20th March 2022
UGEN SEALS SECOND WORLD INDOOR BRONZE MEDAL
Lorraine Ugen (coach: Dwight Phillips, club: Thames Valley) claimed Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s second medal of the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, with a superb bronze in the women’s long jump.
Returning to the city where she won European Indoor silver in 2017, Ugen put two earlier fouls behind her to produce a season’s best effort of 6.82m in the third round to move into bronze medal position with three more jumps remaining.
Ugen backed her best effort up with a solid 6.78m in round five in her only other legal jump of her series, but the third-round effort proved too much for her rivals as she hung on for a second British medal of the day and Ugen’s second world indoor long jump medal following her 2016 silver in Portland.
Following her bronze medal, Ugen said: “I feel really happy to have got on the podium. It’s been a little while as I’ve suffered with injuries and was deciding whether to retire or not, not having sponsorship behind me, but I was like ‘you have to put the work in and do this to get back on the podium’ to prove to myself that I can be back at the elite level again.
“I scared myself at the beginning with those two fouls and I was like ‘please don’t do this, don’t foul three times’ so I was so happy to get that third-round jump in and it was enough to get on the podium.
“I wanted to come out here and get a season’s best but secretly I wanted another national record as my personal best is from here and I knew I liked this track and wanted a cheeky British record, but it’s OK we’ll save that for the outdoors, it’s coming, hopefully.”
In the final event of the night, the women’s 4x400m relay team of Hannah Williams (Steve Fudge, Herts Phoenix), Ama Pipi (Marco Airale, Enfield & Haringey), Yemi Mary John (Alan James, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) and Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) pushed themselves to the limit but fell short of the medals with a fifth place finish.
Williams’ measured first leg handed the baton over to Pipi in sixth spot and the Enfield & Haringey athlete chipped away a further place to leave the British team fifth at the halfway point. Yemi Mary John closed well on the third leg to keep the British team in contention, but Knight, who produced the fastest last leg of all athletes, could not quite reel in the leaders as the team finished in a season’s best 3:29.82.
Leading the team off, Williams assessed: “It was pretty scary, it was my first time doing first leg, so I wanted to do my best as possible and get to the break ahead of at least one person because it was hard with the stagger. I’m happy with how I did from lane one and the rest of the girls did amazing.”
Knight, who brought the team home, added: “When you’re standing in the little pen with that calibre of athlete it’s a little bit daunting but I feel quite proud that I didn’t give anyone too much respect and I didn’t feel like they pulled away too much.
“Like all the girls have said, we were disappointed with the heat because I think we were a bit shocked to be fair. We were 0.8s quicker than the heat and we all executed it and had fun.
“The morale is really high and it’s exciting and nice to end the indoor season on a high. Fifth in the world, I know it’s out of the medals but they’re all here, the USA, Jamaica, it’s really good for outdoors.”
The men’s 4x400m relay quartet of Ben Higgins (Stewart Marshall, Sheffield & Dearne), Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist, WSEH), Samuel Reardon (Nigel Stickings, Blackheath and Bromley) and Guy Learmonth (Justin Rinaldi, Lasswade) gave it their all and achieved sixth place in the penultimate event of the championship.
Higgins led the team off strongly and handed over to Haydock-Wilson in fifth and the Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow athlete’s monster second leg helped the British up to third place at the halfway point.
Teenager Reardon fought brilliantly over the third leg to hand over to 800m specialist Learmonth for the final two laps, but the Scotsman found himself run out of things over the final lap as the British team finished sixth in 3:08.30 for a season’s best.
Haydock-Wilson assessed afterwards: “I think with what we did, it’s unbelievable performance today. That was worth so much more than what you saw out on that track and given the resources we can do a whole lot better. The heart was unbelievable so, yes, I can’t wait for the next one.”
Reardon added: “I was really happy with how I ran my leg. I got the baton in a good place from Alex and then it was a nice battle after the first lap down the backstraight. I really tried to get in front and give Guy the best chance possible. It wasn’t to be but to come out here to a world championships I was really over the moon.”
World Championship finalist from Doha, Neil Gourley (Ben Thomas, Giffnock North), took sixth place in a fast and furious men’s 1500m final, clocking 3:35.87 in the process.
As Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) took things on from the front early on, Gourley reacted smartly to keep himself on the chasing pack as the pace continued to ramp up with two laps to go. At the bell, Gourley dug in once again as it became a four-way scrap for bronze, but the Briton found himself run out of things as Samuel Tefera (ETH) retained the title in a championship record of 3:32.77.
After the race, Gourley said: “It was incredibly tough and was pushed hard from the gun which I thought would happen and I don’t think anyone was surprised by the fact it went out hard and that Jakob [Ingebrigtsen] took it on.
“It’s the style of race that I’m getting better at. The more aerobically strong I get the better I can handle it and that showed today as I was able to get sixth place, but there are some mixed emotions that I couldn’t get nearer the medals but I have to be happy with that.
“When I was young, all I ever wanted out of the sport was to represent my country one day, maybe get a Scotland vest and that would have been enough for me and I could have called myself a good athlete and had a good career.
“Everything else is a bonus and it’s just about paying back the people that have put their faith in me at this point. Sixth in the world I wouldn’t have even dreamed of or thought I was talented enough.”
In the 60m hurdles final, David King (Tim O’Neil, City of Plymouth) claimed sixth position, having only progressed to the final after having his name drawn out of a bag following a tie break situation.
After setting a personal best of 7.57s in his semi-final to take third spot, King faced a nervous wait as him time exactly matched that of Japan’s Shusei Nomoto. After the names were pulled out of a bag, it was King progressed at the expense of the Japanese athlete.
Running out of lane one, King clattered the first hurdle but recovered smartly, keeping his rhythm to clock 7.62s in his first major championship final as Grant Holloway (USA) took the title in 7.40s.
Following the final, King assessed: “It’s been a crazy day and a rollercoaster of emotions but I’m super happy to come out with luck on my side. I would have taken sixth in the world and a PB in the semis every day of the week, this is what I train for. I’ve surrounded myself with great people, Jarret Eaton my training partner came third and was second at the last World Indoors and they’ve really made me up my game.
“Over the last few years I’ve been at the same level, struggling to progress but since moving to Phoenix and Phoenix Track Club with Tim O’Neil, I’ve come on leaps and bounds and it’s because I’ve got such great people around me. Everyone is so positive, including Tim (O’Neil – coach), so having positive people around me has reignited my love for the sport and that is responsible for me progressing so much.”
Defending World Indoor champion Andrew Pozzi (Stratford-upon-Avon) matched his time from the heat of 7.60s but it was only good enough for fourth position in the second semi-final, seeing him miss out on a spot in the final.
British team medals:
Marc Scott – Men’s 3000m
Lorraine Ugen – Long Jump