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Louis Persent and Chris Clarke with medals
Louis Persent and Chris Clarke with their medals


24 July 2009

In Friday’s second session at the European Juniors, Novia Sad, Serbia, Sophie Hitchon and Eugene Ayanful added to the medal pile, but pick of the pops was a GB gold and bronze in the 400m:

Chris Clarke (Marshall Milton Keynes) took the Aviva GB and NI team’s first gold medal at the European Junior Championships with a stunning win over the one lap event.

Clarke, who won World Youth 400m gold in 2007, finally fulfilled his promise to take a junior title when clocking 45.59 ahead of Poland’s Andrzej Jaros with 46.75. Clarke now joins previous British winners in taking the European Junior title including Roger Black, Todd Bennett, David Grindley and Tim Benjamin.

From the gun he used his traditional fast start to take him onto the shoulder of the next lane and coasted down the back straight before working again to ease a lead out into the home straight. On the home straight he powered further into his running and well clear of second place it was just Clarke against the clock. And what a time he produced, a PB by nearly three quarters of a second.

Behind him, taking a surprise bronze was GB team-mate Louis Persent (Colchester), who nursed an Achilles injury through the first two rounds and ran an intelligent race in lane eight to ensure he was still in the mix in the home straight.

Clarke said: “I put myself under huge pressure here, and I was so nervous before. I’d said I wanted to go under 46 seconds and win a medal but when you’re on that start line it’s tough.

“I’ve been competing in the juniors for four years and although when I was 16 or 17 I didn’t really feel the pressure, I found last year hard and know that I didn’t do as well as I should.

“That’s the best race I’ve ever put together technically. I really wanted to go under 46 but 45.59 is something else.”

Persent said:

“I just had to run my own race because I didn’t have a clue what was going on from my lane.

“I must have been back in fifth coming round the bend and then I could see everyone and gave it my all. I’m not pleased with the time (46.82) but I’m so pleased to get a medal. It has been too long waiting for this. Chris ran the most incredible race, it was brilliant.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Sophie Hitchon (Blackburn Harriers) had taken the team’s second medal when she won bronze in the hammer. In doing so she also improved her own national junior record to 63.18m and took Britain’s first ever European Junior medal in the women’s hammer.

It was a highly consistent series from Hitchon, who is coached by Dave Smith, throwing 62.43m, 63.18m, 61.42m, 62.33m, and 62.80m before clattering her last into the cage.

Hitchon said:

“I didn’t know what to expect when I got out there. Then I pulled out 62m with my first one and I thought ‘come-on!’

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better with my opener then I threw 63m and I was stunned. I cannot wait for the World Juniors next year!

“It was tough here coming out knowing I was fourth ranked so there was a chance – but rankings mean nothing. I thought  if I got a PB but no medal I would be happy but to do what I did today is unreal.

“I was aware of the girls over my shoulder – I know I am consistent but they are all girls who can pull out a huge throw if they get it right and I thought it could change any moment.

“I’m so happy I’ve got to thank my dad who has kept me going through all the difficult times in training, week in week out he’s been there and I wouldn’t have won a medal without him today.”

Previous international competition highlights for Hitchon include seventh place in the 2008 World Junior Championships and Commonwealth Youth Games gold.

Romania’s Bianca Perie with a PB of 69.59m was tipped to take gold and did not disappoint with a championship record of 68.59m, Jenny Ozorai (Hungary) won silver with 63.70m.

Soon after Hitchon’s achievement, Eugene Ayanful (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) got the better of GB team-mates Andrew Robertson (Sale) and Max Galliers (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) when taking Britain’s third medal of the day in the men’s 100m final.

And it was a day of change at the championships as France’s Christophe Lemaitre erased Dwain Chambers’ European Junior record of 10.06 that had lasted for 12 years. Lemaitre stormed to a 10.04 (+0.2m/s) time, taking with him Azerbajan’s Ramil Guliyev with 10.16.

It had appeared Sale’s Andy Robertson had taken bronze after a superb start and holding the position through the line, but the fast finishing and ever improving Eugene Ayanful fulfilled his semi final promise in pipping his GB team mate on the line and taking the decision for bronze, despite both athletes receiving the same time of 10.37 – significant personal bests.

