glasgow while Amelia Campbell (Zane Duquemin; Thames Valley) placed 13th as the first finalist of the Championships.

Reekie, ranked second in the world in the women’s 800m ahead of these Championships, could have hardly asked for a better opening race as she targets a maiden major senior medal, comfortably winning her heat in 1:59.45 minutes for the quickest time overall.

Nielsen, named captain on her 15th career major international appearance, set the tone earlier on the first morning as she herself cruised to victory in her women’s 400m heat, clocking 51.82 seconds to rank third overall ahead of the semi-finals in the second session.

Elsewhere on a busy opening morning, Campbell was the first British athlete to compete in a final in Glasgow in the women’s shot put, placing 13th with a best of 17.21m, while Abigail Pawlett (Ashley Bryant; Trafford) is currently placed ninth in the pentathlon on her major senior debut.

Reekie said: “It was so nice when I stepped out onto the track and heard the crowd. I really enjoyed that moment. I don’t take anything for granted, just like I didn’t at the British Champs.

“It is a World Championships so everyone steps up. I kept my head focused and stayed relaxed and I was confident I would go through. This Championships is a massive stepping stone for me. I can learn lots of things and try lots of things, and it is particularly important for me in Olympic year.”

Reekie would have been shocked as Brazilian Flavia Maria De Lima took out the third of the five women’s 800m heats very quickly, but the Brit held back and concentrated on running her own race.

De Lima was unsurprisingly reeled in at halfway and Reekie kicked past to take control of the race and cruise home to win in 1:59.45, the fastest time from the five heats and only one of two to duck under two minutes.

She was joined in the heats of the women’s 800m by teammate Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn; Enfield & Haringey), who went in the last of the five heats.

Boffey settled into third early on before pushing to second to try and avoid the elbows of Madeleine Kelly of Canada. Boffey surged to the front on the third lap and maintained the lead with 200m to go.

Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda would come by and, while Boffey valiantly tried to hold onto second down the home straight, she finished fourth in 2:02.81 to miss out on progression.

She said: “It [the seedings] have changed, going on world rankings rather than season bests, so that was different to what I am used to. But I was fully aware of that, and the team was hot on that. It was tough and a messy race, very stop and start.

“I tried to get out of the mess because I kept getting clipped. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold my form, so I am disappointed. With 40m to go, I was like ‘yes this is mine’, then I just got involved in a real scramble at the end.”

Captain Nielsen didn’t have to wait long to get her campaign underway in Glasgow, the second British athlete to take to the track in anger in the very first of four heats of the women’s 400m.

Nielsen surged out of the blocks with the tactic to chase down Romanian Andrea Miklos in lane six. She did that comfortably for the important lead through the first 200m, which was run in 24.07.

She stayed wide to prevent Miklos from overtaking her but that was never going to happen as Nielsen controlled the race at the front for the win, clocking 51.82 with the semi-finals fast approaching in the second session.

She said: “It is so special to perform here. I am really soaking this up because these opportunities don’t come around very often. I almost wanted to cry because we sometimes take these opportunities for granted. It is all about qualifying, making the team initially, but these moments are incredible, and we are very lucky to be here.

“The speech was harder than that race. It was terrifying. It was such an honour to be handed the captaincy. When I got the phone call, I almost turned it down because I wasn’t sure if I was that person. When I said yes, I thought I am not going to pretend I know better than these incredible teammates of mine, I was just going to tell them something that they already know.”

Reigning British champion Campbell, competing at the second World Indoor Athletics Championships of her career, was straight into finals action on the first morning in the women’s shot put.

After opening with an effort of 15.51m, Campbell threw out to 17.21m with her second attempt as she grew into the competition. She followed up with an effort of 16.77m in the third round, which would place her 13th.

She said: “I thought I was 15th which was better than I was ranked coming in but ultimately not what I wanted today. I definitely wanted more – if I had three more throws, I definitely could have caught one but at this level you just have to bring your A game from the first three rounds.

“I just couldn’t catch a hand today for my life. It was absolutely amazing out there and I melted when everyone cheered for me during the introductions and that was amazing. I loved every bit of it but I wish I had a better result.”

Not only did Pawlett have the honour of making her major senior championship debut in Glasgow, she had the honour of being the very first British athlete to compete as the women’s pentathlon kicked off proceedings.

Pawlett had to control her nerves in the first event of five, the 60m hurdles, as it involved a false start by Spain’s Maria Vicente however, once settled, she would produce a solid start to her campaign.

Vicente would take the win in the second of the two heats while Pawlett showed her composure to finish second in 8.25, her dip the difference as four athletes finished almost in a straight line.

That placed her third ahead of the high jump, where Pawlett would record a best of 1.70m. Opening up at 1.64m, she cleared that height and 1.67m with ease before showing resolve to surpass 1.70m at the third attempt.

Unfortunately, Pawlett couldn’t quite advance any further, narrowly missing out at 1.73m, which would have equalled her season’s best height. Now placed ninth on 1928 points, the shot put would wrap up her morning’s work.

Opening with an effort of 12.29m, Pawlett pushed out to 12.90m with her second before rounding off a consistent series with an even better throw of 12.95m. That kept her ninth with a points tally of 2652 with the long jump and 800m to come in the second session.