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European Junior Championships Day 2 full report

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Emily Pidgeon
Emily brings home a bronze in Hengelo

Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester AC), the defending 5000m champion, opened the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team’s medal account at the 19th European Junior Championships in Hengelo, Netherlands, on Friday evening, 20 July.


Towards the sullen, humid end of a dramatic day interrupted for 1 hour 40 minutes by a fierce thunderstorm, Pidgeon took the 5000m bronze medal in 16:31.30.


It was not a twin for the gold she won two years ago in Kaunas, Lithuania. But it was probably a better run given that she had been struggling with a cold ever since landing in Hengelo on Monday evening.


“Today’s the first day this week that I have not had a headache,” said the 18-year-old, whose preparations were also interrupted by the A-level exams that will earn her a place at Loughborough University in the autumn.


She was with the leaders to halfway but said: “It was hard. It was hot and humid. We were praying for the rain to come back because it cools down the body temperature.


“I’m very, very pleased because I am not fully race fit. I’ve been getting there because I really wanted to do this. It was a good occasion. It was wonderful to run round with so many people cheering and I swear Britain had the biggest crowd of supporters; they were brilliant. I’m pleased I got a medal.”


Pidgeon’s time was 16:31.30 while the medals went to 19-year-olds Natalya Popkova (Russia) in 16:08.95 and Ingunn Opsal (Norway) in 16:14.59.


Pidgeon, who is coached by UK Athletics Senior Performance Manager for Endurance Alan Storey, also had praise for her 16-year-old team mate Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham and District AC) who finished 10th in 16:59.36 before dashing away from the track saying: “I’m going to be sick.”


“Charlie did well because she is only in the second day of her cold. She has got the full blow today.”


Ironically, by the time the medal ceremony was held, the cooling rain had returned.


Women’s shot final: Eden Francis (Leicester Coritanian), a former child model coached by her mum Glenys Morton, was angry and disappointed to finish fifth with 15.32m, half a metre down on her best.

“15.32m! I shouldn’t throw that at a Junior League never mind in a European Championships final,” she said after a series that went no throw, 14.93, 14.66, 14.60, 15.29 and 15.32.  She had thrown 15.57m in qualifying yesterday.

The title was retained by the World Junior Champion Melissa Boekelman (Netherlands) with 16.51m from Alena Kopets (Belarus), who threw a PB of 16.10m; Isabell Von Loga (Germany), bronze medallist with 15.74m; and Agnieszka Dudzinska (Poland), 15.35m.


Women’s 100m final: Anike Shand-Whittingham (Blackheath Harriers and Bromley AC), who was sixth-fastest in last night’s semi-finals, never fully settled into her briskest best in lane eight and finished sixth in 11.82 seconds. Ezinne Okparaebo won in a Norwegian Junior record of 11.45 seconds, 15-hundredths quicker than Shand-Whittingham’s PB.

The 17-year-old said of the biggest race of her life so far: “I wasn’t too put-off by the lane draw because you can still run fast from lane eight. I was glad to get out before the German girl in lane seven but I didn’t get my first foot down fast enough. Halfway down the track I noticed I was running too close to my inside line and the German girl was almost hitting my arm.

“I knew I was not in the medals. When I saw the time on the trackside clock, I was upset because if I had run a PB I would have got a medal. The time I ran was not that good. I was upset. I was glad to get to the final and wish I had done more with it.

“Now I know what it’s like. I’m thinking, ‘Don’t take any prisoners man!”


Men’s 100m final: Leevan Yearwood (Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC) carried the burden of favouritism – and the knowledge that he was expected to become the 10th British winner of ‘the dash’ in the 19 editions of these championships – and suffered the pain of disqualification for causing a second false start.

The first false start was caused by Aggelos Aggelakis (Greece) in the lane next to Yearwood, who said of his agony: “I don’t know why I did it. I don’t usually anticipate the gun. I have never been disqualified before.

“I didn’t feel much pressure. I slightly twitched to go because I thought if I didn’t go, I might get a bad start.”

The gold medal went to Julian Reus (Germany) in 10.38 seconds, eight-hundredths slower than Yearwood’s best this season. The wind was a moderate +0.2 metres per second.


The second day of competition began with a shock for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team. Their inspirational Men’s Team Captain Daniel Awde (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) was forced to withdraw from the decathlon while lying fourth with 3939 points, within 69 points of a medal position.


