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World Youth Championships: Day 4 report

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Ashley Helsby
Ashley Helsby



The afternoon action saw 16 year-old Louise Webb (Team Southampton) and 15 year-old Sarah Hopkinson (Gloucester AC) produce further evidence that the future of British female distance running is in safe hands when they produced superb performances in the women’s 2000m steeplechase final at the World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Saturday night.


Water Jump
Steeplechase action in Ostrava

Webb clocked 6:32.45 to set a new UK U20 record, bettering the previous best of 6:37.76, established by Emily Pidgeon last year. Incredibly the time was also just a smidge outside Tara Krzywicki’s UK senior record of 6:28.07. 


Hopkinson finished just behind Webb in 6:32.55 and they now go 3rd and 4th on the UK all-time list, with Hatti Dean’s 6:30.8 in 2nd.


Almost inevitably, it was a Kenyan 1-2 in the final. Caroline Tuigong winning in 6:22.30 from team-mate Christine Mayanga. Norway’s Karoline Grovdal was third and Ethiopia’s Marta Tigabea 4th.


The gutsy British duo established themselves in the early stages and by lap two were prominent in the second chasing pack, behind the eventual top four.  Hopkinson suffered a fall in the water jump on lap three, but quickly recovered her position.


 As the pace wound up on the final lap, Webb and Hopkinson found themselves in their own private battle and it was Webb who just had the edge off the final barrier as she kicked home.


Between the high-fives to celebrate their achievements, Webb said: “I was ranked 14th out of 17 coming in, so I was aiming for top 10. For both of us to finish in the top six is really good and we were not too far away from the Kenyans either.”


Recalling her third lap plunge into the water jump, Hopkinson said: “I was just going over the barrier when somebody banged into me from behind. But I’m really happy, I knew I could run a PB, I knew I was faster than 6:41 and apart from Grovdal, who is amazing, we were the first Europeans.”


For Webb, this was only her fourth ever steeplechase and only the second over the distance.  She slashed a huge 15 seconds off her previous time. 


Asked whether more athletes should think about attempting the steeplechase, she said: “It’s not as bad as it looks. The water jump cools you down.” To which Hopkinson chipped in: “A little too much,” smiling at her brief dip.


There was plenty more to cheer the Norwich Union GB & NI team as Alison Leonard (Blackburn Harriers) and Jade Nimmo (Falkirk Victoria) qualified for the women’s 800m and long jump finals respectively and Curtis Griffith-Parker (Cambridge Harriers) gave a good account of himself in the men’s discus final. 


In the women’s 800m, Leonard was once again impressive as she earned a place in Sunday’s final.  Unfortunately, Lynsey Sharp (Edinburgh AC) was eliminated from her semi.


In the second of three semi-finals, Leonard found herself a little boxed in at the end on the first lap, but by the time she reached the back straight she was in much better shape and she ran a swift final 200m to finish second of to guarantee her progress in 2:07.84.


Afterwards, she said: “It was a rough race, very rough. I knew it wasn’t that fast, but I knew I could sprint at the end. I was about 5th coming through, but I didn’t want to overtake on the bend.


“I pushed on down the back straight and again at 200m and with 100m to go, I knew no-one could get past me. I’m pleased. My aim was to get to the final, anything after that is a bonus.”


In the third and final semi, Sharp found herself an unfortunate victim of the pedestrian pace. Leading them through the bell in 67 seconds, she was caught in the final quarter and try as she might, she could not find the response to grab one of the first two automatic qualification places, coming home 4th in 2:11.36.


She said. “Even after the first 100m, I knew it was slow. So I took it on in the early stages. I knew it was slow, but I never realised how slow, until I got to the bell.


 “I picked it up again at the back straight, but at 200m, they all started to go past me. I’m disappointed, but it’s a big improvement on last year when I was struggling to do 2:10s (her PB now is 2:06.92).”


Nimmo made it through to Sunday’s women’s long jump final, finishing 7th in the qualification round with 5.98m.  Team-mate Abigail Irozuru didn’t make the cut, her best effort was 5.86m, to place her 15th, just outside the top 12 qualification slots.


