9th June 2024


Calli Hauger-Thackery (club: Hallamshire) enjoyed a memorable medal double on the third morning of the European Championships, winning women’s half-marathon bronze on the streets of Rome and helping the British team to gold, doubling the overall medal tally in Italy.

The morning after the British team got up and running with George Mills’ (coach: Thomas Dreißigacker, Brighton Phoenix) 5000m silver and Romell Glave’s (Michael Afilaka, Croydon) 100m bronze, Hauger-Thackery had the strength and speed needed to take a brilliant bronze in the women’s half marathon in 1:08:58 hours.

That alongside Abbie Donnelly’s (Rob Lewis, Lincoln Wellington) fine sixth in 1:09:57 and a personal best of 1:10:06 from Clara Evans (Chris Jones, Pontypridd) for ninth gave the British team gold, the first of the Championships, in Rome. Lauren McNeil (Hallamshire) meanwhile was 17th in 1:11:26.

With the British team’s overall medal tally doubling from two to four, Anna Purchase (Mohamed Ali Saatara, Notts) will experience her maiden European final after progressing through qualification in the women’s hammer while Alastair Chalmers’ (Matt Elias, Guernsey) own bid moved from the heats of the men’s 400m hurdles to the semi-finals.

The morning belonged to Hauger-Thackery and the British gold-medal winning women’s half-marathon team however and she said: “I am absolutely delighted, but I do have mixed emotions, it is so overwhelming. You work so hard that naturally as an athlete you want more but I am so happy to win the individual bronze and be part of an amazing gold medal winning team.

“I am so proud of this team, they are amazing to be with, in the lead up they have been so inspirational and positive, and we got the job done as a team as well. I saw Abbie on the course a few times, and she gave me such a boost. Team gold shows a lot about where British women’s running at the moment, I’m very proud of us all.”

Hauger-Thackery, Donnelly and Evans were all in the lead group through much of the first half of the race before a group of six involving the eventual British bronze medallist started edging ahead.

By 15km that lead group was down to four with Hauger-Thackery running a great race to stay amongst it while teammates Donnelly and Evans were both close together in the group behind.

As the kilometres started to tick away Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal and Joan Chelimo Melly of Roumania had broken ahead at the front in the race for gold and silver. Hauger-Thackery had built herself a nice cushion in third but still couldn’t let up.

Meanwhile Donnelly and Evans were still side by side, alongside Switzerland’s Fabienne Schlumpf, maintaining their pursuit of a top ten and team honours. Grovdal would surge ahead over the last kilometre to take gold ahead of Melly while Hauger-Thackery cemented bronze. She eventually put nearly a minute on herself and another Romanian Delvine Relin Meringor in fourth, clocking 1:08:58 for bronze as the race finished in the Stadio Olimpico, with the performances of Donnelly and Evans key to the British team winning gold.

Donnelly pushed clear in the closing stages, beating Schlumpf into sixth by almost half a minute in a time of 1:09:57 while Evans, officially ranked eighth for much of the race, was pushed down into ninth in the dying moments by Mekdes Woldu of France.

Her time of 1:10:06 was still a personal best by five seconds and the top-ten finish at the Stadio Olimpico extremely important for that team gold. Donnelly said: “It is amazing, I am so, so proud of the whole team.

“I was welling up in the end as we came into the stadium, it is such a good feeling. I can’t describe how amazing this feels. We all get on so well, and we are all rooting for each other and helping one another. I kept seeing Calli on the course and I just wanted to scream and cheer at her to encourage her.”

Evans said: “Running with the girls is really great. We are a great team, we’ve run a lot of races together already and we really get along so when it was hurting we were thinking just keep running for that time and we were doing it for each other out there.

“I didn’t mind the loop course, it was really nice to see familiar faces on the course and it really just kept you going and was nice when you were hurting – you’d see a familiar face and it helped a little bit so it was really nice.”

McNeil meanwhile was with the lead group through 7km before forming part of the chase pack after halfway. She stuck valiantly to her task and battled over the closing stages to finish 17th in 1:11:26.

She said: “It was tough out there in the heat, but I just kept my head down and kept going and I knew the girls were ahead of me and doing amazingly so I just kept it going and got to the finish.

“It’s been an amazing team to be with this week in Rome and it’s been such an incredible experience and the girls are just amazing. This week we have stayed calm and motivated and bonded really well.”

On a spread out morning of British action, Purchase and Charlotte Payne (Paul Dickenson, Reading) were drawn in qualification groups A and B of the women’s hammer respectively.

Purchase, who unfortunately failed to record a distance at the last European Championships in 2022, entered the circle with purpose as she threw 68.91m with her very first attempt. She couldn’t better it with a 64.56m and a 66.44m thereafter but that first effort would be enough.

It wasn’t automatic qualification though as Purchase had to wait over two hours for that confirmation as Payne went herself in group B. Payne also unfortunately failed to record a mark two years ago and after putting down 55.56m first up, threw 68.47m next time up.

Payne failed with her third attempt, which unfortunately meant her best distance of 68.47m was an agonising 19 centimetres short of the top 12 to advance to the final alongside teammate Purchase, who ranked tenth overall.

Purchase said: “It was OK. It was a bit of a weird event – there was not a lot of energy because we woke up really early. No one was throwing far at all but I’m glad I got the first one out as the second two weren’t quite it.”

Meanwhile Payne, who was ranked 14th overall, said: “When I look at that performance, I think that’s a good, decent performance – then you see it’s so frustrating to be that close to the final, a matter of centimetres.

“Frustratingly close, but after the year I have had, to put together a decent performance knowing I was capable of that final. It just wasn’t to be this year. I am 1000% capable of doing it, the day will come.”

On this third morning for the British team, Chalmers secured his own progression out of the men’s 400m hurdles heats. He was third throughout the second of three heats, clocking a time of 49.71 seconds, which would be good enough to advance ranked 7th overall from the Heats.

Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally:

GOLD [1]: Women’s Half Marathon Team

SILVER [1]: George Mills, Men’s 5000m

BRONZE [2]: Romell Glave, Men’s 100m, Calli Hauger-Thackery, Women’s Half Marathon