Ayanful was choked with emotion after as his achievement hit home:

“My aim was to get into the 10.3s this week and I can’t believe I’ve done it. I’ve never been in a race won in ten-zero before but I now want more,” he said.

“It has been a great head to head between myself, Andy and Max and it has really spurred me on and I’m sure we can go get gold in the relay now. I can now go confidently into the senior ranks, I’m going to work as hard as it takes.

“I have to say thanks to all the team working from the Lee Valley High Performance Centre especially the physio team, and my coach Christine Bowmaker who really picked me up after my injury last year. And my dad! He has never given up on me since I was young and I have to let people know who has helped get me here.”

Galliers was seventh in 10.64.

In the women’s it was also a happy ending as Torema Dorsett (Enfield & Haringey) made a vast improvement on her performances in the heats and semi final, and although finishing seventh, she was just two-hundredths of a second off fourth position.

Pleased to have put together a strong race, Dorsett revealed her coach had played a significant part earlier on Friday:

“My coach Leslie Mars showed me the video of my races yesterday and I was able to see how I wasn’t driving,” she revealed. “Today I drove through and there was a vast improvement. I’m looking forward to the relay now, we’ve got a strong team.”

In the men’s decathlon there was disappointment for Daniel Gardiner when he missed out on a medal having occupied a podium position for much of the competition.

Continuing on with a gruelling final day the GB trio of David Guest (Bridgend) Daniel Gardiner (Leeds City) Ashley Bryant (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) went onto the eighth event,  the pole vault, which started at lunchtime and spanned the majority of the early afternoon heat.

 Bryant vaulted 4.10m for 645 points, Guest took a PB of 4.50m for 760 points and Gardiner managed 4.30 for 702 points. In the overall standings, Gardiner slipped to third spot on 6370, with Guest moving up to eighth on 6145 and Bryant improving to 18th with 5729 points.

Onto the javelin, and it was time for Bryant to step into the spotlight. With a powerful javelin throw and only the timetable preventing his doubling up at this championships, he was the event winner with a throw of 64.21m and 801 points. Gardiner’s 45.15m and Guest’s 39.46m earned them 517 and 434 points respectively.

With just the 1500m to go, standings were:  5. Gardiner on 6887 pts; 12 Guest on 6579 points and Ashley Bryant moved up to 13 following his superb javelin with 6530 points. Gardiner was short of bronze medal position by 110 points.

With 20 hours of competition behind them, the field of 23 athletes trundled round the 1500m at various paces. Bryant, enjoying his upward surge in the placings raced along to a PB of 4.42.83 and 663 points. Gardiner ran a solid three and three quarter laps in 4.49.52 and Guest ran 4.59.17.

Despite their efforts, none of the trio could do enough to breakthrough on to the podium with the title going to Belgian Thomas Van Der Plaet with 7759 points, Gardiner was adrift of a medal by 130 points in fifth with 7509, Bryant in tenth with 7193 and Guest slipping to 14th with 7144.

The trio reviewed the highs and lows of their two days:

Bryant said: “If I hadn’t had such a rubbish first day I’d have been so much closer – today was great. I had an awesome hurdles, I hit loads and came away with a decent time so I know it’s there. My discus was a season’s best as was my pole vault and I did a PB in the 1500m at the end of two day’s events.

“My coach and I wanted to come here and do better than my European ranking of 13th which I did, and after such a bad first day – I’m pleased.

Guest said: “My PB for 1500m is 30 seconds better, I’ve been up and down all day. My pole vault was good and I’ve taken some good lessons away with me, such as keeping cool and rested between events. But it’s hard and you learn what it takes when you’re here from 7am in the morning until 9pm at night. It’s a real eye opener to be in a competition where there are at least ten guys as good or better than you – especially when you’re used to being one of the best. I’ll definitely take this experience away with me.”

Gardiner said: “I’m obviously disappointed I haven’t come away with a medal. I didn’t do anything badly but I had an average day on the same day everyone else was having excellent days and you can’t afford to do that. I got a PB in the hurdles but felt ragged and I was 1cm off a PB in the pole vault. All in all it wasn’t bad it just wasn’t great. Twenty hours competition in the heat takes its toll but I know that decathlon is an event you develop into and I’m ready for the seniors now, this being my last year as a junior.”

