After a shaky start the host nation finished strongly to place third at the halfway point in the two-day European Team Championships in Gateshead
Wet and windy conditions predicted by weather experts failed to materialise on the first day of the European Team Championships. Similarly, many of the athletes’ performances proved impossible to forecast. For the host nation, Britain endured a gloomy start interrupted by sunny spells and then a beautifully bright end to the day.
Home victories came from Jess Judd in the 800m, Eilidh Child in the 400m hurdles, Perri Shakes-Drayton in the 400m, Mo Farah in the 5000m and the men’s 4x100m team. It meant Britain finished day one of the two-day meeting in third place behind Russia and narrow leaders Germany. Crucially, Britain also goes into the final day with a 15-point buffer over fourth-place Poland, with France, who were tipped to beat Britain for third, a further 1.5 points adrift.
How the action unfolded…
The day had started poorly for Britain with Mark Dry 11th in the men’s hammer. Dry was the first Briton to head out into the blustery and cool conditions and he began with 64.42m before his second attempt went into the net and his third then sailed out to 68.30m. It was, however, short of his best of 74.82m as Pawel Fajdek of Poland won with 77.00m.
Early events are so crucial, too, when it comes to creating momentum and mood for the rest of the weekend. So it was disappointing to also see an below-par performance by Britain in the first track event of the weekend – the men’s 400m hurdles.
Usually it is a successful event for the hosts, with athletes such as Kriss Akabusi and Chris Rawlinson giving the team an early boost with maximum points. Dai Greene has continued the tradition as well in recent years, with victories in the last three European Team Championships, but on Saturday he was not quite at his best as he clocked 49.39 to finish a surprise runner-up to German Silvio Schirrmeister’s 49.15 PB.
Over in the women’s pole vault, things went from bad to worse for the hosts as Holly Bleasdale failed on her opening height of 4.25m. Then, around two hours and forty minutes after the contest began, Silke Spiegelburg of Germany snatched victory from Russian Anzhelika Sidorova as she cleared 4.60m on her third attempt.
Perhaps the gusty conditions were playing havoc with the form book. Certainly the wind was evident in the women’s 100m when Olesya Povh of Ukraine ran 11.51 to win as Britain’s Asha Philip was fourth in heat two (and fifth overall) with 11.78.
In the men’s 400m it looked like Britain was back in business as Nigel Levine produced a bullish run and looked the winner with 50m to go. But Levine – the quickest on paper based on season’s bests – was overtaken by the tall Russian Vladimir Krasnov in the final metres, with Levine clocking 45.88 to Krasnov’s 45.69.
Joy for Judd
Finally, though, Britain enjoyed a victory and it came via an 18-year-old, Jessica Judd. The world junior silver medallist ran a great tactical race, sitting on the shoulder of the leader through the bell in 60 seconds, before surging ahead down the back straight and holding on in the final straight as fast-finishing Russian Ekaterina Sharmina closed.
For several years she has been a prodigious teenager but Judd really came of age in Gateshead as she clocked 2:00.82 with Sharmina just four hundredths of a second behind as the Gateshead crowd came to life for the first time with a huge roar.
From a teenager to a veteran, Britain was represented in the women’s triple jump by Yamile Aldama and, just a couple of months short of her 41st birthday, the world indoor champion finished fourth with 13.90m as Olha Saladuha of Ukraine dominated the contest with a best jump of 14.49m.
In the men’s 100m, Richard Kilty was keen to impress. For one, his club is Gateshead Harriers and the Linford Christie-coached athlete was also a late replacement for James Dasaolu in an event that Britain usually claims maximum points in.
He enjoyed a snappy start but, running into a strong headwind of 4.1m/sec, he faded to fourth as the race was won by Jimmy Vicaut of France in 10.28. Kilty’s 10.51 was only sixth quickest overall, though, mainly due to the first heat having a headwind of only 0.5m/sec.
In the women’s discus, France enjoyed further maximum points through Melina Robert-Michon’s 63.75m as GB’s Jade Lally was sixth with 58.73m.
The men’s shot put, meanwhile, went to David Storl, the 2011 world champion from Germany, as he threw 20.47m to beat 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland as Zane Duquemin finished ninth for Britain with 18.50m.
In the old-style European Cup format, the Russian women often romped away with the overall victory and they were again showing their strength in Gateshead. In the 3000m, for example, Elena Korobkina, the 2009 European junior champion, ran a 63-second final lap to win comfortably in 9:01.45 as Laura Weightman, a local Morpeth Harrier, held on for second with 9:03.11.
Child storms to victory
The Euro Cup format of yesteryear, with separate men’s and women’s competitions, also used to see British men battle for Super League glory while the GB women fought to avoid relegation. But on day one of the 2013 Euro Team Championships it was the host nation’s female athletes who produced the biggest performances.
