Both sprint relay teams, the men’s 4x400m runners, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford among the winners on the last day of European Championships action
The Great Britain & Northern Ireland team enjoyed a record-breaking final day at the European Championships in Zurich on Sunday as athletes contributed to the nation’s best-ever medal haul at these championships with a total of 12 gold, five silver and six bronze as well as a British record by the women’s 4x100m relay team.
A golden afternoon for both sprint relay teams, the men’s 4x400m, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford, plus bronze medals for Andy Vernon and the women’s 4x400m relay team, meant the six-day event ended on a high for GB, a total of 23 medals putting them top of the table ahead of France on golds.
The British women’s sprint relay record had stood since 1980 but Asha Philip, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry rewrote the history books as they combined to clock 42.24 for victory ahead of France and Russia.
It was the final event of the programme and the quartet were understandably delighted, having the day before also run 42.62 for the third fastest time ever by a GB quartet.
“I’m so proud of these girls out here and those back at the camp,” said Philip. “They performed so well, there is nothing more to say apart from I’m so happy.”
Just before and Adam Gemili had anchored the men’s sprint relay team to the title for his second gold of the championships, the 20-year-old fresh from winning 200m gold in 19.98. He worked well with James Ellington, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Richard Kilty to equal the 37.93 European lead, as silver went to Germany and bronze to France.
“What you’re seeing is a group of sprinters performing, enjoying themselves and moving forward,” said Aikines-Aryeetey.
Gemili added: “It’s great to get another gold medal here and I hope we can be in the mix with the US and Jamaican sprinters next year.”
Not limited to success just in the sprint relay events, a GB 4x400m team of Conrad Williams, Matthew Hudson-Smith, Michael Bingham and Martyn Rooney came together to grab the gold and clock 2:58.79 for the fastest time by the nation in 16 years, also a European lead.
The time is also the third quickest in European Champs history, with the two quicker times also being set by GB teams, in 1990 and 1998.
Receiving the baton in second, Rooney – fresh from claiming the individual title ahead of Hudson-Smith on Friday – ran a 43.9 anchor leg to beat Russia’s Vladimir Krasnov who crossed the line in 2:59.38 for silver. Bronze went to Poland with 2:59.85 as an Ireland quartet of Brian Gregan, Mark English, Richard Morrissey and Thomas Barr clocked a 3:01.67 national record for fifth.
There was an exciting finish in the women’s 4x400m as Ukraine’s Olha Zemlyak, who had claimed silver in the individual event, tired as she approached the line and was pipped by a fast-finishing Floria Guei – France taking the title, a 3:24.27 European lead to 3:24.32. Given her position after receiving the baton, GB anchor Margaret Adeoye found it hard to settle into her stride but dipped for bronze, combining with Eilidh Child, Kelly Massey and Shana Cox to clock 3:24.34.
Farah again completed a double, adding 5000m gold to the 10,000m title already claimed in Zurich and his world and Olympic victories of the last couple of years. The 31-year-old has now won five European titles as well as two Olympic and three world golds.
Clocking 14:05.82, Farah – who has suffered illness this season and was forced to miss events including the Commonwealth Games – crossed clear ahead of Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan with 14:08.32 as Farah’s British team-mate Vernon also claimed his second medal of the championships with 14:09.48 for bronze to add to his 10,000m silver.
The pace had been steady meaning Farah easily had enough for a trademark strong finish, kicking at the bell to record a 52.2 last lap and secure victory.
“History’s very important to me and I always hope to make my country proud,” said Farah. “There’s been some down times but two golds here is great and now I hope to get ready to face the big guys next year at the World Championships.
“There’s been a lot of talk about me not being able to deliver but I’ve done my job.”
Rutherford was another to continue his winning ways, as fresh from claiming the Commonwealth long jump title he leapt a best of 8.29m to go one better than his silver from Gothenburg eight years ago and add another gold to a collection that also includes the Olympic title. Silver went to Greek jumper Louis Tsatoumas thanks to his best of 8.15m as France’s Kafétien Gomis finished one centimetre behind him for the final place on the podium.
Rutherford’s fellow Brits – JJ Jegede and Chris Tomlinson – leapt 7.88m and 7.75m for ninth and 11th respectively.
“The British team have been incredible, it’s been something special,” said Rutherford. “I was a little bit tight and nervous but it’s so nice to get the gold medal.”
Over in the high jump and Spain’s Ruth Beitia equalled the 2.01m high jump world lead to retain her title. She also won indoor European gold in 2013. Russia’s Mariya Kuchina cleared 1.99m for silver on countback ahead of Croatia’s Ana Simic for whom the height is a personal best.
Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad got the gold in a messy 1500m final as silver went to Noway’s Henrik Ingebrigtsen and Chris O’Hare stormed the home straight to bag bronze – GB’s first men’s medal in this event since 1986.
Having been disqualified after crossing the line first in Thursday’s steeplechase after he removed his vest before approaching the final barrier, Frenchman Mekhissi-Benabbad returned to the track determined to not leave Zurich empty-handed. He made his intentions clear on the final lap, pulling away on the back straight before waving his arms as he approached the line to cross clear in 3:45.60. Defending champion Ingebrigtsen clocked 3:46.10 to O’Hare’s 3:46.18.
Behind them, athletes were tumbling and one of those caught up was O’Hare’s fellow Brit Charlie Grice. Having fallen he got back up but the damage had been done and he crossed the line in 4:04.81 for 12th. Ireland’s Paul Robinson ran 3:46.35 for fourth as his team-mate Ciarán Ó Lionáird failed to finish.
There was a fine run by Antje Möldner-Schmidt in the women’s 3000m steeplechase as the 30-year-old clocked 9:29.43 to get the gold. The German had missed 2010 to battle lymph gland cancer but she was given the all-clear later that year and in winning gold in Zurich she went two better than her third-place finish in Helsinki two years ago. Behind her, Sweden’s Charlotta Fougberg ran 9:30.16 for silver as Spain’s Diana Martín clocked a personal best of 9:30.70 to get the bronze.
Christina Schwanitz also added a gold to Germany’s medal haul. She claimed shot victory with a best of 19.90m, as four of her five valid throws would have been enough to take the title. Her best came in the second round as Russia’s Yevgeniya Kolodko saved her best until last with 19.39m for silver. A national record throw of 19.04m by Hungary’s Anita Márton added more than half a metre to her outdoor best and bagged her the bronze.
Olympic javelin bronze medallist Antti Ruuskanen got the gold for Finland with his 88.01m European lead and would have led a one-two-three for his nation had world champion Vítězslav Veselý of Czech Republic not thrown 84.79m in the fifth round to push 2007 world champ Tero Pitkämäki lower and Lassi Etelätalo off the podium. Pitkämäki’s bronze was secured with 84.40m in the final round as Etelätalo just missed out with 83.16m.
» Results can be found here while the August 21 issue of AW will include much more in-depth coverage from Zurich