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UK Challenge ThrowsFest – report, results

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Philippa Roles: Worlds standard
Philippa Roles: Worlds standard

Philippa Roles beat the World Championships discus entry standard, Kirsty Law beat the European Under 23 Championships entry standard and two highly talented teenagers won javelins as competitors at the UK Challenge ThrowsFest beat the rain, used the winds and raised the standards at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium on Sunday 1 July.


Here are some of the highlights as athletes chased the prize pot of £10,000 provided by UK Athletics…


Men’s shot: ‘Blackpool Tower’ Carl Myerscough eased towards the World Championships qualifying distance of 20.30m by winning the elite competition with 19.18m and going further in the final round with an effort that was, to his surprise, judged a foul. In second place, Under 17 Michael Wheeler (Herne Hill Harriers) got to within 9cm of his PB with 18.66m, the third time this summer he has exceeded the World Youth Championships qualifying distance of 18.60m. “He’s ready for the World Youths now,” said the legendary Geoff Capes, who has teamed up with Mark Proctor and Shaun Pickering in a UK Athletics scheme to advise any shot putter and coach who seeks help. Wheeler said: “Geoff is stereotyping my technique to make me more consistent. A consistent technique makes for more big throws. Until that, I was all over the place.”


Women’s shot: Another of the athletes being advised by Capes, Rebecca Peake stunned herself by winning with a landmark PB of 16.16m, firmly condemning her previous best of 15.79m at the Loughborough International to history, after having her plans disrupted by the anti-terrorist emergency that swept the UK after the Glasgow Airport raid on Saturday.


Peake, a lecturer at Loughborough College, competed yesterday at the Cork International in Ireland, finishing third with 15.56m. But because planes were cancelled, she did not get back to Manchester Airport until midnight and it was 3am before she got to bed at her Loughborough home. While stranded in Ireland, she phoned Capes. “Lie down,” he advised. “Get your feet up, try to get some sleep, relax.”


“I tried to get my head down but couldn’t actually sleep, but I did get my feet up and chilled-out,” she said. “This year is all about experiencing new things, anyway – travelling, having competitions back to back, learning to cope with situations I’ve never been in before…


“Yesterday I had three throws around 15.50 but was not quite getting it right. Today I didn’t have the best of preparations, of course – but it’s all psychological, isn’t it?”


Behind her, Eden Francis (Leicester Coritanian) continued to prepare impressively for the European Junior Championships by improving her lifetime best to 15.82m in the final round.


Men’s discus: Emeka Udechuku, who has dominated this event since the UK Challenge was introduced by UK Athletics as part of the determination to improve standards in every event in every region in every age group, won again – but lost a fiver to 18-year-old Brett Morse. For the bet was that he would remain a metre and a half ahead of the Cardiff teenager, who is throwing Welsh Junior records for fun this summer.


Udechuku duly made great use of the high winds to swirl the disc 63.79m. But Morse made even greater headway, improving his latest best of 56.43m to 63.30m – and adding a 62.00m effort for good measure.


It means that Morse – coached by John Hillier and Sarah Moore, both former internationals – is now second in the European Junior rankings.


Asked to describe his improvement, Morse thought awhile and said: “Insane! I have wanted 60 metres for ages. Because I have already got the standard for the European Juniors, I wanted to try something different – I powered across the circle quicker. But 63.30 … I don’t know what to say!”


Women’s discus: Spectating statisticians reckoned this was the best domestic competition in this event since Cwmbran in 1981, won by Meg Ritchie with 62.22m. So it was fitting that a high-class ‘Battle of Britain’ was won by a Welsh heroine.


After a year out to repair her battered body and learn to drive a train – honestly! – Philippa Roles had a sensational first competition since the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Making spectacular use of the high wind, she twice beat the World Championships standard of 61.00m, reaching 61.92m in the fourth round and 61.23m in the fifth. It was her best distance since 2003 and ranks her among Europe’s top 20. But she wants consistency before she can be sure a trip to Osaka will be profitable on the way to – she hopes – the Beijing Olympics. “I’ve been injured since the Commonwealth Games last year,” she explained. “I got to the situation where I was in so much pain, I could do the job and get myself sorted out. So I concentrated on getting qualified as a driver on Southern Trains and I’m coming back now for the Olympic Games. Training has been really good. But that was shocking throwing in those conditions. It should have gone at least 64 metres in that wind.”


Kara Nwidobie was second with 59.41m, another PB, a week after helping Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland win the European Cup First league in Vaasa – and welcomed Roles’ return. She said: “I have worked so hard this winter. I was a bit disappointed with my European Cup throw. We had a few technical problems but came back and worked on them. It’s good to have Philippa back to chase.”


