8th June 2024


George Mills (coach: Thomas Dreißigacker, club: Brighton Phoenix) secured a superb silver and Romell Glave (Michael Afilaka, Croydon) a brilliant bronze as the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team claimed their first medals on the second evening of the European Championships in Rome.

On a night where there were three fourth-place finishes, Mills got the British team’s medal tally up and running after a fantastic run in the men’s 5000m final. He stormed to silver – and his maiden major senior international medal –  in 13:21.38. Teammates James West (Helen Clitheroe, Tonbridge) was seventh and Jack Rowe (Tim Eglen, Aldershot Farnham and District) was 17th.

A matter of moments later, Glave proved just how good an international sprint prospect he is by securing bronze in a fiercely contested men’s 100m final. He pushed Italian Olympic champion and winner Marcell Lamont Jacobs every metre and also took his first senior major international medal in a time of 10.06 seconds.

Three other Brits came agonisingly close of a medal themselves with Cindy Sember (Chris Johnson, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) in the women’s 100m hurdles, Scott Lincoln (Paul Wilson, City of York) in the men’s shot put and Jacob Fincham-Dukes (Matt Barton, Leeds) in the men’s long jump all finishing fourth.

Elsewhere Jade O’Dowda (John Lane, Newham & Essex Beagles) set a new personal best of 6314 points on the way to an impressive seventh in the heptathlon while Callum Wilkinson (Robert Heffernan, Enfield & Haringey) showed superb form after placing ninth in the men’s 20km race walk.

On a night where finals outnumbered qualification, Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield) booked a shot at another European medal in the men’s 800m, eight years after his bronze in Amsterdam. He’ll get the chance to join Mills and Glave in taking a spot on the podium on Sunday night.

Mills said: “It is what I expected of myself. I think it is alright but it is back to work now, I’ve got the rest of the season to prepare for. Everyone will tell me I am boring as hell, but I’ll crack on and get back to work.

“I wanted to warm up through the race. I knew there were five guys who were really going to compete and they were who I wanted to pay attention to. With it being a messy slow race, I wanted to get myself out of trouble and be in a good position to go when it kicked off. It’s progress but we want more.”

By the first 1km of the men’s 5000m final the front of the field was in single file with West fourth, Rowe fifth and Mills settling in behind.

It didn’t stay that way for long though as with nine laps to go Mills had clearly had enough and went wide and to the front. Just moments after he did that Rowe appeared to get into a tangle with the tripped Frenchman Etienne Daguinos and fell. He got himself straight back up but it did impact his race thereafter.

By 3km Mills was going back and forth at the front before settling himself in second and doing everything right on the shoulder of Thierry Ndikumwenayo of Spain. West himself was coming through nicely behind the leaders.

In trademark fashion, Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen took the lead at the bell but Mills stuck with him and looked extremely comfortable doing so. Down the back straight six were in contention for the medals but around the final bend Ingebrigtsen and Mills had pulled away.

The Norwegian surged just too far ahead for Mills but he guaranteed himself a first ever major international medal with silver in 13:21.38. Teammate West was seventh in 13:24.80 and Rowe was 17th in 13:31.77.

Mills added: “It’s hard to talk about the race because you’re in the zone. All of a sudden you’re on the last lap and Jakob hit the front and I was like ‘stick on him, stick on him’. I thought if I could stick on him to the home straight maybe I could do something but he is obviously very strong and he pulled away from me in the last 150m.”

Moments after Mills’ superb silver, it was the opportunity for Glave to follow him onto the podium in the men’s 100m final. Drawn in the lane next to home favourite Lamont Jacobs, Glave got off to a great start and pushed the reigning Olympic champion every inch.

The pair were neck and neck for much of the race however the Italian just pulled away from the Brit in the closing stages to win in 10.02. Another Italian Chituru Ali was second in 10.05 and Glave powered home to take bronze in 10.06 – and like Mills a first ever  major international medal.

“I am grateful to be here and get the opportunity to showcase my abilities against the best in the world,” said Glave, whose teammate CJ Ujah (Steve Fudge, Enfield and Haringey) unfortunately missed out on the final as he finished fifth in the third of three semi-finals in 10.24.

“That is one of my goals this year, competing against the best so I can go on to better things. I am happy with a bronze medal but not satisfied. It was close so I am happy to be a bronze medallist at my first champs and better things are ahead. I am looking ahead to the next couple of weeks.

“I will go back to training and focus on my first part of the race. The medal is more important than the time, getting in the top three. It is another step for me. My next step is to get the standard for the Olympics.”

At the time of the men’s long jump final, Fincham-Dukes was the closest member of the British team yet to a medal as he finished an agonising fourth. Cruising through qualification in second overall, he was always going to be a medal contender – and so it proved.

He sent down a huge marker with his opening leap of 8.12m, settling into third. He remained there after a second round effort of 8m exactly however would fall outside the medal positions in round three.

Switzerland’s Simon Ehammer leapt out to 8.31m and try as he might thereafter to break back into the medals, Fincham-Dukes just narrowly failed to do so with three fouls and a 7.97m effort from his final four jumps.

It meant Fincham-Dukes improved one place on his fifth from the last European Championships in Munich in 2022 but that he also missed out on bronze by just 19 centimetres.

He said:  “I’m really happy. I had a foul that would have contended for that third medal place for sure, definitely high 8.20s, but on paper that was the toughest European Championships in history, and I was up there contending for a medal and I really, really cannot be mad at that.

“Right now European jumping is World Jumping, it is. There are a couple of Jamaicans doing some really big things, but the Americans haven’t done anything special yet so European jumping is where it’s at.

“This year I am having my best year ever by far and I’m not even close, I feel I am right on the cusp of doing something special – 8.40 I feel is easily reachable this year and if I can do it at the right time, it can result in something good.”

