6th August 2022


There were several Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes in finals action on the penultimate day of action at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Colombia, as others progressed to finals on the last day on Saturday.

There will be two Britons in the final of the men’s 800m in the concluding session of these Championships. Ethan Hussey (coach: Andrew Henderson, club: Leeds City) and Sam Reardon (Nigel Stickings, Blackheath & Bromley) both impressed with composed, tactical performances to qualify for Saturday’s showpiece event.

Nineteen-year-old Hussey executed the perfect race in his semi and qualified in second for an automatic place in a time of 1.48.18. Hussey has had a leg fatiguing campaign in Cali, adding the 800m to the 1500m where he placed sixth in the final just three days ago.

“It was always going to be a hard race – it’s my, what, fourth race now, said Hussey.

“A tactical race fell more into my hands. I trust myself in running smart and having a kick at the end and so that’s what I did you know, especially in 800m, you can just about get away with one mistake, but no mistakes is better.

“If you want to make your move, you can’t think twice about it. So, that’s what I did, and it paid off.”

Team captain Reardon is establishing an early pedigree on the international stage having enjoyed World Indoor selection with the British senior team in Belgrade in March. The 18-year-old looked very much at ease posting a personal best to progress to the 800m World Final in 1.46.80, the second fastest time in the field.

The skipper is determined to put on a rousing show for his team-mates at the end of this long campaign.

“Me and Ethan are really looking forward to both being in the final. I know it’ll be great and the other team-mates back at the hotel and in the stadium will be watching and they are going to love it, so hopefully we can put on a show for them.”

The women’s 4x100m team broke the British national record on Wednesday, running 43.78 seconds in their heat. The same line-up was ready for business in the final with a podium place, a distinct possibility. Sadly, it was not to be for Nia Wedderburn-Goodison (Harrow), Alyson Bell (Edinburgh Uni), Joy Eze (Michael Donnelly, Gateshead) and Faith Akinbileje (John Blackie, Blackheath and Bromley). After a smooth and fast beginning, an incomplete baton change on the final changeover meant the team did not finish.

“Getting that British record in the heats was absolutely everything to us, said second leg runner Alyson Bell. “We knew we had it in us with that really quick time. You know relays are just so touch and go sometimes. We practised hard, all the year round. We smashed Loughborough, we smashed Mannheim and today wasn’t our day and as a relay team we can go back, and work on that, and figure out what happened.”

Back on individual sprint business, round by round we have seen personal best times improve in the 200m from Sophie Walton (Trevor Williams, Horwich). Walton was absolutely thrilled with her progress, from her initial ranking of 13, all the way to her first World Championship Final.

Lane one was a tough draw against top sprinters from Jamaica and the USA, however the 18-year-old claimed sixth place in a time of 23.43 (0.0m/s).

“It means everything to me, having the opportunity to compete against the best athletes in the world, it’s amazing, and to come 6th is a dream come true, she said.

“I just want to say thank-you to everyone who has supported me – coaches, family, friends. It means everything.”

Elsewhere, in field events finals, Molly Palmer (Lukasz Zawila, Charnwood) had secured her passage to the long jump top 12 with a 6.31m personal best in the qualifying round. The 18-year-old national champion managed only one legal jump in the opening three of the final. Her 6.09m jump was not far enough to ensure another three jumps and she took 11th place overall.

In the men’s javelin final, Michael Allison (Tom Dobbing, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) also managed to secure only three throws. The best of these was 63.02m, meaning he finished in 12th place overall.

“It wasn’t my day today, he said after the event. “But I will come back stronger, at the Euro U20s in 2023.”

There were also semi-finals action for the 4x400m women who were delighted to qualify for Saturday’s top eight showdown in a season’s best of 3.35.22.

The quartet was led off strongly by of Poppy Malik (Grant Barker, Notts), making her second relay appearance in these Championships after placing fourth in the Mixed 4x400m final.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Astill (Paul Keeble, Stevenage & Herts) then stormed through on second leg with a 53.7 second split to hand over in second place to 400m hurdles specialist Ophelia Pye (Dave Hemery, Marlborough Athletics). An impressive leg from Pye saw everything to play for going into the final leg with Etty Sisson (Grant Barker, Charnwood) taking on the might of Jamaica and Germany.

The race for second place between Germany and the British team came down to 4/100ths of a second, but the GB&NI team in third, managed to qualify in a non-automatic place.

“I was terrified, said hurdler Pye. “It was my first relay experience and I really didn’t want to bring down the rest of the team. I am so absolutely thrilled we got through.”

And Etty Sisson, on the anchor leg, admitted to feeling the pressure of delivering on the last leg.

“Our team just really gelled immediately; we all get on really well. Our changeovers were pretty good. Going in the last leg there’s always a lot of pressure, there were some fast girls, but we handled it well.

The men’s 4x400m relay team of Brodie Young (James McMenemy, Airdrie Harriers), Cameron McGregor (James Wright, Rugby & Northampton), Bayleigh Lawton (Charlene Thomas, Spenborough) and Reuben Henry-Daire (Paul Herrington, Reading) also fought hard, but narrowly failed to qualify. They were third in heat two, with a season’s best of 3.08.59 behind winners Jamaica and second placed Spain.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland were set to have two sprint hurdlers vying for a place in the final of the 100m Hurdles. Sadly, the U18 European Champion Mia McIntosh (Jake Awe, Harrow) had to withdrew after warming up for the race. In Wednesday’s first round she hit a hurdle with her knee and did not fully recover on time to compete.

The 17-year-old has another two seasons in this age group and Cali has been an excellent opportunity to gain more international experience.

Her team-mate Marli Jessop (Scott Grace, Shaftesbury Barnet) was determined to progress to the final from lane one. The 19-year-old had a fantastic start and was well placed to qualify for the first part of the race, but her fourth-place finish in 13.48 (+0.4m/s) meant she narrowly missed out.

“Obviously I am disappointed because I set my eyes on the final and I haven’t got it, she said. “I was seeded in lanes that were just so far out of the mix I couldn’t see what was happening. Dipping over the line the commentators thought I had qualified so I was disappointed. But I have had a very long season and I am just happy to get through the race. I was hoping to get a PB, but there’s still more to come.”

*Photo credit: Marta Gorcynszka for World Athletics