19th August 2022
RELAYS AMONG THOSE SAFELY THROUGH TO EUROPEAN FINALS IN MUNICH ON DAY FIVE
Safely qualifying for this weekend’s finals, Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s 800m women and relay quartets, in addition to Morgan Lake (coach: Robbie Grabarz, club: Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) in the high jump, delivered accomplished performances in this morning’s European Athletics Championships session in Munich (Friday 19 August).
With round one navigated on Thursday, Keely Hodgkinson (Trevor Painter, Leigh), Alex Bell (Andrew Henderson, Pudsey and Bramley) and Jemma Reekie (Andy Young, Kilbarchan) were back in action across two 800m semi-finals.
Hodgkinson, the Olympic, world and Commonwealth 800m silver medallist, was expected to qualify with ease and did so with a competent performance to win the first semi-final in 2:00.67. Poland’s Anna Wielgosz went to the front from the gun and took the pack through the bell in 1:00.78, but Hodgkinson was in total control and moved onto her shoulder before eventually kicking clear for the win.
The 20-year-old said: “I’m just really happy to have got through. I’m tired, but I’m taking it race by race. I could have taken it on, but the Polish girl set the pace which certainly helped me, so I’m just pleased to have got the job done.
“It’s going to be a tough race in the final. I never count anyone out, but I know what I am capable of, and I am looking forward to getting back out on the track on Saturday.”
Reekie and Bell were also impressive in securing automatic qualifying positions for tomorrow’s final (Saturday 20 August), finishing second and third respectively in the second semi-final.
The pair – starting to look back to their best after challenging periods in the build-up to this summer’s championships – tracked the leaders through 400m with Reekie on the inside and Bell mid-pack. Although boxed in, Reekie stayed patient and a gap appeared as Germany’s Christina Hering faded and drifted wide in the home straight. With confidence, the Olympic fourth-place finisher then glided through to take second behind France’s Rénelle Lamote in 2:00.30, with Bell finishing strongly to take third in 2:00.53.
“I didn’t mean to (get boxed in),” admitted Reekie. “In my head I was like, ‘stay calm, stay calm’. I was like, ‘OK, tactical head on now!’. The last thing Andy (Young) said to me was ‘keep your cool’. I know I have a good sprint finish, so I was just like, ‘Wait until the last 200m then I can get through’.”
Bell said: “It’s great to see all three of us through. I think even though I have been racing for so long, it’s only been this season that races are stressing me less when it gets bargy and clumpy and trippy. In the past I have panicked at that point, so I am just conserving more energy, because the more composed you are the more energy you save. I was side-eyeing other athletes down the straight, but it was fine. I’m happy.”
Demonstrating the strength of GB & NI’s well-drilled relay squad, the men’s 4 x 100m team – led off by newly-crowned European 100m bronze medallist Jeremiah Azu (coach: Helen James, club: Cardiff) with Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Benke Blomkvist, Sutton & District) on leg two, Jona Efoloko (Clarence Callender, Sale Harriers Manchester) on three and Tommy Ramdhan (Michael Afilaka, Bexley) on anchor – got off to a solid start with a dominant victory in heat one (38.41).
Aikines-Aryeetey, an experienced championship performer, was delighted to be back in the mix after a career-threatening injury led to surgery in 2021: “It’s so nice to be back,” he said. “To know that I’m still part of this strong team is great. We try to breed success in a successful model, and it’s nice to be a part of that!”
Echoing that sentiment, and highlighting the versatile squad approach, Ramdhan – competing at his first senior championships – added: “I got a late call-up, but I’ve done a lot of practice with the team, so it was nothing new to me.”
The women’s 4 x 100m team of Asha Philip (Amy Deem, Newham and Essex Beagles), Imani-Lara Lansiquot (Stuart McMillan, Sutton & District), Bianca Williams (Enfield and Haringey) and Ashleigh Nelson (Leon Baptiste, City of Stoke) was equally impressive, leading from the gun and getting the baton round safely in 42.83.
Lansiquot summed up the thoughts of the team who were the fastest qualifiers for the final: “It was a really smooth and really controlled run. We knew that this morning was a super-early start and we just wanted to make sure that we had safe exchanges and a few more gears to go. We know how good we are, we’ve had 100% success rate in terms of baton exchanges, in terms of our chemistry and knowing what we’ve got to do, so it’s just about getting the job done each and every time.”
In the 4 x 400m, GB & NI’s women won with ease while the men’s quartet finished a solid third to secure an automatic qualifying spot.
The women’s quartet of Zoey Clark (Ryan Oswald, Thames Valley), Ama Pipi (Marco Airale, Enfield and Haringey), Nicole Yeargin (Boogie Johnson, Pitreavie) and Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey) led from the gun, and by the time Pipi handed over to Yeargin on leg three there was a significant gap back to second which Nielsen maintained on the anchor leg. Their time of 3:23.79 was the fastest of the qualifiers by almost two seconds.
Clark, who most recently won 4 x 400m bronze for Scotland alongside Yeargin at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, said: “Running first leg is always about putting the team out into the best position possible, and I felt like I ran a really measured and controlled race. We are really happy. We always want to make out mark, and we always want to go out there and medal. We have put down the strongest time heading into the final. There are more girls to bring in. I think we all ran very conservatively then so we are feeling really good for tomorrow.”
The men’s quartet of Joe Brier (Matt Elias, Swansea), Rio Mitcham (Leon Baptiste, Birchfield), Lewis Davey (Newham and Essex Beagles) and Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist, Windsor Eton Slough Hounslow) clocked a season’s best time of 3:02.36 behind the Czech Republic and France, with potential to go significantly quicker in the final.
European 400m bronze medallist Haydock-Wilson, who moved the team fourth into third on the final leg, said: “I was fighting the temptation all the way around to do something drastic. I had to respect where my mind and body were after winning a medal the other night and pouring my heart out.
“It’s not about making the heat look sexy, you just have to qualify for the final. I feel like I’ve been running with the team all week. They’ve all been so supportive while I was doing my individual, so seeing them on the track and getting a chance to shine themselves is a beautiful thing.”
In the only field event of the morning, Morgan Lake (Robbie Grabarz, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) qualified safely in ninth for Sunday’s high jump final (21 August) with a best height of 1.87m, but unfortunately Laura Zialor (Jade Surman, Marshall Milton Keynes) did not record a mark.
“I’m really happy to have made the final,” said Lake. “The qualifying is always the most nerve-wracking part. You go into the championships with your outcome goals. Robbie (Grabarz) always tells me there is no final until you get through qualifying…I’m hoping Sunday brings nicer weather. Hopefully I can emulate the form that I showed today and jump some higher heights.”
Zialor, who has had an incredible year in spite of being relatively new to the high jump, said: “I’m a bit disappointed because the last couple of jumps I took the bar off with the bottom of my calves. Maybe if I had moved my take off a little bit further back I would have been able to have continued in the competition.
“I can’t be too disappointed because I have been doing high jump for three seasons, so I am pretty proud to have made all three Championships this summer.”
This evening’s session gets underway at 1920 UK time (2020 in Munich) with the men’s discus final featuring Lawrence Okoye (Zane Duquemin, Croydon).