Lincoln enjoyed the best European Championships of his career in the men’s shot put final but it was still bittersweet as he agonisingly missed out on a medal. He put himself sharply in the mix with an effort of 20.51m first time out but would suffer defeat by the smallest of margins.

After a foul in round two and a 19.92m in round three, a fourth-round effort of 20.88m would push Lincoln to within six centimetres of Poland’s Michal Haratyk in bronze medal position. Haratyk never improved on his 20.94m but with two attempts Lincoln just couldn’t reel him in.

Tenth two years at the European Championships in Munich, fourth represents a superb performance from Lincoln, even if the margin between reaching the podium and not reaching it was just those six centimetres.

He said: “I am very, very disappointed and a little bit gutted. Six centimetres short of a medal it is a bit bittersweet. It is a good, solid performance in a major championship, which I have struggled with in the past and it has given me a huge confidence boost for the summer.

“The thing with shot put is that it is strong all around the world at the moment, not just Europe. I am competing with them week in, week out now, which helps. It gets you comfortable in that environment and gets you in the best place possible to progress.”

Much like Lincoln and Fincham-Dukes, Sember was a very realistic medal chance in the women’s 100m hurdles but would too finish an agonising fourth herself. A run of 12.64 to win her semi-final saw Sember lay down a marker for the final.

However, despite an extremely strong finish in the final at the Stadio Olimpico, Sember couldn’t force her way into the medal positions as her season’s best effort of 12.56 placed her fourth, 0.14 away from bronze.

O’Dowda has been steadily progressing throughout the heptathlon in recent years and smashed into the top seven with a stunning final – and personal best – performance in Rome. Going from ninth to eighth after the long jump in the morning, she then moved up another place in the javelin.

She recorded a season’s best effort of 42.33m to start the evening in the javelin, now going from eighth to seventh. O’Dowda then concluded her heptathlon in arguably the best possible fashion with a significant personal best in the 800m.

O’Dowda powered around the two laps of the Stadio Olimpico to shave exactly 0.60 off her personal best, stopping the clock at 2:11.30 to cement that seventh place and also smash a new personal best points total of 6314.

She said: “Overall, now it’s done, I feel good. It’s a PB so I can’t tell you it’s bad. The best I have ever done but I have had ups, I have had downs. My shot put was definitely a down – a metre less than what I threw a couple of weeks ago.

“The hurdles was good, the high jump was very happy with it – not the third attempts – but I got what I got. The 200m was nothing to sing and dance about but I am very proud of my day two. A good long jump and the javelin – I have been struggling with it – so it was a confidence boost to get a couple of decent throws.

“The 800m was all about getting 2:12 and I just locked onto whoever was in front of me, I can’t remember who it was. I am proud of how I managed to channel my frustration [at day one] into day two. It was a mix of two days.”

Earlier in the day Wilkinson had produced a superb performance in the men’s 20km race walk, held for the majority in the stunning setting of the Foro Italico before finishing in the Stadio Olimpico. He was in the top 15 for much of the first 6km before cracking into the top ten thereafter.

Ranked outside the top 50 in Europe, he was seventh well past half way before falling outside of the top ten. He dug deep however especially during the closing kilometres to crack back into that top ten after a superb finish.

He didn’t finish the last European Championship men’s 20km race walk back in 2022 in Munich but toasted a superb performance not just with a ninth-place finish but also a clocking of 1:21:34 hours.

Wilkinson said: “It was amazing to be a part of it, and near the front end for some stages. It started slowly and picked up and there started to be a lot of surging, which my body didn’t seem to like so much, so I pulled back a little bit.

“It is amazing for me to be back in these types of competitions. I have sat in a lot of surgeons offices over the last couple of years, and them having the honest conversations with me that they weren’t sure if I would be able to get back to this [after injury]. I am delighted that I have. There has been a lot of hard work to get here.”

In the men’s 800m semi-finals Giles’ pursuit of a first European final since he won bronze in Amsterdam in another Olympic year in 2016 was realised. He held his nerve in the first of two semi-finals, making his way through the field to finish in the top three.

Italian Catalin Tecuceanu led with 200m to go, reeling in Alvaro De Arriba of Spain, which Giles would then do himself down the home straight to take second in a time of 1:46.50 and scratch that eight-year itch by reaching the final.

Giles said: “It was a little bit messy but we got there. I’m too old to be getting those tactics wrong, aren’t I? I felt comfy the whole way but I was just in a really bad position. I knew I had to hold my nerve because I almost tried to fight my way out and I would have been in real trouble if I did.

“So it worked out quite well, I held my nerve, but it still put me in a bad position. I’m pleased with the result but not with the tactics. I knew where I should have been. I should have gone to the front, but I knew I had the final, and I didn’t want to be at the front.”

Thomas Randolph (Craig Winrow, Tamworth) joined Giles in 800m action, going in the second of the semi-finals and took the race out just after the halfway stage. Unfortunately he fell out of the top three down the home straight, finishing seventh in 1:49.18.

He said: “I didn’t want to end up right at the front, I wanted to get out hard and get into the mix, as [in the heats] I felt detached the whole way around in the heat. I wanted to get stuck in, I normally race better if I’m in sight of the front, but I found myself at the front.

“I just wanted to keep it honest, I knew the first semi wasn’t that quick, so make it honest and see what happens, but it didn’t work out.”

Tade Ojora (Joanna Hayes, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) received a bye into the men’s 110m hurdles semi-finals but unfortunately missed out on the final as he finished seventh in the first of three races in 13.76.

Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally:

SILVER [1]: George Mills, Men’s 5000m

BRONZE [2]: Romell Glave, Men’s 100m