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European Junior Championships preview

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‘Jumping Lighthouse’ Gary White was today hailed as the shining example for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team preparing to compete at the European Junior Championships in Hengelo, Netherlands, on 19-22 July.


Triple jumper White, who is 6ft 5in tall, marked his international debut at last week’s European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, by scraping into the final with his last qualifying leap and winning the gold medal with a lifetime best of 16.33 metres – after starting the final ranked 11th of the 12 competitors.


His success was used by the Junior Team Head Coach Mick Hill, who competed in 21 majors during his international javelin throwing career, as an example to the youngsters of how belief and application can “raise you above your comfort zone and onto the podium.”


Hill was talking to the 57 athletes as they set about building on the successes of GB teams that won six gold, three silver and two medals at the European Under 23s and one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the World Youth Championships for Under 18s in Ostrava, Czech Republic.


Of the GB athletes in Hengelo…


Leevan Yearwood (Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC) tops the European Junior 100m rankings, a distance in which British athletes have triumphed at 10 of the last 12 championships;


Alex Nelson (Sale Harriers Manchester) is ranked top of the 200m entries having won the 100m bronze medallist two years ago behind Craig Pickering and Simeon Williamson, who won European Under 23 silver and gold medals respectively last week;


Nigel Levine (Bedford and County AC) is top of the 400m rankings even though this is his first season in the event;


Emma Jackson (City of Stoke AC) heads the women’s 800m rankings while James Brewer (Cheltenham and District Harriers), who competed for GB seniors at the European Indoor Championships in the winter, is ranked second and Mark Mitchell (Forres Harriers) fifth in the men’s rankings;


Gianni Frankis (Newham and Essex Beagles), a 110m hurdles finalist at last year’s World Junior Championships in Beijing, is ranked third going into these championships;


Of the team’s 400m hurdles, Nathan Woodward (Tamworth AC) and Toby Ulm (Swindon Harriers) are third and fourth in the men’s standings while among the women, Maghan Beesley (Tamworth AC) and Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets) – who is a team captain along with decathlete Daniel Awde (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) – are third and fifth quickest;


Stephanie Twell, the European Junior Cross Country Champion, and her Aldershot Farnham and District AC training mate Emma Pallant – they are coached by UKA Performance Coach Mick Woods – are fourth and fifth in the 1500m rankings;


Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester AC), the reigning European Junior 5000m champion now coached by UK Athletics Senior Performance Manager for Endurance Alan Storey, faces five athletes who are faster on paper, much as in Kaunas two years ago;


Eden Francis (Leicester Coritanian) is fifth in the women’s shot standings and full of confidence after setting an English Schools record at the weekend.


Team Leader Rush, expressed satisfaction that the selected team of 57 was the largest junior team he had taken away in five years. He said: “It’s testament to these 57 that they have all come through a rigorous selection process designed to prepare them for competition at the European level.


“Qualifying standards were set to let athletes be competitive with a clear target of making as many finals as possible. It is a good indication of the current quality of 18- and 19-year-olds, many of whom will be aiming to peak at London 2012. We have a lot to live up to because the Under 23s and Under 18s had great championships last week, but I am convinced we have a great blend of experience and newcomers who will deliver great performances and learn from the championships.”


Hill told them: “You are high performers. We have brought a world-class management team to support you. UK Athletics is helping 36 personal coaches to be here with you. That could be the icing on the cake to get you a position higher on the rostrum or another place in the final.


“Success will not be measured entirely by medals and personal bests. For me, UK Athletics Performance Director Dave Collins and everyone else involved with Performance, this is a stepping stone.


“It’s not all about what you get out of this week. It’s equally important what you take into the future. Go out and do ‘a Gary White’!”


To follow the Championships live please click here