First Judd enjoyed a great breakthrough in the first major domestic event since the London Olympics. Then Eilidh Child took her turn to thrill the home crowd as she won the 400m hurdles in style with a Scottish record 54.42.
Demolishing the field, Child took half a second off her PB, which was set earlier this season. Gateshead 2013 aside, it was also a great boost ahead of Glasgow 2013 where she will be one of the Commonwealth Games host nation’s biggest medal hopes.
Statisticians always try to predict these results, but Euro team competitions always throw up huge surprises and Gateshead 2013 was no different. When it came to the men’s 1500m, the winner – Ilham Tanui Ozbilen – was no big surprise, but the nature of the race was astounding.
The Kenyan-born Turk scorched through the first lap in 53 seconds, with only Frenchman Simon Denissel brave (or foolish) enough to try to go with him. Ozbilen hit 800m in 1:53 and 1200m in 2:49 with a huge lead, but then he began to die.
With a final 400m that was 10 seconds slower than his first lap and a last 300m of only 49 seconds, Ozbilen began to tread water and the chasing pack, led by Britain’s Charlie Grice, closed hugely in the final half lap, although their efforts were too little too late as a relieved Ozbilen hung on to win with 3:38.57 as Grice secured second place with 3:39.76 and Marcel Lewandowski of Poland third.
The women’s 3000m steeplechase was more straightforward with Natalia Aristarkhova of Russia winning by more than four seconds in 9:30.64 as GB’s Lennie Waite, a late replacement for Eilish McColgan, finished fifth with 9:56.19.
Shakes-Drayton, Farah and relay men earn max points
As the day began to draw to a close, the meeting drew to an exciting crescendo with Perri Shakes-Drayton notching up the host nation’s third victory of the day in the women’s 400m. The GB captain had seen fellow 400m hurdler Child smash her PB by half a second earlier in the afternoon and she also lopped half a second off her 400m flat time with 50.50 to win with ease from Kseniya Zadorina of Russia.
Then came Mo Farah – and the double Olympic champion delighted the crowd with a scintillating final 400m of 50.89 to win the 5000m with consummate ease in 14:10.00 from Bob Tahri of France.
Early pace in the 5000m was slow, with most laps in the 69-72-second range, but with Farah controlling the race from the front the athletes began to speed up gradually until Farah heard the bell and then, bang, he took off like a sprinter to blow the opposition away.
The only downside to an otherwise supreme performance was that Farah won’t be running the 3000m on the second day of the meeting. Enjoying a relatively easy time against mere European opposition, it might have been a good opportunity for Farah to simulate the heats and finals he has at major championships, although there’s no doubt Farah and his coach Alberto Salazar know what they are doing right now and instead Farah will be in Barnet, north London, managing an Arsenal Legends team in a charity football match.
British results were not quite so brilliant in the field, but the host nation continued to hold third place in the overall contest. Olympic champion Greg Rutherford was third in the men’s long jump with 8.02m as Alexander Menkov of Russia won with 8.36m and Louis Tsatoumas of Greece finished second.
In the men’s high jump Tom Parsons was also a fine third for Britain with 2.24m, as Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine won with 2.28m on countback from Mickael Hanany of France. Parsons had been standing in for one of the team’s pre-meeting withdrawals, Robbie Grabarz.
Christina Obergfoll of Germany, meanwhile, won the women’s javelin by four metres with 62.64m, with Izzy Jeffs ninth with 50.27m.
Into the sprint relays, the team standings were close, with Russia leading from Germany, then Britain in third ahead of Poland, France and Ukraine. Surely all teams were reminded to play safe and get their baton around and the GB women’s team, which failed to qualify for the Olympics last year, did exactly that with a 43.52 time in fifth behind winners Ukraine who clocked 42.62.
It was the fastest time by a GB women’s 4x100m team for two years and a pleasing result for lead-off runner Tiffany Porter, Anyika Onuora, Annabelle Lewis and anchor woman Asha Philip.
There was even better to come, though, in the final event as the GB men’s 4x100m team produced an emphatic victory. Adam Gemili got the team off to a great start, passing flawlessly to Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and then James Ellington on the final bend. James Dasaolu, who had scratched from the 100m a few days earlier, then proved a safe anchorman as he brought the quartet home in 38.39 as they beat Germany by three tenths of a second with Poland third and France fourth.
Day one standings: 1. Germany 195, 2. Russia 194, 3. GB 181, 4. Poland 166, 5. France 164.5, 6. Ukraine 160.5, 7. Spain 123.5, 8. Italy 123, 9. Turkey 102, 10. Greece 76, 11. Belarus 75.5, 12. Norway 67
» The June 27 issue of Athletics Weekly will contain more coverage from the European Team Championships, with detailed reports, photos and behind-the-scenes news