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team gb makes flying start in first athletics session at rio olympics

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12 August 2016

Team GB got off to a flying start in the opening session of athletics action at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson (coach: Mike Holmes) leading the heptathlon and Jessica Ennis-Hill (Toni Minichiello)well placed in third after two events.

The heptathlon got underway with the 100m hurdles, and Ennis-Hill made the perfect start as she won the final heat in 12.84 to take 1149 points and an early overall lead by 25 points. Johnson-Thompson finished second in the third heat in a time of 12.48 for 1053 points.

The hurdles was followed by an enthralling high jump competition in which Johnson-Thompson broke the British record with a best clearance of 1.98m for 1211 points, which is also the best ever high jump performance in a heptathlon. It moved her into the overall lead with 2264 points, 12 points clear of Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam, who also cleared 1.98m.

Ennis-Hill set a season’s best of 1.89m, her best performance since 2012, to place her third in the high jump and third overall, just 20 points behind her Team GB teammate.

The first track final of the Games was the women’s 10,000m and Team GB was well represented with Jo Pavey (Gavin Pavey), Beth Potter (Mick Woods) and Jessica Andrews (Josep Carballude) all competing. In an incredible race which was won by Almaz Ayana of Ethiopa in a new world record of 29:17.45, 42 year old Pavey performed admirably as she led the British contingent home in 15th place with a time of 31:33.44.

After competing in her fifth Olympic Games, Pavey said: “I would have liked to have run a bit better but I feel so honoured to have been in a fifth Olympic Games – I feel so fortunate and I gave it my best on the day. I would have liked to have run a bit quicker but realistically I am getting very, very old!

“It was a very big field and very confusing – I’m glad I kept note of what pace and what lap times I should be doing otherwise it was hard to know how many laps you’ve got left and some got confused. But I memorised what I should be doing on each lap. I gave it my all. So many people ran so fast – I would have liked to have been competitive but I gave it what I had on the day.”

Andrews finished just one place behind Pavey in 16th as she saved her best ever performance for the world’s biggest stage and set a personal best of 31:35.92.

23 year old Andrews said: “I’ve just run a race at the Olympic Games, it’s what every athlete dreams of. It was an amazing atmosphere, it was a bit chaotic and stressful getting to the start, but as soon as the gun went I thought this may only happen once, so just enjoy every single second, and that’s what I did.

“I got into a group that was going at the pace I wanted to run at and it felt really comfortable, I then kind of screwed up a bit as I thought I had one lap to go and then coming down the straight I realised they were still going and thought ‘oh god, I’ve got another lap to go’. So I used my final kick a lap and a half too early, but I still ran a PB.” 

Potter crossed the line in 34th place in a time of 33:04.34 and was in a positive mood after disrupted preparations: She said: “I got clipped when the girl went down and I have a sore calf now and that did throw me off a little bit. I had a bit of a sore tummy last couple of days too so wasn’t ideal but I made it to an Olympics. I’ve had a really good season this year and had a really big breakthrough so you can’t do well in all your races but I am glad to be here.”

Michael Rimmer (Jon Bigg) and Elliot Giles (Matt Yates) were also in action in the heats of the 800m. Competing in his third Olympic Games, Rimmer safely made it through to the semi-finals as he placed third in his heat with a time of 1:45.99 for automatic qualification.

Rimmer said: “It didn’t feel great out there to be honest, I felt a bit sluggish.  I’ve tapered off quite a bit longer than normal, just to try something different, because in the past I’ve always struggled to get out of the semi-finals. But hopefully that means I’ll be a bit more switched on tomorrow. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, but it was nice to get that back straight in nice and smooth and not be boxed in.”

It wasn’t to be for Giles though as the 22 year old faded in the closing stages and crossed the line in seventh place in 1:47.88.