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european under-23 championships day three evening session

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Nigel Levine
Nigel Levine converts 2009 silver to 2011 gold

16 July 2011

Gold medallists Jack Green (coach: Malcolm Arnold) and Nigel Levine (coach: Simon Duberley) took the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal total to 13 on a fantastic evening of podium finishes at the European Under-23 Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic (14-17 July).

In addition to the title winning duo there were a further three silver medals for Nathan Woodward (coach: Nick Dakin) in the 400mH, James Alaka (coach: Clarence Callender) in the 200m and Ross Millington (coach: Steve Vernon) in the 5000m, plus four bronze: Meghan Beesley (coach: Nick Dakin) in the 400mH, Luke Lennon-Ford (coach: Linford Christie) in the 400m, Lawrence Clarke (coach: Malcolm Arnold) in the 110mH and the highlight coming from Sophie Hitchon (coach: Derek Evely) with a new UK National Record in the hammer.

Green, securing the 400mH victory in 49.13 after pulling clear off the final hurdle, defeated his European leading team mate Woodward - who had looked flawless in both heats and semi finals and was arguably the favourite to take the title - into second and ensured that Britain’s title success in this event continued.

“I really wanted it,” he said, “I’m ecstatic to win, although I was confident that both Nathan (Woodward) and I would PB which we obviously didn’t, but like I said yesterday, people remember titles, not times.”

“It was always going to be close today and I think it always will be; it’s also a shame that Niall couldn’t be up there with us, but he’ll be back. Pretty much everything went to plan for me except for the last hurdle where my strides were off; that last hurdle was definitely the key moment in the race. I was also closer to Nathan than I’d normally be at halfway, but I had to be to be in with a chance of winning it.”

Woodward, clocking 49.28, was once again brilliant until he lost his momentum going into the final hurdle and did well not to crash to the track: “I didn’t come off nine too well and I just wasn’t where I wanted to be coming into the last hurdle when I stumbled. I was really just concentrating on staying on my feet.”

He was gracious in defeat however: “I really hate losing, but if anyone was going to beat me today I’m glad it was Jack. I’m also pleased to medal because rankings don’t count for much in a Championship and it’s my first international medal.”

Niall Flannery (coach: Nick Dakin), third ranked coming into the Championships, finished eighth (50.32).

Not to be outdone by their hurdles counterparts, Nigel Levine and Luke Lennon-Ford won gold (46.10) and bronze (46.22) respectively in the flat 400m.

It was a significant victory for Levine who came into the event ranked second in Europe behind Lennon-Ford and was motivated by the prospect of improving on his 2009 silver in this Championship.

“I finished second last time and I really wanted to win it,” he said, admitting that in spite of his victory he was a little disappointed not to run sub-46 seconds. “I’ve been a bit nervous and I wasn’t well at the start of the week, but if I didn’t believe I could win, I wouldn’t have come.”

Lennon-Ford knew he had the potential to win, but it didn’t come together when it mattered: “It just wasn’t my day,” he said. “I felt like I had a good race and even though my legs felt like they were falling apart a bit in the last 20m, I still managed to pull it back a bit.”

In the men’s 200m James Alaka added a silver medal to his brilliant 100m gold in 20.60 (-1.4m/s), but Danny Talbot (coach: Dan Cossins) was disappointed to finish fourth in 20.71.

"That start was the biggest surprise ever,” said US-based Alaka, who has been notoriously slow out of the blocks this week, “but the first part of the race was a complete blur if I'm honest. It's really just the last 50m of the race I remember where I knew I was strong and I just kept on pushing. I saw the Greek athlete out the corner of my eye and I thought "you can out-lean him, you've been working hard in the gym and your chest is bigger!"

"That was a really great race and I feel blessed to have been part of it."

Talbot, who will now re-focus his attention on the Aviva UK senior Trials and Championships, said: “I thought I had it, but maybe I just went off too hard. I looked across with 20m to go and maybe that’s what did it. Having beaten James at the Trials I thought I was our best medal hope here.”

Ross Millington, also US-based, won a great silver in the 5000m in 14:22.78 after a burn-up over the final 200m proved he has as an impressive kick as well as a solid endurance base.

There was nothing to split the large pack as they went through the first 3000m in a slow 9:00.89, and as a result there was always a risk of a fall; unfortunately, with just over a lap to go, it was Aviva GB & NI’s John McDonnell (coach: John Stoker) - who had been the leading Brit for a period - who crashed out, although he did pick himself up to finish in 18th (14:40.31).

“I was a bit worried with about 800m to go because we were so bunched up,” said Millington, who just prior to McDonnell’s fall had moved from mid-pack into a safe position ahead of his team mate on the outside.

“It wasn’t quick, but it didn’t feel all that easy either with the change of pace. It’s all in my head really and I knew I had to be tough. My legs were burning up but I wasn’t letting that happen to me, not today, I wanted a medal.”

Between the two, Adam Bitchell (coach: James Thie) finished 12th (14:29.57).

In the women’s 400mH - the first Aviva GB & NI track final of the afternoon - Meghan Beesley set the podium standard with a lifetime best and third place finish in 55.69, but it took the scoreboard to convince her she’d won bronze.

“I didn’t realise I’d got it, I felt like the girl (Portuguese athlete Vera Barbosa) had gone past me, but I’m so pleased to get a PB.

“I thought I’d go off hard and see if I could hold it together. My start was normal but it was a completely different stride pattern to what I’ve had before - I really wanted to attack the hurdles. The conditions were perfect and it’s a fast track so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to give it a go.”

And in the first field event of the afternoon, World Junior Champion Sophie Hitchon once again proved she’s a Championship performer with bronze in the hammer with a best of 69.59, exceeding her previous UK best by 16cm and achieving the World Championships ‘B’ qualifying standard for the second time.

“It’s great, I knew I was in PB shape so I’m pleased, but that 70m is becoming a bit of a barrier for me at the minute,” she said. “I’m really pleased with how I’ve done though; I’m still young and I’ve got another go at these Championships.

“The Polish girl who finished in second (Joanna Fiodorow) threw an unbelievable PB; it was a really amazing throw so she deserved it. I am pleased though, that 70m will come eventually.”

There was also bronze for Lawrence Clarke in the 110mH: “I’m really, really happy with that,” said the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist who clocked 13.62 (-0.4m/s). “I wasn’t really ranked in the medals and I’ve run much better than I’d hoped to. I’m looking to peak at the Senior Trials so this performance two weeks out is great.”

In the final event of the night, Eilish McColgan (coach: Liz McColgan) finished sixth in the women’s 3000mSC in 9:52.02.

“Today was better than my heat but I left it too late, it’s a nerves thing and I’m worried to go,” she said. “I thought about it with a kilometre to go but I stayed where I was.

“I’d have been happier if I’d run sub-9:50, but you can see I’ve still got a lot to learn in the event and I think I can go close to 9:40 next year.”

The European Under-23 Championships will be shown daily on Eurosport – 17.30-19.00 UK time tomorrow - in addition to being streamed live by European Athletics with English language commentary through their website at www.european-athletics.org.

Live streaming will also be available with Czech commentary through: www.sportzive.cz

Daily session reports will be published on the UKA website: www.uka.org.uk