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Further Brits Progress in Barcelona

Rhys Williams

 

28 July 2010

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team kept up the momentum of a hugely successful first day with further qualifiers from the Wednesday morning session.

Whilst away from the Olympic Stadium poised on Mount Juic, Jo Jackson (Andi Drake/Maureen Jackson) achieved her target of a top 10 finish in the women’s 20k race walk final down in the town centre. There was also stadium action from the women’s pole vault qualifying, 100m and 3000m steeplechase, whilst the men had the 800m heats and 400m hurdles to contend with.

Event by event:

In the women’s pole vault Kate Dennison (coach: Steve Rippon) was the first Brit in stadium action and proceeded to make qualifying for Friday night’s pole vault final appear a mere formality.

With confident first time clearances at 4.15m, 4.25m and 4.35m, she led her qualifying pool and despite one unsuccessful go at 4.40m, was able to finish her qualifying campaign quickly.

“That feels good! Job done - although I had a bit of a hairy warm up out there,” she reported after.

“I kept slipping off the pole because of the heat, but I quickly got it sorted.

“For Berlin in the Worlds last year I must have taken about eight or nine jumps to get to final. But here I only needed three so hopefully I'll be nice and fresh for the final.

“The Aviva camp last week set us up nicely in terms of preparation for the heat - I was vaulting at midday there because I knew it would be hot here and it has helped.”

On the track, in the women’s 100m first round, GB’s representative Laura Turner (Linford Christie) running in the last of the four heats had a conservative start out in lane seven but eased through to take second and automatic qualification in 11.45. However it was a close finish with first placed Anna Gurova (Russia) just ahead in 11.42.

It meant ‘job done’ for Turner, who progresses to Thursday night’s semi finals as seventh fastest overall, with Germany’s Verena Sailer showing the best first round form with 11.27 in winning the third heat

Afterwards, Turner was relaxed with her opener, looking quietly confident that tomorrow was the time to make her impact felt.

“Good – that was good,” she confirmed. “It was nice and comfortable.  I came to qualify for the semis so that is job done.

“The time was not important this morning, the real stuff starts tomorrow night, so it was a case of qualify and then showtime tomorrow!”

Later in the morning, as the sun really began to make its presence known,  Hatti Dean (Bud Baldaro) was the first of the steeplechase contingent to get going in the first of the two qualifying heats for Friday night’s final, and made certain of her progression in stringing out the field in the morning heat and bagging herself one of the top four qualifying positions.

Approaching the first kilometre, Dean took on the pace and led the field through 1km in 3:14.95 and 2km in 6:30.81. Headed for the bell she slipped into  third place, but her early work had ensured she was well placed in the field, and in a relaxed final 200m she crossed the line three-abreast with Poland’s Wioletta Frankiewicz and Russia’s Yuliya Zarudneva, all recording various fractions of 9 mins and 46 secs.

Dean was delighted with the boost to her confidence: “The first kilometre was really slow and I wasn't having a nice run in the pack getting bumped, so I went forward to the front and it felt really nice so I stayed there.

“I did feel really strong. I thought I'd have to race for a fastest qualifier spot but different people run different races and the lesson is you can't put too much emphasis on times going into a championships.”

Having seen the pace of the previous race, the second heat athletes started with more enthusiasm, keen to ensure the fastest loser places were easily still up for grabs.

Yet despite setting a PB of 9:35.17 at Eugene in the USA earlier this month, Barbara Parker (Sean Burris) suffered in her heat, in what was a no-nonsense pace early on. Although the eventual winning time of 9:40.42 was within the City of Norwich athlete, she faded badly in the heat during the latter stages and crossed the line in tenth in a devastated 10:20.99.

I just don't know… that's 45 secs slower than I've been running all season. I didn’t know what happened out there,” was her disappointed reaction.

Onto middle distance and in the men’s 800m qualifying, Michael Rimmer (Norman Poole) lined up for the fourth and final heat having seen previous heats characterised by a number of bumping and barging incidents, but on times alone was by far the quality act in his race.

As it was, he needed all his quality experience on the global circuit to confidently qualify, having spent 700 of the 800m race, pinned in third or fourth place on the kerb, only moving out of the dangerous boxed in zone through the final bend and then taking the win with almost casual aplomb.

After he acknowledged his tactics may have raised a few worries within the stadium:

“It was good,” he conceded, “when I got to the bell I was surprised it was so slow. I was boxed in and got slightly itchy feet and I wanted to get out but I just had to be patient!

“I was confident once I did get out I'd be fine. It’s a case of get through, recover and get ready for tomorrow!”

 

Hatti Dean

In the morning’s final event featuring GB interest, a full contingent of Dai Greene (Malcolm Arnold), Rhys Williams (Malcolm Arnold), and Nathan Woodward (Nick Dakin) took their places in the 400m hurdles qualifying round, aiming for places in Thursday night’s semi final.

First up was youngster Woodward, the Tamworth man less experienced than his team mates, but as a former World Junior representative familiar with the qualifying process.

Drawn in the outside lane he ran blind for much of the race but a solid home straight effort ensured he was in the mix for automatic spots, and he finished third in 50.45.

Following his race he was succinct with his review:

“It wasn't as good as I'd hoped but luckily I've progressed so I now need to do better and sort a few things out before the semi.”

In the next heat a determined looking Williams had a short sprint over the final 100m to ensure he took the win ahead of Greece’s Periklis Iakovakis. With both athletes out in front and looking good for qualifying slots anyhow, the Welshman clearly wanted to stretch his legs somewhat in his first European championship race since taking bronze in Gothenburg four years ago.

Crossing the line in 49.35 he looked delighted and relieved but also laboured the point that he was a real contender as the fastest qualifier from the opening round:

“First rounds are always nerve wracking – I just want to get it over with,” he admitted.

“It was a bit ropey today but I'm through. I felt reasonable and there are still times in there. As for the conditions, well I'm from Cardiff so this heat is mad but it's all part of championships.

“Four years ago I got a bronze and I'm not here this time just for experience or to make up numbers - I'm here to win and in the next two rounds I'll be fastest.”

Finally – as if heeding Williams’ battle cry, training partner, World finallist and GB number one Dai Greene competed in the final heat and in the manner of a man who is truly a world class one-lap hurdler made his opening round effort look like a walk in the park.

Technically excellent, the Swansea man pulled away from the field and had the luxury of jogging in from the final hurdle for the win in 50.11, making it a successful three from three qualification for the Aviva GB and NI team.

“It felt really comfortable and I knew it would be beforehand really, it was just a case of getting through the first round,” Greene said with characteristic calm.

“I’m not too worried about the pressure on me to be honest - I just want to perform to the best of my ability, be professional and not take anything for granted.”

This evening’s action gets underway at 18:35 local time with the women’s and men’s 400m semi finals, with GB medal chances in the men’s 100m (semi final  at local times of 19:50 and final 21:45)

Coverage starts live on BBC 2 from 17.15 (UK Time).