British sprinters add to growing GB medal tally on fourth day of the European Championships in Zurich
Speed merchants Martyn Rooney and Adam Gemili took gold for Britain on Friday evening in the Letzigrund Stadium. It took the GB gold medal count to six – more than any rival nation – with two days to go in Zurich 2014.
With James Dasaolu already having won the 100m, the 200m victory by Gemili and 400m win by Rooney completed Britain’s domination of the men’s individual sprints at the championships. On a cool, rain-soaked night, they produced world-class performances to boot.
Gemili’s 19.98 was set into a 1.6m/sec headwind as he enjoyed a great first bend to come into the straight with a commanding lead over Christophe Lemaitre of France. The former footballer began to lose his form a little in the closing stages, but he held on to win emphatically as Lemaitre clocked 20.15 in second.
“It’s a chilly night and the track’s wet but to come out here and perform and become European champion is something I’ve dreamed of,” said Gemili. “To make it a reality is great.”
Rooney’s winning time of 44.71 in the 400m was also swift as the tall Croydon Harrier beat GB team-mate Matthew Hudson-Smith (both pictured) with the 19-year-old running a 44.75 PB for a GB one-two.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Rooney, who ran his quickest time since the 2008 Olympics. “I’ve never won a championship in my life apart from the British Champs. I’m pretty happy.”
British fans were delighted as well as he followed in the footsteps of previous winners of this event like Iwan Thomas, Robbie Brightwell, Du’aine Ladejo and Roger Black.
The Rana Reider-coached athlete added: “I’ve got a very good team around me put together by British Athletics. I’m lucky to have been part of the system for a long time and it’s starting to pay off.”
While Rooney is one of the GB team’s most experienced campaigners, his closest rival was a relative rookie and the teenager pushed Rooney all the way to the line before falling four hundredths of a second adrift, as the third Brit, Conrad Williams, was fifth.
The race had followed a tense period before the start, too, which saw Hudson-Smith given a yellow card for twitching on his blocks. “I kind of slipped out my blocks,” he said. “It’s happened before, but at the Midlands and not something like this!”
In the women’s 200m, Dafne Schippers blasted to victory in a Dutch record of 22.03, while Jodie Williams added to Britain’s growing medal tally with a silver medal.
Williams’ 22.46 was a PB and the fastest time by a British woman since Kathy Cook in 1984. Schippers, meanwhile, who is perhaps better known as a heptathlete, went to No.11 on the European all-time rankings and her time was the quickest by a European since 1995.
Williams said: “To come away this season with two silver medals at senior level, I couldn’t ask for any more. I was chasing Dafne but her time was crazy and I’m happy with another PB.”
Behind, Myriam Soumare of France took bronze as Bianca Williams, the Commonwealth bronze medallist, was fourth.
After breaking the British junior record in the rounds, Dina Asher-Smith pulled her hamstring 50m into the race and pulled up. “Me and my hammy have a love-hate relationship and today is a hate day,” she explained.
Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands outsprinted Abeba Aregawi of Sweden to win the women’s 1500m in 4:04.20. In one of the truly world-class events of the week, the Ethiopian-born duo slugged it out on the last lap after Britain’s Laura Weightman had stretched the pace on the penultimate lap.
Weightman was rewarded with a bronze medal – and it was well-earned as she ran the last lap in an isolated third place and held on for a podium position as GB team-mate Hannah England finished sixth.
“I was nervous in warm up with how good Aregawi and Hassan are, but with 600m to go I thought ‘right, no one’s doing anything here’ so I wanted to give it a go,” said Weightman, who is coached by Steve Cram. “If someone said at the start of the season I was going to win silver at the Commonwealths, bronze at the Europeans and run four (minutes) flat, I would have said they were silly.”
There was no medal for Christine Ohuruogu in the women’s 400m, though, as Libania Grenot of Italy enjoyed a runaway victory. The Cuban-born sprinter, who began representing Italy in 2008 after marrying an Italian, clocked 51.12.
“I just came out here to test myself,” said Ohuruogu, who is enjoying a low-key year before building up to a defence of her world title in 2015.
Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland produced a tremendous performance as she defended her women’s hammer, winning by more than four metres with a championship record of 78.76m. It was also the third best in history, adding 30cm to her Polish record, and was just short of Betty Heidler’s world record of 79.42m.
Wlodarczyk said: “I was thinking the world record was close but it was not possible today but I have the opportunity next week in the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial (in Warsaw) where I will try to be the first person to throw over 80 metres.”
Adam Kszczot of Poland won an exciting men’s 800m in 1:44.15 as Ireland’s Mark English took bronze in 1:45.03. Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, fresh from his French record of 1:42.53 last month, blasted through the bell in 50.9 and still led with 150m to go, but Kszczot breezed past with 120m remaining to coast well clear as the broken Bosse faded to eighth and last.
The much-anticipated men’s high jump did not quite live up to its billing due to wet weather making it difficult for the athletes. When Ivan Ukhov, the Olympic champion from Russia, could only manage a best of 2.30m, it was left to Ukrainian duo Andriy Protsenko and Bohdan Bondarenko to battle it out.
Protsenko cleared 2.33m to put the pressure on Bondarenko, but the world champion rose to the challenge with a 2.35m clearance to take gold. Britain’s Chris Baker cleared 2.21m and went out while attempting 2.26m to finish equal 11th.
Antoinette Nana Djimou of France successfully defended her European heptathlon title with a score of 6551.
Loudest noise of the night, though, was for Kariem Hussein as the Swiss athlete won the men’s 400m hurdles for the host nation. With the Letzigrund Stadium virtually full for the fourth night of finals, the atmosphere was incredible as he powered to gold in a PB of 48.96 from Rasmus Magi of Estonia.
Louis Tsatoumas of Greece led the long jump qualifiers with 8.19m as Brits Greg Rutherford, Chris Tomlinson and JJ Jegede all qualified.