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World Youth Championships: Final Day (Day 5) report

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Alison Leonard
Alison Leonard

Alison Leonard (Blackburn Harriers) grabbed the fourth medal for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the World Youth Championships, in the event’s final day in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Sunday when winning silver in the women’s 800m.


It rounds off a fine week from a British perspective, which also saw Asha Philip and Ashlee Nelson win gold and bronze in the women’s 100m and Chris Clarke win the men’s 400m earlier in the week. Leonard’s medal placed GB & NI 7th in the overall medal table.


17 year-old Leonard actually finished in bronze medal position, but she was promoted following the disqualification of Winny Chebet for obstruction, after the Kenyan had finished 2nd, just one-hundredth ahead of Leonard’s 2:05.36.


The race was a brutal affair. Notorious front-runner USA’s Chanelle Price led them through the bell in a swift 58 seconds as the pack bunched and bumped behind her. With 200m to go, the early pace clearly told and as they came into the home straight, seven athletes remained locked together and it became a survival of the fittest.


Although initially blocked, Leonard eventually managed to free herself and with 20 metres left had managed to battle her way into a medal position, just failing to overhaul Chebet in the lunge for the line.


She finished with a gash on her left shin, most likely caused by a spike from the erratic Kenyan. Romania’s Elena Lavric took gold in 2:04.29.


Racing in temperatures of 35°C, the effort clearly exhausted the Blackburn Harrier and she required medical attention after the race. But she eventually emerged to express her delight. “It’s fantastic, just fantastic.” She said.


“I’ve never been to an international championship before, so to get a medal is amazing.  I wanted to get, say, top six. But I was dreaming of a medal. I’ve just been more relaxed at these championships.  At the under 20s (England U20 Championships, where she placed 3rd) in Bedford, I was so ‘het up’ but here I just kept relaxed and let it come.”


Looking back on the final, she said: “I thought she would go (USA’s Price). I wanted just to stay in touch. I don’t think I have ever been through in under 60 seconds before.” Of the dramatic final straight, she said: “I’ve never heard a crowd like it before.”


Leonard is a member of the Norwich Union ‘On Camp with Kelly’ programme and she was keen to offer her thanks to Dame Kelly Holmes, revealing that the double Olympic champion had paid for her coach Arthur Almond to attend these championships.


Elsewhere, there was a brilliant performance from Nick Cruchley (Halesowen C & AC) who narrowly failed to replicate Steve Lewis’ pole vault bronze from two years ago in Marrakech, Morocco, in finishing 4th in a new PB of 4.85m.


It was a long competition for the 17 year-old, who had one failure at the opening height of 4.45m. He then settled into the competition, producing a first time clearance at 4.75m and then showing tremendous character to clear 4.85m at his final attempt, before bowing out at 4.95m.


Joint silver medallists Manuel Concepcion of Spain and Shota Doi of Japan, also had bests of 4.85m, but were classified ahead of the Brit on countback. The winner was the incredible Nico Weiler of Germany, who entered the competition at 4.95m and went on to set a new championship record of 5.26m.


Afterwards, Cruchley said: “I’m pleased with it. As an athlete, you always want more, and I’m no different. But, yeah, I am pleased. I do feel I have a five-metre clearance in me. I just need more strength, more technique, more speed.”


Speaking of Weiler, he said: “You just have to stand in awe. But I had a chat with him and the training he is doing is not much different from what I have been doing. The difference is, he has been training for pole vault for seven years and I’ve been doing it for only about 2 or 3.  But I definitely want to chase them down and get up with them.”


There was also a fine effort from Simon Horsfield (East Cheshire Harriers) in the men’s 1500m final, where he finished 7th in 3:52.44 in an African dominated-race, won by Kenyan Frederick Ndunge in 3:44.27, from fellow countryman Josphat Kithii and Ethiopia’s Dawit Wolde.


“I can’t not be pleased really.” Said Horsfield. “It was very warm though, my mouth had dried up within the first 300 metres.”


It was a real improvement from the heats, where he scraped through as a fastest loser after finishing 5th. “We had a good talk about that yesterday. One of my friends had taped it and we watched it again and again. I lost concentration with 700m to go. So today I had to concentrate.” He said.


“But it’s been a really good week. Thanks to the coaches, who have really helped me out.”  GB & NI’s other representative on the final day of the championships, was Jade Nimmo (Falkirk Victoria) who was 10th in the women’s long jump with a best of 5.86m.


Nimmo is a 6.14m jumper at best, but was unable to re-capture that type of form as she missed the top eight cut off after three jumps.