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world juniors day SIX

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Sophie Hitchon
Sophie Hitchon - hammer gold medallist

24 July 2010

Sophie Hitchon (coach: Derek Evely) exceeded her own UK junior record with 66.01m to take an outstanding hammer gold for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern team on the penultimate day of competition at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada, while Holly Bleasdale (coach: Julien Raffalli-Ebezant) delivered against her world ranking with a brilliant pole vault bronze.

Hitchon, having progressed through to today’s final with her first throw in qualification - one of only two athletes to achieve marks over 60m at that stage - took the global hammer title with her sixth and final throw this afternoon to become the first British athlete to win gold in a GB vest.

“I’m exhausted but so excited,” she said. “It’s so amazing, it’s unbelievable, words cannot explain how I feel right now. My grandparents are here watching and they’re a great help to me and my mum and dad will be back at home excited, they’ll be jumping up and down!”

“I got a bit tired between the middle two rounds but I knew it was my last chance and I just had to go for it on my last throw.”

Ranked fourth in the world coming into the competition, Hitchon saw world leader Yirisleydi Ford (Cuba) go out in qualification after three no-throws, but it was her rivalry with Slovakia’s Barbra Spiler that set the competition alight today.

“I thought after qualifying that I had a really good chance of winning, but I wanted to stay calm and just focus on the day because anything can happen in a final,” she said. “The fact that I was neck and neck with the Slovenian all the way through made it a really good competition and really drove me forward. I don’t think it’s going to sink in at all!”

Bleasdale, third-equal ranked in the world coming into Moncton, cleared 4.15m for bronze while Aviva GB & NI team mate Sally Scott (coach: Steve Rippon) finished ninth with 3.80m.

“It went really well, I’m so happy,” she said. “There was a tough cross wind and I had a couple of scares,” she continued, referencing first time failures at 4.05m and 4.15m, “but it’s amazing, I wasn’t sure I’d get a medal.” She eventually went out after two failures at 4.20m, passing her third for a failed attempt at 4.25m.

The fantastic on-field effort from Bleasdale, which backed up the men’s pole vault bronze won by her team mate Andrew Sutcliffe earlier in the week, made it an even more exceptional Championships for their coach Julien Raffalli-Ebezant. “Julien was so happy,” she said. “Two bronze medals at a World Junior Championships is amazing for a coach.”

There was disappointment in the men’s discus as Lawrence Okoye (coach: John Hillier), third ranked in the world coming into Moncton, finished outside of the medals in sixth (59.77m). It was a tough learning experience for the Croydon athlete who only started competing seriously in the event this summer.

“I’m really upset,” he said. “My last throw felt good but I smashed the cage. I didn’t connect with any of my throws which is appalling, you can’t come to a major championships and not connect. It’s been a great experience though, this is what I’m supposed to do, but unfortunately I didn’t achieve my goal. It’s made me hungrier and I’ll get these guys again and I’ll show them what I’m made of.”

In addition to individual finals, there were also successful qualification campaigns on day six from Kola Adedoyin (coach: Frank Attoh) and Ben Williams (coach: John Crotty) in the triple jump, Jack Meredith (coach: Donald Moss) in the 110mH, Niall Brooks (coach: Norman Poole) in the 800m following a successful appeal for obstruction and the men’s 4 x 400m relay team.

Adedoyin, the UK top ranked junior in 2010 outdoors, left it late with a 15.85m effort (-1.1m/s) in the final round of the triple jump after two no-jumps, while World Youth champion Williams, with 15.50 (-0.7m/s), also made it through to tomorrow’s triple jump final (Sunday 25 July at 14.10, 18.10 UK time).

Meredith, world leader in the 110mH, looked back to his best with a flawless 13.52 (-0.9m/s) victory in the semi final, the quickest of the day, to go for gold in tomorrow’s final (14.35, 18.35 UK time). “That’s what I was waiting for,” he said following a less than perfect first round win with 13.77. “It was a good start, a good finish and nice and smooth. Two down, one to go.”

It wasn’t quite so straight forward for Brooks in the 800m. Having settled into second at the bell (53.72) with a small gap back to third place, he appeared in a perfect position to secure an automatic qualifying spot. However, as they raced into the home straight, there was little between the field and some obvious discontent as he appeared to be impeded in the closing stages, eventually finishing third (1:49.01).

The results were later appealed by Great Britain, Czech and Canada who protested for obstruction before the line by Moroccan athlete Amine El Manaoui who had initially been granted second. Only the British appeal was successful and the Moroccan athlete was disqualified with Brooks advancing to tomorrow’s final (14.55, 18.55 UK time).

Adam Cotton (coach: Geoff James) unfortunately didn’t progress, finishing sixth in his semi final with 1:50.25.

Also advancing through from qualification, the men’s 4 x 400m relay quartet of Nathan Wake (coach: Ayo Falola), Dan Putnam (coach: John Blackie), Sebastian Rodger (coach: Steve King) and Jack Green (coach: June Plews) looked highly impressive with victory in their heat in a world junior leading time of 3:06.88, although it was later bettered by the Americans with 3:05.84.

“I really wanted to make a statement as I came down the home straight,” said Green who finished fifth in the men’s 400mH final yesterday. “As much as I ran well yesterday I was disappointed I didn’t medal but I hope this is going to make up for it.”

The team will be aiming to add to the current Aviva GB & NI total of six with victory in tomorrow’s final (15.40, 19.40 UK time); it’s also an opportunity to go one better than the silver-medal winning squad of 2008 and win Britain’s first ever men’s World Junior title in the event.

It was the only glimmer of hope in the relays however, as both men’s and women’s 4 x 100m teams failed to finish in their respective finals after errors between changeovers one and two, a huge disappointment in an otherwise excellent Championships to date.