Curtis Griffith Parker (Cambridge Harriers) was unfortunate to miss out on a medal in the men’s discus competition when he was relegated to fourth in the fifth round and had no answer.

Having thrown 60.46m in his opening round the signs look good, but in the penultimate round, Croatian Marin Premeru threw 60.98.

Griffith Parker will have a chance to bounce back in Saturday’s shot put qualifying competition.

There were some encouraging performances during the session with Brits continuing to qualify for Saturday and Sunday’s finals.

Lawrence Clark (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) and Jack Meredith (Liverpool Harriers) enjoyed an intriguing dual in their semi final of the men’s 110m hurdles, with Clarke bettering his younger rival with a PB of 13.56 (-1.2m/s). Meredith, just pipped for second by Belarussian Aliaksandr Linnik was close to his morning PB with 13.76. Both qualified automatically for Saturday’s final.

Clarke was cool, calm and collected as he strode away from the race. “Yep I’m happy with that. That felt smooth, and it’s still into a minus headwind so it’s looking good as I know I can go faster.”

Meredith on the other hand played no such poker face:

“I’m made up with that! I was trying to get him (Clarke) but he’s just got that bit more on me with age and strength,” he said.

“I’m 16 and in the final of the European Junior Championships – how good is that!”

Ben Reynolds (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) did not progress, but was part of a strong semi final where five athletes dipped inside 13.5 secs and Reynolds himself achieved a PB of 13.71 (+1.7 m/s). Fastest qualifier for Saturday’s final was Russian Sergey Shubenkov with 13.35 (+1.7m/s)

In the women’s 100m hurdles, Stephanie Gaynor (Herts Phoenix) left the track in tears when France’s Jessica Alcan clattered a hurdle and in falling took Gaynor off stride. The Brit failed to clear the next hurdle and recorded a DNF in circumstances she clearly could not avoid. Despite appeals from the GB & NI team management, the championships refused to reinstate Gaynor and allowed the result to stand.

James Wilkinson (Leeds) progressed to Sunday’s 3000m steeplechase final after finishing sixth in his heat in 9.08.01. It was a tough experience for the Brit who had chased qualification to reach Serbia all season, but his hard work paid off and he now faces Sunday’s final.

“It went out fast,” he gasped after. “The first heat was fast so there was no luxury in knowing you could ease off – it was hard all the way and I would have needed to PB to get in one of the automatic spots.

“I’m glad I get another crack at it. I know I’ve got more in me and perhaps 8.55 will put me up in the mix, I can go for broke on Sunday and see what happens. I’ve learned so much here – even just how to keep cool properly – that in itself is tough and I’ve benefited from meeting everyone.

“I’ve been talking with some of the overseas guys and it’s good to make contact and see what it’s all about. Back in the UK we don’t run heats much in the ‘chase it’s usually a straight final, so this is interesting but it’s great to be through.”

In the men’s 200m qualifying, Junior Ejehu (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) strode through his heat and had to ignore Germany’s Robert Hering who powered past him in the opening strides, in order to run his own race. Ejehu kept his focus and finished in a PB of 21.19, with Hering clocking 20.57.

Afterwards he reflected on a strong afternoon for the team:

“I just want to keep getting faster and faster through the rounds,” he said. “Watching Eugene and Chris medal today has made everyone want to ‘up’ their game.

“I’m not going to get too excited, but I was pleased with the race. I hit all my marks and ran it well, I now just have to do the same again but a bit faster!”

In the women’s qualifying, Emily Diamond (Bristol & West) and Shaunna Thompson (Sale) were confident qualifiers for Saturday’s 200m semi finals. Thompson was second in her heat with 23.68, whilst Diamond won her heat in 23.63.

GB and NI’s medal haul is five so far for the championship with Simon Lawson’s 10,000m silver, Sophie Hitchon’s hammer bronze, Eugene Ayanful’s 100m bronze, Chris Clarke’s 400m gold and Louis Persent’s 400m bronze.

Further reports on will appear on www.uka.org.uk