5th August 2022


Yemi Mary John (coach: Alan James, club: Woodford Green Essex Ladies) became Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s newest World U20 champion as she claimed a stunning victory over 400m in Cali, Colombia.

Few athletes have the self-belief and single-minded confidence to buy their very own tiara – with the sole purpose of wearing it for photographs when they win the World Championship. Especially when they go into the event ranked 11th in the field. But not every athlete is Yemi Mary John.

The British Athletics Futures Programme athlete entered the 400m at the World Championships with a personal best time of 52.42 seconds. She equalled her personal best in round one; then ground out a huge PB of 51.72 in the semi-finals. However, in the final, she dominated from gun to tape, to come home for gold in yet another lifetime best of 51.50 seconds. The time was the fastest ever by a British U20 athlete.

Once across the finish line, the crowning moment took place, and the sparkly celebrations ensued. The 2021 European U20 silver medallist enjoyed the moment she had planned and believed in for months.

“My heart’s racing, I’m so happy, I’m so ecstatic, so happy to be here and happy to come on top. PB after PB, I couldn’t be any happier with that, I couldn’t have asked for more.”

There were also shiny plaudits for the GB & NI women’s 4x100m team who broke the British record in the heats of their event.

Slick baton changes and excellent sprint performances gave Nia Wedderburn-Goodison (Harrow), Alyson Bell (Edinburgh Uni), Joy Eze (Michael Donnelly, Gateshead) and Faith Akinbileje (John Blackie, Blackheath and Bromley) their place in history. They enter Friday’s final with the third fastest time in qualifying.

Eze reflected on their record-breaking performance after the race.

“We just needed to have safe changeovers and whatever happens, happens.

“But we didn’t expect to break the British record in the heats, and we know there’s definitely more to give.”

Sadly, there was to be no progression for the men’s 4x100m team of Olutimilehin Esan (Crawley), Medwin Odamtten (Gladys Bird, Woodford Green Essex Ladies), Tyler Panton (Peter Griffiths, Woking) and Michael Onilogbo (Carl Graham, Newham & Essex Beagles). A baton changing error meant they did not finish the race.

There was another successful day in the heptathlon for Ella Rush (David Feeney, Amber Valley & Erewash). After personal bests in three of her seven events, she wound up her World Championships with an overall personal best total of 5591 points to finish in sixth place.

After PBs in the 100m hurdles and 200m on day one, a big improvement in the javelin saw her throw 34.61m adding important points to her overall tally. She was the quickest athlete in the field over 800m too, winning it in 2:19.43 to leave her sixth in the world.

“It’s been amazing, I’ve never been to a Championships like this, and I am so excited to have been part of it,” she said.

“I have come away with a PB score overall and three PBs in my other events as well and I am just really pleased. It makes you hungry, it makes you want to hit more points, get more personal bests and try to achieve more.”

Rush’s team-mate Eloise Hind (Marcia Marriott, Oxford City) withdrew from the Day two action because of illness.

In other finals action, team captain Sophie Ashurst (Andy Ashurst, Sale Harriers) and Gemma Tutton (Richard Pilling, Lewes) both cleared 4.10m in pole vault. The height gave Ashurst sixth place on countback, and Tutton placed 10th, however she was greatly boosted by equalling her personal best.

The men’s 200m final was a much-anticipated climax to day four in Cali and there was GB&NI focus in Jeriel Quainoo (Ryan Freckleton, Blackheath & Bromley). The vastly experienced 19-year-old had hoped to medal but placed seventh in a time of 20.73 (-1.0m/s).

“Seventh in the world… it’s crazy to say that, but I am a believer, and I am always grateful for the opportunities I get, said Quainoo.

“Coming to compete against the best in the world is truly a blessing. I didn’t get it now, but with work, the hunger I have, the belief that I have, the patience I have, I know that every year I will progress.”

Sophie Walton (Trevor Williams, Horwich) enjoyed another personal best time of 23.24 (+0.2m/s), bettering her morning PB of 23.40 achieved in the heats, to qualify for Friday’s 200m final.

Sadly, her team-mate Success Eduan (Anita Richardson, Sale Harriers) missed out on a place in the final. Her time of 23.56 (-0.2m/s) was just outside the time required for non-automatic qualification.

There was great satisfaction for Onyekachukwu Okoh (Jade Harding, Chelmsford) as the 400m hurdler delivered personal best times in both the heat and semi-final. He did not progress to the final, but his time of 50.95 seconds was a huge source of pride, the 17-year-old, dipping under 51 seconds for the very first time.

Elsewhere of day four, in 800m action, Ethan Hussey (Andrew Henderson, Leeds City) and Samuel Reardon (Nigel Stickings, Blackheath & Bromley) both showed control and composure to easily progress to the semi-finals.

Hussey, who finished sixth in the 1500m on Friday, looked in fine form in the final heat of seven in the 800m. He clocked a time of 1:50.28 to win the heat and progress comfortable for his fifth race of the Championships. Team captain Samuel Reardon, who ran in the mixed relay team earlier in the week, looked in good form as he finished second in heat four in a time of 1:50.87 to earn automatic passage into the semis.

In the 100m hurdles there was a safe passage to the semi-finals for both Mia McIntosh (Jake Awe, Harrow) and Marli Jessop (Scott Grace, Shaftesbury Barnet). The European U18 champion, McIntosh, recorded a time of 13.51 (0.1) to place second in her heat, while Jessop had a long wait to see if she had qualified on next fastest times. Her time of 13.60 (-0.2) was enough to see her through to the semi-final stage.

In javelin, Michael Allison (Tom Dobbing, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) safely progressed to the final as his throw of 69.90m saw him finish ninth overall in qualifying. However, Ben East (Luke Angell, Team Kennet) was just short of qualification with the best in his series measuring at 64.05m.

*Photo credit – Oscar Muniz Badilla for World Athletics