He suffered a stomach bug overnight, climbed off his sickbed this morning and went to the track to warm-up for the sixth event, but quickly realised that he was drained of energy and sadly returned to the team hotel to go back to bed, in the care of the team’s medical staff.


“It’s the most disappointing thing that could happen to Dan,” said Team Leader Martin Rush, who had accompanied him to the stadium. “He had a great first day and was looking forward to challenging for a personal best points total today. He came down to the warm-up track this morning, ran a couple of strides and finished up on his knees.”


Here is how the other Norwich Union GB&NI athletes performed either side of a fierce thunderstorm on the second day and what they said about their competitions:


Women’s high jump qualifying: Vikki Hubbard (Grantham AC), pictured on the homepage, who came into athletics through sports:hall enjoyment, went through to the final, clinching her place by clearing 1.80m at the first attempt for equal third place in Group A and equal fourth overall. She had also cleared 1.69m and 1.74m with her first attempts before needing two trials at 1.77m.

Hubbard, who was seventh at the 2005 World Youth Championships and a finalist at the 2006 World Junior Championships, said: “The experience that I have already had helped me. It was a bit of a strong head wind on some of the jumps so I had to alter the run-ups. I can not wait until Sunday and come out and fly!”


Adele Lassu (Barnsley AC), the reigning England Athletics Under 20 Champion, had first time clearances at 1.69m and 1.74m but then went out, placed equal seventh in Group B and equal 14th overall. She had two very close attempts at 1.77m, within 3cm of her PB, but clipped the bar off each time and was ranked equal seventh in her pool.

She said of her international debut: “I completely lost concentration at 1.77m. I don’t know why. I felt good in practice.”


Women’s 200m first round: Both Norwich Union GB&NI athletes sped into the semi-finals.


Hayley Jones
Hayley Jones

Hayley Jones (Wigan AC), the England Athletics Under 20 Champion, qualified with ridiculous ease, second in her heat as thunder resounded around the stadium in a PB of 23.57 seconds even though, as she said: “With about 80 to go, I just strided it. I have so much left. I didn’t want to take too much out of myself.” Even so, she was second-quickest overall behind her heat winner, Emilie Gaydu (France), who clocked a PB of 23.53.


Joey Duck (Marshall Milton Keynes AC), now being coached by former Commonwealth champion Mike McFarlane, eased through to automatic qualification for the semi-final, finishing third in her heat in 24.31 seconds.

She philosophised: “My first race is always terrible. I only scraped through the first round at the Trials. The bend was all right this time, which makes a change, but I lost my legs in the last 50.”


Men’s 200m first round: The action was abandoned when a massive thunderstorm struck immediately after the first heat (wind: 0.0). As lightning flashed around the stadium and the rain began, Luke Fagan (Enfield and Haringey) provided on-track lightning in his first major championship race.

He clocked a PB of 21.01 seconds for second place, three-hundredths behind winner Robert Hering (Germany) and said: “I felt good coming off the bend and in the lat 50 my legs started turning too fast so I lost a bit of ground. But I’m pleased with the run. I shall be all right if I get on top of the last 50.”

At that point, the thunderstorm arrived immediately overhead and officials cleared the in-field and suspended the programme as a safety precaution.

The rain was so fierce that parts of the track, particularly the 200m bend, were under water for some time. The delay lasted a total of 120 minutes before the action resumed with the remaining two GB sprinters qualifying for the 200m semi-finals.


David Telfer-James, a training mate of Fagan’s in the group coached by Lesley Mars and Frank Adams, was second in his heat (wind: -0.2) in 21.63 seconds despite early drama. “I thought I heard a recall so I stopped,” he explained. He made his way through the field impressively to finished behind Julian Reus (Germany), who clocked 21.31.


Alex Nelson
Alex Nelson

Alex Nelson (Sale Harriers Manchester), who has won medals at all his previous three major championships, won his heat (wind: -0.7) in 21.05 seconds, taking care not to damage hamstrings tightened by the delay.

He and Telfer-James were already in the Call Room when the storm struck. Nelson explained: “The officials said we should go back to the warm-up area but they could not give us a time to be back. So we just sat around and waited. I’m quite stiff now.”


Women’s 400m hurdles semi-finals: Both Norwich Union GB&NI competitors qualified for the final despite the haphazard preparation enforced by the weather.


