After a shaky start, the British team secure the overall title at the Aviva International at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall
It was not until one hour and nine events in to the programme of the Aviva International that hosts Great Britain won their first event, but – just like waiting for a bus – the GB victories then kept on coming, ending with a thrilling win by Mo Farah to help Britain win the overall five-way match.
World 5000m champion Farah was competing in the 1500m – an event he has not run since 2009 – but he had the speed and sharpness to see off one of the world’s best middle-distance runners, Augustine Choge, and get his Olympic campaign off to the best possible start.
Farah overcame some early-race jostling and timed his attack well. Covering the final 400m in 55.3 seconds and the last lap in 27.76,
Farah drove to the finish line in familiar fashion to win with an indoor PB of 3:39.03, entering the UK all-time top 10 for the event and breaking the stadium record that had stood since 1989. Choge – a 3:29 runner outdoors at his best – finished just 0.11 behind.
For Britain, the turning point of the meeting came in the 200m races. First up was Danny Talbot, who finished third here last year. Up against a tougher field that included world bronze medallist Kim Collins and USA’s Calvin Smith, Talbot ran a controlled and well-timed race to win in 21.17 – the fastest time at the Aviva International for three years. Collins was second in 21.39 from Brit-based German Sven Knipphals (21.58).
Just moments later came a bigger surprise. Britain’s Margaret Adeoye had by far the slowest indoor PB of all the women in the 200m. Not only that, but she also had lane two in an event that was taken off the indoor championship schedule for the very reason of it being near-impossible to win from an inside lane. But that did not stop her and she pulled off a surprise win in a big indoor PB of 23.68. Germany’s Cathleen Tsirsch, last year’s winner, was a close second in 23.70, while the rest of the field – all boasting sub-23 PBs – were outside 24 seconds.
Perhaps the most encouraging performance of the afternoon came from Joe Thomas in the 800m, who showed he was a real contender for the World Indoor Championships. The Welshman hit the front after the half-way mark and kept driving to the finish to win with a personal best of 1:47.35, almost two seconds ahead of the rest of the field – a group that included 1:42 runner and world indoor silver medallist Boaz Lalang.
One of the highest-quality marks of the day came in the women’s 3000m. European indoor champion Helen Clitheroe was up against the much-improved Kenyan Helen Obiri, competing in her first ever 3000m race. Both athletes were clearly seeking a fast time and their first two kilometres were covered in 2:57.65 and 2:59.00. By that time both athletes were well ahead of the rest of the field and the real racing began as Obiri and Clitheroe exchanged the lead. But with a couple of laps to go, Obiri began to open up a big gap and went on to win with a world-leading 8:42.59 – exactly three seconds ahead of the Briton as both athletes finished well inside the stadium record set last year by Clitheroe.
Great Britain finally gained the lead in the team standings in the antepenultimate event of the day, the women’s 60m. Former world indoor silver medallist Jeanette Kwakye got her season off to a sensational start with a flawless 7.26 win in the short sprint, finishing two metres clear of her rivals – a raely-witnessed victory in the 60m.
Indeed, the blanket finish in the men’s race was more typical of the 60m event with just four hundredths separating the top four athletes. It saw another British win as European silver medallist Mark Lewis-Francis overtook a tiring Kim Collins to steal victory on the line with 6.65 with the Caribbean veteran finishing 0.01 behind in second.
Before the string of British wins, however, the Russian team – competing in this international match for the first time in six years – dominated the proceedings in the opening events while many of the host-nation athletes faltered.
In the first event of the day – the 60m hurdles – world bronze medallist Andy Turner had a race he’d like to forget. Still hampered by a niggling Achilles injury, Turner hit three of the five barriers to finish fifth in 7.74. Former world junior champion Konstantin Shabanov of Russia was a clear winner with a PB of 7.54, ahead of USA’s Dexter Faulk (7.60). Britain’s Lawrence Clarke, representing the Commonwealth Select team, clocked a PB of 7.67.
Turner was not the only GB medallist from Daegu to come away from Glasgow disappointed, as world silver medallist Hannah England suffered a surprise defeat in her specialist event, the 1500m. The opening pace was slow and the field went through 800m in 2:35.18. With three laps remaining, England hit the front and wound up the pace, but she was unable to shake off early leader Denise Krebs of Germany. The pair kicked hard on the final lap, but the German crept through at the end to take the win in 4:25.09, just 0.02 ahead of England. Russia’s Irina Maracheva similarly overtook the other Briton in the race, Charlene Thomas, to take third in 4:26.32 to Thomas’s 4:26.53.
European under-23 champion Darya Klishina was one of the many Russian winners in Glasgow. The tall long jumper overcame two fouls to leap 6.66m in the third round, improving to 6.75m in the fourth. Britain’s Shara Proctor finished second with 6.59m – good enough for fourth on the UK all-time indoor list and the best indoor jump by a Briton since 1997.
Russian athletes came from behind to win both 400m races. World Indoor champion Chris Brown of the Bahamas had the lead at half way in the men’s race, but tall Russian Igor Trenikhin then shot in to the lead and kept driving to the line, winning with a PB of 46.68. The rest of the field were several strides behind with Brown holding on for second (47.42) with Britain’s Richard Buck fourth (47.63).
On GB team duty for the first time, former American Shana Cox led for Britain at half way in the women’s two-lap race, but she tied up coming in to the home straight to allow Julia Terekhova (53.51) and former US team-mate Natasha Hastings (53.54) to come through at the end. Cox held on for third (53.84) ahead of Germany’s Esther Cremer (54.21) and Britain’s Shelayna Oskan-Clarke 55.37.
For the first time in three years, European heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis was not representing Team GB in the 60m hurdles. In her absence, USA’s world silver medallist Danielle Carruthers came through strong in the second half to win on the dip in 8.09, while Britain’s Gemma Bennett ran a season’s best of 8.16 in fifth.
Aleksandr Shustov and Robbie Grabarz both went in to the men’s high jump with a string of three victories each, but it was European champion Shustov who came away from Glasgow with his winning streak in tact. Grabarz, who last weekend leapt a world-leading 2.34m, had a few close attempts at 2.29m, but had to settle for a best of 2.26m finishing third on countback. Shustov won with 2.29m, clearing each height on his first attempt.
In the other men’s vertical jump, Germany’s Karsten Dilla produced a PB-equalling 5.72m to hand a defeat to world leader Dmitriy Stardubtsev of Russia. Britain’s Andrew Sutcliffe, representing the Commonwealth team, defeated fellow Brit Steve Lewis – 5.40m to 5.30m.
World indoor silver medallist Jenny Meadows – a former three-time winner of the Aviva International – withdrew from the meeting earlier this week. In her absence, USA’s Erica Moore was rewarded for her gun-to-tape tactics in the 800m with a personal best of 2:02.86, beating pre-race favourite Yekaterina Martynova of Russia (2:03.55).