Afterwards, Nimmo said: “I’m really pleased, but I think I could have jumped a lot further. I wasn’t feeling at my best, I wasn’t fast enough. For the final, I’m going to change my warm-up. I need to be a bit faster. I also need to hold each phase a bit longer to extend the distance.”


Meanwhile, a disappointed Irozuru said: “The speed was there, but I just wasn’t on the board. There’s no excuse.”


There was a creditable performance by Griffith-Parker in the men’s discus final. He was unable to quite recreate the form that took him to a PB of 58.25m in Friday’s qualifying round, but managed 55.59 to place 7th overall.


Afterwards, he said: “I’m not that pleased. It could have been worse. I felt a bit slow in the delivery. I need to go back and re-trace the training book.”


Michael Baker (Medway & Maidstone) was highly unfortunate to miss out on the men’s 400m hurdles final after finishing 5th in the first semi-final, the tougher of the two semis.


Despite being overtaken in the first 100m by Bahamas’ Nathan Arnett, who was on his inside in lane 3, he ran a well-measured race to leave himself enough in the tank down the final straight. But he just failed to overall South Africa’s PC Beneke for the precious fourth automatic qualification place by four-hundredths of a second.


Nevertheless, he still managed to log a new personal best of 51.98, a time which would have been good enough in the second semi. “Obviously, I’ve ran a PB and done it when it most matters, so I have to take the positives from that.


“One of the Americans slowed down in his heat and ended up qualifying as a fastest loser, which wrecked the seedings.” He said, referring to top-ranked William Wynne, who went on to win Baker’s semi in a world-leading time of 50.28.


“But it’s been a good championships and a good experience.  I’ve learned a lot from Katherine Merry, who was out here as a mentor and the sprints coach Mike McFarlane, which my coach and I can build on for next year.


“There is definitely a big, hard winter ahead in terms of developing my flat speed. Hurdling technique isn’t always what’s required, it’s speed between them that counts. Some of these guys are running high 46s, whereas I’m running high 48s.


 “I’d also like to say thanks to the team management. The coaches, doctor and physios have got us all to the track full prepared and ready to perform.”


Ashley Helsby was another who suffered the agony of missing out on the final by one place.  She bolted from the start impressively in Heat 2 and was right in the mix throughout. Unfortunately she could not quite sustain her early pace and finished fifth, albeit in a new personal best of 13.78.


Like fellow hurdler Baker, she was just 0.04 adrift of fourth and automatic qualification. Afterwards, she said: “I wanted to get through, but I’m pleased with that. I need to work on my fitness. I starting struggling by the eighth hurdle and was really having to work hard at the ninth.


 “My start was much better (than in the heats) and I was nice and low over the hurdles.  But it’s been a good experience, it’s given me more confidence. The atmosphere is surreal.”




Norwich Union GB & NI’s Ashley Helsby (Liverpool Harriers) has secured her place in the last 16 of the women’s 100m hurdles at the World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic from Saturday morning’s heats.


The 17 year-old was fourth in the fifth and final heat, but her time of 13.83 was enough to earn her the sixth and final fastest loser place.  Afterwards, she said: “I was going too high over the hurdles. I need to get lower over them if I want to progress from the next round.”


Helsby has spent her year competing over the U20 height of 84cm, rather than the 76.2cm height used at these championships.  Unfortunately, Jenny Taker (Trafford AC) did not make it through to the final after falling to the track before the final hurdle in Heat 2.


She was well placed right through, but clipped the eighth barrier, lost her rhythm and tumbled over the ninth.


The warm weather conditions made life difficult for Ben Wears (Redcar Race Walking) in the men’s 10k walk final which began at 9am. In temperatures of 24°C and humidity of 55%, he boldly went with the early pacesetters and was 2nd for much of the opening stages.


But he began to drop back after 2k, clearly suffering from his ambitious opening burst. At midway, he seemed settled within the top half of the 33 strong field, but at 6k he began to struggle again and just over one kilometre later he withdrew exhausted. 


He required some medical attention, but no real damage was done. GB & NI Head Coach Rob Denmark said: “He’s a real fighter, but conditions were just too tough today.”