Shara Proctor breaks the UK long jump record, while Holly Bleasdale clears an outdoor national best in the pole vault
The first two days of the Aviva 2012 Trials in Birmingham had its fair share of thrills, spills and surprise wins, although the one thing the event was lacking was top-quality marks. But long jumper Shara Proctor ended the drought on the final day of action by breaking the UK record.
On her third leap of the competition, the world indoor bronze medallist sailed out to 6.95m (0.1m/s), breaking the long-standing British record that Bev Kinch set in 1983 with 6.90m. The former Anguillan had opened the competition with 6.70m, but that lead did not last long as Lorraine Ugen responded with a lifetime best of 6.74m – an agonising one centimetre shy of the Olympic ‘A’ standard.
Proctor hit back with 6.85m in round two before going 10 centimetres farther in the third round with her record-breaking leap. Having done more than enough to secure the victory and Olympic selection, Proctor passed her final three attempts.
But the excitement did not end there. Junior heptathlete and part-time bobsledder Jazmin Sawyers went out to a PB of 6.50m in round four and smashed it again in the next round with 6.64 (0.8m/s) the best jump in the world this year by a junior athlete and the fourth best of all-time by a British junior.
Ugen did not improve on her 6.74m, while Abigail Irozuru finished fourth with 6.48m – her second-best mark behind her recent surprise PB of 6.80m. With three women over 6.64m and four over 6.48m, it was by far the highest ever quality women’s long jump competition at the UK Championships.
“I’m just on top of the world right now,” said Proctor, whose 6.95m puts her seventh on this year’s world rankings. “I got the British record, I’m going to the Olympics; how good can it get?!
“It was not good conditions but I said to myself London might be like this so I have to prepare and do my best no matter what so that’s what I did today.
I have what it takes, I have to go back and work on some technical problems and I’ll be fine.”
Despite being one of the revelations of the indoor season, world indoor pole vault bronze medallist Holly Bleasdale was yet to make an impact outdoors this year. Until today, she had not secured the Olympic ‘A’ standard this summer, so the pressure was on her to not only finish in the top two, but to clear at least 4.50m in the process to book her place on the team.
The 20-year-old kept the crowd on the edge of their seats as she needed all three attempts at her opening height of 4.40m. That in itself was enough to secure the win, as Kate Dennison failed to clear that height. Bleasdale then failed twice at 4.50m and for a second it looked as though she would only achieve one of her goals for the day. But on her final attempt she got over the ‘A’ standard, much to the delight of the crowd.
With the pressure lifted, Bleasdale then sailed over 4.60m at the first time of asking. The bar then moved to 4.71m – a UK outdoor record – and she nailed it on her second attempt. She bowed out by taking three stabs at 4.80m, but it was not to be.
“4.40m was so nerve-wracking,” said the winner. “I knew that I could do it, I just didn’t want to bomb out.”
“I never thought that failing to qualify today was possible,” added Bleasdale, whose 4.71m clearance is 16cm shy of the outright UK record she set during the indoor season. “Everyone that doubted me, I’ve shown them and vaulted a British record. For me, jumping 4.40m and 4.50m on the last try just shows what sort of character I am. I’ve shown grit and determination.”
It was the final event on the programme at the Aviva 2012 Trials and it did not disappoint. But less than twelve months ago, it would have seemed impossible that world bronze medallist Andy Turner and two-time world finalist William Sharman would finish outside the top two at their own national championships.
Yet that is what happened today in the 110m hurdles as youth won over experience. Training partners Andy Pozzi and Lawrence Clarke have both made significant leaps forward this year, breaking 13.4 on numerous occasions and being competitive with the world’s best on the international circuit.
Turner and Sharman, meanwhile, have struggled with their form this year, and their fears became reality when they were left in the wake of their younger counterparts.
At half way the top four were inseparable, but it was Pozzi who came through at the end to take a narrow victory over Clarke, 13.41 to 13.45 (-0.1m/s). Turner was third in 13.52, making it the only event of the entire weekend in which the top three delivered ‘A’ standard performances. Sharman was fourth with a season’s best of 13.55.
British record-holder Lawrence Okoye missed out on making the world team last year in the discus, but with newfound consistency he made no such mistake this year. He didn’t have it all his own way though, as world finalist Brett Morse led for the first four rounds with his 62.27m season’s best.
But Okoye responded in the fifth round with 63.46m to cement his place on the team. Morse’s place is still uncertain, however, as he has not achieved the ‘A’ standard (65.00m) this year.
The men’s 200m was one of the most open races of the weekend, as numerous athletes had achieved ‘A’ and ‘B’ standards both this year and last summer. The likes of veteran sprinters Christian Malcolm and Marlon Devonish lined up against a new generation of talent, including Danny Talbot, David Bolarinwa and Richard Kilty.
But it was World Championships representative James Ellington who came off the bend in pole position and maintained it to the finish, winning in 20.56. Christian Malcolm booked his place on his fourth successive Olympic team – a record for a British male sprinter – by finishing second in 20.63, while Chris Clarke finished third in 20.69.
Delano Williams, the junior sprinter who switched to represent Britain as his home nation of Turks & Caicos do not have an Olympic committee, finished a distant seventh in 21.15.
Since making an impact indoors by winning the 200m at both the Glasgow International and the UK Indoor Championships, Margaret Adeoye was yet to make a similar impact this summer. But the Linford Christie-coached athlete has timed her peak well.