Team Captain Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC), who won her first round heat yesterday in 57.72 seconds, finished second in 58.29 seconds in the first heat, won by pre-race favourite Anastasiya Ott (Russia) in 57.57.

She, too, had already been in the Call Room to report for her race when the delay began. “They sent us away and in the end we had about 10 minutes to try and warm-up,” she said.


Debutante Meghan Beesley (Tamworth AC), second in her first round heat yesterday in 60.12 seconds, was second again in semi-final two in 57.90 behind Germany’s Fabienne Kohlmann (57.28).

And she revealed that she had to improvise after her pre-race warm-up was restricted to “a bit of a jog”. Beesley explained with a smile: “I kept doing most of the hurdles off the wrong leg. I’m happy. I’m in the final. All I want now is a good lane.”


Women’s 800m first round: Both of the Norwich Union GB&NI competitors went into action with messages of support from Olympic double gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, who is helping them through her ‘On Camp’ initiative supported by Norwich Union.


Emma Jackson (City of Stoke AC), ranked No.1 among Europe’s teenage women this season, predicted she would run 2:04 in her semi-final and duly obliged by qualifying for the final in 2:04.89. It earned her an easy second place in heat one on the shoulder of the winner, Aleksandra Uvarova (Russia), who clocked 2:04.87.

“I was trying to not do too much but qualify,” Jackson said afterwards. And she made little of the 100-minute disruption: “I was just about to go to warm-up. I had to chill for a bit and take shelter in the stand.”


Hannah Brooks (Crawley AC), a Birmingham University psychology student making her international debut, scored a totally unexpected win in the third and final heat, which contained four athletes with faster PBs than her 2:05.81. Her PB is now 2:05.59 – the point at which she topped the clock after a breath-taking surge down the home straight had taken her from third place to first.

She had been fourth through the bell (62.09), moved up to third with 200m to go and then sprinted up the inside before gasping: “PB! I felt so strong in the last 100, I was really surprised. I saw a little gap on the inside and went for it.”

Of the storm delay, she said: “I just tried to stay relaxed in the warm-up area, playing music and trying not to stress. I was surprised how not nervous I was; this is the biggest competition I have been in.”


Men’s 800m first round: Mark Mitchell (Forres Harriers), a semi-finalist at both the 2005 World Youth Championships and 2006 World Junior Championships, kept his cool and demonstrated mature timing to nip up the inside to take second place in heat one in 1:49.16, two-hundredths of a second behind Sebastian Keiner (Germany).

“I pretty much went to plan,” said the Scot. “Job done! I’ll be back tomorrow. One down – two to go.”


Ed Aston (Cambridge and Coleridge AC), bronze medallist at National Under 20 Championships both last year and last month, was drafted into the team after Andrew Osagie (Harlow AC) was forced with withdraw with a back injury. And, with the first three in each heat earning automatic places in the semi-finals, he kicked himself after being edged out of a qualifying spot in the final stride of his heat.

Aston, who led until the last 50 metres, said: “I slowed it down because I wanted a sprint at the end. I eased off because I thought there were only three of us and then a metre from the line saw the Ukraine guy. It’s my fault. I should have qualified.”


The result: 1 Robin Schembera (Germany) 1:54.79; 2 Mario Bachtiger (Switzerland) 1:55.29; 3 Ihor Davydov (Ukraine) 1:55.33; 4 Aston 1:55.34.


James Brewer (Cheltenham and County Harriers), who reached the European Indoors semi-finals during the winter, was content to ease through his heat, taking third place in 1:52.81. “It was a bit messy,” he said after leading for most of the first lap, being shunted back to fifth and then sprinting back into contention down the back straight and just doing enough to take the last automatic place. “Qualifying is all that matters. Sorted!”


Men’s 400m semi-final: Nigel Levine (Bedford and County AC), who eased to victory in his first round heat yesterday in 47.95 seconds, was second tonight in 47.12 seconds, nine-hundredths of a second behind Yannick Fonsat (France). By this time, it was almost 9pm local time. “I’m tired,” said Levine. “I want to get back to the hotel.”


The men’s javelin final, featuring James Campbell (Cheltenham and County Harriers), scheduled for this evening was postponed, a victim of the storm. It has been re-scheduled into Sunday’s programme.


The men’s pole vault qualifying round, involving Luke Cutts (Dearneside AC), the National Under 20 Champion for the past two years, was postponed until tomorrow afternoon.


For the details from these championships please click here