4th August 2022

Yemi Mary John in pole position for 400m Final

Tropical storms provided unwanted headlines on day three of the World Athletics U20 Championships, however there was a ray of sunshine for GB & NI as Yemi Mary John (Alan James, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) qualified for Thursday’s 400m final with the fastest time in the field, and Ethan Hussey (Andrew Henderson, Leeds City) and Abigail Ives (Luke Gunn, Basildon) bagged sixth places in their finals.

The 19-year-old commanded her semi-final from the start, crossing the line with a five metre margin, and a personal best time of 51.72 seconds. The build-up had been less than ideal, competing two hours later than scheduled because of the torrential downpour.

“I felt amazing, especially after that wait, I just couldn’t wait to get on the track and perform the way I knew I could perform, and to execute what I have been practising to do, so it felt so good.”

The weather provided a huge challenge and learning experience for the GB & NI teenagers, several of whom were preparing to compete in finals as the heavens opened with thunder and lightning.

Also delayed by two hours was Ethan Hussey in the 1500m final. Hussey finished in sixth place in a demanding race which started at break-neck speed and never slowed. He was delighted to be rewarded with a personal best time of 3.39.60.

He said post-race, “I had a chat with my coach last night. We knew it was going to be a fast race from the start. We knew what the Kenyans and Ethiopians were capable of. They did exactly what we thought they would do. Take it out hard and make it hard for the rest of us.

“I was told to commit, to give myself the best chance to win. That’s what I did, gave it my all and came out 6th in the world. I can’t ask for much more. A world final and a PB.”

Just minutes later Abigail Ives stepped onto the world stage for her final in the 800m. Again, another fast race straight from the gun covering the first 200m in 27 seconds. Eighteen-year-old Ives fought hard and secured sixth place in 2.02.89. The race was won by American Roisin Willis in a World Championship record of 1.59.13.

“Overall, I’m a little bit disappointed but it went out so quick, said Ives.

“In the first 200, I knew it was going to be a quick race, you know, I felt like I went out quite hard and everyone else was just really in front of me.

“Tactically, I think I did it quite well, I think I managed to tuck in as much as possible, but my legs just weren’t quite there in the last 100, but I am really happy with 6th in the world.”

Elsewhere, in the women’s discus final, Zara Obamakinwa (Mark Chapman, Blackheath & Bromley) threw 47.23, finishing in 11th place. An impressive performance which far outreached her initial ranking in the event.

The much-anticipated women’s pole vault final with GB&NI athletes Sophie Ashurst (Andy Ashurst, Sale Harriers) and Gemma Tutton (Richard Pilling, Lewes) fell victim to the weather. Ashurst and Tutton were on the runway and about to compete when mother nature decided to thwart their ambitions. The PV final has been rescheduled to Thursday morning at 11am.

Also looking forward to the excitement of a final is Jeriel Quainoo (Ryan Freckleton, Blackheath & Bromley). He booked his place in lane two for tomorrow night’s finale event, the men’s 200m final. However, he had a long wait to confirm it as he finished third and outside the two automatic qualifying spots. His time of 20.43 (-0.2) was enough to see him progress.

“I’m doing the same as I always do, just go through the rounds, enjoy it, feel what everyone is doing and then just manage it from there. I don’t want to be doing too much too soon, and then when it matters, I under-perform.”

In the women’s 100m semi-finals, Joy Eze (Michael Donnelly, Gateshead) missed out on a spot in the final by the tiniest of margins. Her time of 11.49 (-0.4m/s) was the ninth fastest of the semis, missing the last lane in the final by just 3/100ths of a second.

The recently crowned European U18 Champion Nia Wedderburn-Goodison (Harrow) also missed out on the 100m final. Her third place 11.51 (-0.1m/s) in the semis was another impressive and consistent performance from the 17-year-old.

In the women’s 400m hurdles semi-finals, Ophelia Pye (Dave Hemery, Marlborough Athletics) had the toughest of tasks trying to qualify from lane eight. She was fourth in her semi and does not progress. The European U18 Champion admitted the lane draw affected her judgement.

“I’m a bit annoyed with myself, I was hoping I would manage to keep a cool head in lane 8, but I think I hyped myself up a bit too much so my first 200 felt great but it was definitely a bit too fast, I think, she said.

“Coming in my judgement over the closing hurdles was way off and usually my speciality is finishing strong in the last 15. I just wish I had managed to pace it the way I would have like to.”

In the men’s 400mH, Onyekachukwu Okoh (Jade Harding, Chelmsford) was absolutely thrilled to run a personal best time 51.13, and to qualify for the semi-finals.

“I am really happy to make it through, a really tough race with two of the fastest guys in the world in my race, so coming through in third and automatically qualifying with a pb, can’t ask for much more than that.

“I know I’ve got more in the tank for the semis, so I just have to rest up and recover well and smash the semis tomorrow.”

There was yet another PB performance for the GB&NI team, this time in the women’s long jump qualifying. Molly Palmer (Lukasz Zawila, Charwood) was thrilled with her new 6.31m PB which qualifies her for the final in fourth place. The best jump in qualifying is tantalisingly close at 6.34m.

The Heptathlon athletes Ella Rush (David Feeney, Amber Valley & Erewash) and Eloise Hind (Marcia Marriott, Oxford City) each had excellent performances on day one. Rush is seventh overnight, with PBs in 100mH, 14.33 (-0.4m/s) and the 200m, 24.52 (+0.8m/s).

Hind enjoyed a stunning personal best in 100mH of 14.08 (-0.3m/s), she equalled her HJ best of 1.78m and rounded off the day with a 200m pb of 25.60 (+0.3m/s). The 17-year-old lies 12th overall at the end of day one.

While the hot and humid conditions benefited the sprinters, the GB&NI distance athletes were to suffer in the high temperatures and altitude of over 1000m.

Will Barnicoat (Tim Eglen, Aldershot, Farnham & District) finished eighth in his heat of the 3000m in 8:17.32. The top six would progress to the final which meant Barnicoat missed out by just over one second.

It was a similar story in the 3000m steeplechase for Thomas Bridger (Mark Vile, Cambridge & Coleridge AC). The 19-year-old was disappointed he did not reach the final but gave his all to run 9:06.37 in his heat.

“It’s been a really good experience the entire trip. The race today it was tough. I got tripped after 50m, I didn’t fall over but I think it scared me a bit, so I went to the front to get out of any more pushing and shoving.

“Obviously I’m disappointed but I gave it my best shot and it’s been a brilliant learning experience.”

*Photo credit: Oscar Munoz Badilla for World Athletics