In the absence of Abi Oyepitan – who sustained a minor hamstring strain yesterday – Adeoye smashed her PB in the heats with 23.09, one hundredth inside the Olympic ‘A’ standard. She went on to win the final in 23.11 from a fading Anyika Onuora (23.23).
For several years, Perri Shakes-Drayton’s biggest domestic rival has been Eilidh Child. The Scottish record-holder went into this weekend as the fastest Briton on paper over 400m hurdles and after an impressive run in the heats it looked as though Child would beat the European bronze medallist for the first time since 2007.
Child went off hard in the final and was almost a second up on Shakes-Drayton at half way. She maintained her lead into the home straight, but stuttered at the final hurdle and lost precious momentum, while Shakes-Drayton kept her cool and clawed back the deficit. The pair lunged for the line with Shakes-Drayton getting the edge, 55.45 to 55.53.
The men’s 400m didn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of the 1996 Trials, where four men dipped under 45 seconds, but what the final lacked in fast times, it more than made up for it with excitement.
Four of the finalists had ‘A’ standards from this year, meaning a top-two finish would guarantee them a spot on the Olympic team. As the field came into the home straight, Conrad Williams had a slight lead on Martyn Rooney with Nigel Levine close behind. Rooney edged ahead, but Williams remained close to him while Levine made up some ground.
In the frantic dip for the line, Rooney came out on top in 45.93 with Williams also gaining automatic selection in second (45.97). Levine, however, missed out by just three hundredths of a second, finishing third in 46.00.
Almost 24 years after Liz McColgan made her Olympic debut, daughter Eilish McColgan booked her place on the team for London by winning the steeplechase. She bided her time in what proved to be a relatively slow race, but kicked ahead on the final lap to win by more than five seconds in 9:56.89, the only athlete in the field to dip under 10 minutes.
The men’s 800m was one of the few events that boasted multiple ‘A’ qualifiers, making it all the more important to finish in the top two. Gareth Warburton took it out and led at halfway in 53 seconds. Andrew Osagie and Michael Rimmer then made their move and Warburton began to fade.
In the final few strides, Rimmer tied up badly while Mukhtar Mohammed came bounding down the home straight to snatch second place behind winner Osagie. Rimmer held on for third with Warburton fourth.
The result means that only Osagie has secured automatic selection. Should Mohammed achieve the qualifying time before the deadline, then he will be added to the team. If not, then UKA can choose to add Rimmer and Warburton to the team as they both have the ‘A’ standard.
Like many of the distance events at this weekend’s Aviva 2012 Trials, the pace in the women’s 5000m was pedestrian at best and the field went through 3000m in 9:59 – slower than the winning time from the steeplechase. But soon after the race came to life and a lead group formed, comprising Jo Pavey, Julia Bleasdale and Barbara Parker.
Parker was the first to show her cards on the last-lap kick and took up the lead. Pavey marked the move and stuck with her, but Parker kicked again. It wasn’t enough to see off the veteran though, and Pavey kicked hard in the home straight, her speed clearly not blunted by marathon training. The 38-year-old won in 15:54.18 from Parker’s 15:55.57, the pair both securing their place on the Olympic team.
The women’s 1500m wasn’t as competitive as it could have been, following the withdrawal of Hannah England due to a slight Achilles injury. But even at top form she would have been hard-pressed to stick with Laura Weightman on the last lap of what was another slow, tactical race.
The 20-year-old left the field for dead as she covered the final 400m in 58.5-seconds, opening up a three-second gap on former world silver medallist Lisa Dobriskey, 4:18.83 to 4:21.91. The unheralded Montana Jones finished a surprise close third, just 0.03 behind Dobriskey.
Nick McCormick booked his place on the Olympic team with a top-two finish in the 5000m. The field was somewhat depleted as the three other British men with Olympic ‘A’ standards this year -Mo Farah, Chris Thompson and Tom Farrell – were not at the Trials, making McCormick’s job easier.
But Ross Millington ensured McCormick did not have it all his own way and in a tactical race he stormed past McCormick on the last lap and kicked to victory in 13:59.01 with McCormick 1.60 seconds behind.
Robbie Grabarz, one of the British sensations of the year, was a comfortable winner of the high jump with 2.28m. He took three attempts at 2.31m, but with no one else left in at that height to spur him on, he failed to clear it. Samson Oni edged out Tom Parsons for second, both clearing 2.24m.
Goldie Sayers took her 10th consecutive title in the women’s javelin, winning by more than five metres with 58.45m, while Carl Myerscough also won his 10th national title in the shot with 19.42m.
The men’s hammer is one event that will give team selectors a headache. Mark Dry was the only British athlete with two ‘B’ standards this year, so a victory at the Trials would have almost assured him a place on the team. But arch-rival Alex Smith was on top form and produced his first ‘B’ standard of the year with 74.03m in round two.
Dry responded with a big throw in round five, but much to his dismay it was disallowed. While he argued the toss with officials, Smith rounded out the competition with a winning throw of 74.79m – the second-best mark of his career.
Hours later, Dry’s fifth-round throw was reinstated. Fortunately the measurement had been recorded at the time and it was his best of his series, 74.32m, but not quite enough to take the victory.
World indoor champion Yamile Aldama withdrew from the triple jump earlier in the week, leaving Laura Samuel to successfully defend her title with a leap of 13.73m, just two centimetres shy of her PB.