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Third for GB & NI

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Gateshead Podium

The GB & NI team finished a very credible third at last weekend’s European Athletics Team Championships in Gateshead, amassing eight wins in the process. The British team collected a total of 338 points, behind champions Russia and second placed Germany who scored 354.5 and 347.5 points respectively.

GB & NI won both the men’s and women’s 4x400m relays, the final two track events of the weekend, to finish the championships in style. The women’s quartet of Eilidh Child (coach: Malcolm Arnold), Shana Cox (George Williams), Meghan Beesley (Nick Dakin) and Christine Ohuruogu (Lloyd Cowan) led from start to finish as they crossed the line in 3:28.60, nearly a second clear of Russia.

Child and fellow 400m hurdler and team captain Perri Shakes-Drayton (Chris Zah) were in imperious form all weekend, with Child breaking the Scottish 400mH record en route to victory, whilst Shakes-Drayton set a new personal best time, with a UK leading performance of 50.50 over 400m.

The men’s 4x400m team was equally dominant as Michael Bingham (Williams), Conrad Williams (Linford Christie), Rhys Williams (Adrian Thomas) and Richard Buck (Steve Fudge) raced to victory in a European leading time of 3:05.37.

The weekend got off to a good start with Dai Greene (Arnold) taking second place in the men’s 400mH, only getting edged out by German Silvio Schirrmeister, who set a personal best of 49.15 to take the victory. Nigel Levine (Linford Christie) then followed suit, leading the men’s 400m until the last few metres, before being pipped on the line by Russia’s Vladimir Krasnov.

18 year old Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark) won a scintillating women’s 800m race as she hit the front with 200m remaining and held off the challenge of Russia’s Ekaterina Sharmina to take victory in 2:00.82 and win the maximum 12 points on her senior GB & NI debut. After arguably the biggest win of her career, Judd commented: “It was quite painful. I was so nervous going into it and I was knackered with 250m to go but who couldn’t win with that crowd behind them? They were amazing and I want to say thank you to them. Moscow is well within my capabilities and now I just want to keep up my winning streak.”

There were also wins for double Olympic champion Mo Farah (Alberto Salazar), and sprint hurdler Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider). Farah bode his time before clocking an outstanding 50.89 for the final 400m to leave his opponents in his wake, and for Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider) who picked up a maximum 12 points for GB & NI in the 100m hurdles as she stormed to victory in a time of 12.62, quicker than her European leading mark of 12.74, although there was an illegal following wind of +2.6m/s.

In the men’s 1500m, 19 year old Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) ran a good tactical race to finish a close second place with a time of 3:39.76, whilst fellow youngster and local girl Laura Weightman (Steve Cram) also finished second after battling hard down the home straight in the women’s 3000m. In the field, Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford (Dan Pfaff) finished third in a competitive long jump field with a best jump of 8.02m.

In the final event of day one, the GB & NI relay team set a European leading time of 38.40 to secure 12 more points and finish the first day of competition on a high. Adam Gemili (Michael Afilaka) got the quartet off to a good start before handing over to Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Reider), with James Ellington (Reider) on leg three and James Dasaolu (Steve Fudge) anchoring the team home. Gemili, who ran leg one for GB & NI, said: “We wanted to come out and show that it’s a new year and we’re fresh and here to compete. I just did what I could and they did the rest.”

The younger members of the team also impressed on a wet and windy day two, with Sophie Hitchon (Tore Gustafsson) getting the day off to the perfect start by extending her British record, launching the hammer out to 72.97m in the third round to add 99cm to her previous best. The throw was good enough for third place and 10 points for GB & NI, and the 21 year old was delighted with her series of throws: “I’m so happy to have thrown an A standard today. I had three consistent throws after the first one. I’ve been chasing that 72 metre barrier for a while now so I’m really pleased to have finally got it.”

19 year old Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) ran impressively in the women’s 5,000m as she held off experienced German Sabrina Mockenhaupt to finish second. The race started slowly and picked up in the closing stages, with the world junior 3,000m bronze medallist crossing the line in 15:40.52 to win an excellent 11 points. Afterwards, Gorecka said: “This was an amazing experience and an amazing crowd for my senior GB & NI debut.”

After fouling in her first two jumps, Shara Proctor (Reider) leaped to 6.43m in the third round to take third in the women’s long jump, as did Anyika Onuora (Reider) in the women’s 200m. Olympic 800m finalist Andrew Osagie (Craig Winrow) also took a solid third place, clocking 1:47.41 in the men’s 800m, whilst Nathan Douglas (Aston Moore) made a long awaited return to GB & NI duty after injury woes, to take third in the triple jump.

British Athletics Head Coach Peter Eriksson believes that this was a successful weekend for the GB & NI team and praised the performances of the younger athletes on the team.

“All of the youngsters really stepped up, with Emelia Gorecka today and Jessica Judd and Charlie Grice yesterday putting in excellent performances.”