Kirsty Law passed the European Under 23 Championships qualifying distance of 55.00m in an incredible series of four consecutive PBs: 52.82m, 53.71m, 55.12m and 55.52m (followed by 54.28m for good measure). “I think I’m still dreaming,” she said after phoning the folks back home in Scotland with the good news. “I’ve been throwing well in training. I knew what I had to do today and didn’t think about selection. I just wanted a PB. But four … or was it five … I’m in shock!”


Behind her, the ever-improving Francis of shot putting fame moved up to second in the UK Junior Women’s all-time rankings by adding mightily to her previous best of 50.65m. She went out to 52.65m in round two, 54.03m in round four and 54.86m in round five.


Men’s hammer: Oh brother! The beauty of the Fest philosophy is that it brings together athletes from different age groups who are of similar standard. And so it came to pass that Under 17 Pete Smith threw 71.24m to beat his older brother Alex (70.68m) into second place with the third musketeer of their Hull training group, James Bedford third as they prepare for, respectively, the World Youths, Euro Juniors and Euro Juniors.


Women’s hammer: Zoe Derham continued her complete domination of the event by winning with 65.61m. Carys Parry took second with 63.03m, with Welsh rival Laura Douglas third on 59.54m.


Men’s javelin: 14-year-old Matti Mortimore (Ipswich Harriers) went home two javelins better-off after raising the UK Under 15 Boys’ record to 58.35m, a 4cm improvement on his early season mark. Sensational stuff from a schoolboy who first picked up a javelin at this time last year, and instantly threw it 39.80m to break the Kesgrave School year 7 record. To the delight of athletics, his Head of PE, Mr Simmons, took him to Ipswich Harriers, where former javelin international Nigel Bevan – also a teacher – is a highly successful coach. Mortimore finished last season with a best of 42.68m and credits his improvements this year to his “great coach” and the fact that he can also train in his parents’ garden. It measures 8 acres. He was presented with one javelin by the UK Athletics Event Management Group for Throws and won the other, donated by Gill Sport, as the outstanding male javelin thrower of the meeting.


The elite competition went to the winner at last year’s UK Challenge final, Neil McLellan with a season’s best of 70.32m, just 9cm ahead of Lee Doran. McLellan strove might and main to reach 72.00m and earn enough points to take the lead in this year’s Challenge series. But the wind that had been so helpful to the discus throwers was not as kind to the spear chuckers.


Women’s javelin: While Kimberley Mickle won the elite competition with 51.25m, the Gill Sport javelin for the ‘Thrower of the Day’ went to Jade Dodd from Wandsworth in London, whose two PBs during the day were made mightier by the tale she told afterwards.


Coached by former international Peter Yates since she was 14, the Under 20 suffered such a crisis of confidence at the start of this season that she dare not compete. “I just thought, ‘How bad can I get?’” she recalled.


Yates called in his old GB team mate Geoff Capes to help boost her confidence. “Do it for yourself,” said the giant who is now doing a mighty job as one of the three wise men inspiring many of the UK’s shot putters. “Shut out everything else – and do it for yourself.”


Jade followed his advice so determinedly at the ThrowsFest that she won the A competition with 44.92m and then finished third in the elite event with 49.52m to earn that javelin.


“This means everything to me because I was about to spend £300 on a new javelin,” she said. “Now I can use that money on other things – like getting to competitions.”


Her father Ian added: “I am grateful that someone at UKA has taken this trouble to think of Jade. She has persevered through some ups and downs recently.”


Disability: Stephen Miller threw one of his best ever discus throws despite a massive downpour moments before he started and then a delay - his ability to focus and prepare despite the chaos around was something to aspire to.  Stephen threw 16.25m.


Danny Greaves broke his own world record in the discus, throwing 55.60m.


Dave Gale concentrated on every throw and gave it 100% as the rain poured down on him making it impossible to grip the discus.  If it rains in Beijing, which it could, Dave showed he can still perform in the worst possible conditions.  Thomas Green also coped well being first to throw in the downpour, and was not too far away from his best discus.


Danny West and Nathan Stephens reached very good distances, despite the tie downs continually breaking as they threw.  Their composure and resolve despite these hassles was again, highly commendable. Danny threw 37.17 in the discus and 10.47 in the shot both F34 Paralympic qualifying distances.  His distances in the F37 class were: discus 35.97m, javelin 35.14m and shot 12.15m. 


Bev Jones threw a distance of 10.45m in the shot put, the best throw in the world this year in her class (F37).


There were many personal bests amongst the young athletes.  The Most Improved Award and winner of a discus from Classical Sports Limited was Alled Davies who beat Joshua Morgan by only 3cm, both improving more than 4 metres on their best.  Mathew Richards, Dan Nobbs and Ben Stringer also improved their best distances.


For the full results from the ThrowsFest please click here