14th July 2011

European Under-23 Championships Day One Morning Session

14 July 2011

Five athletes from five progressed through their respective qualifying rounds for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team on the first morning of the European Under-23 Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic (14-17 July) with an expected – but no less impressive – clean sweep of victories for the top three in Europe in the men’s 400mH.

Third ranked Niall Flannery (coach: Nick Dakin) went off first clocking 51.14 in heat two of five, followed by Jack Green (coach: Malcolm Arnold) in heat four (51.23) and European leader Nathan Woodward (coach: Nick Dakin), who clocked the fastest mark of the day with an incredibly comfortable 50.85 in heat five.

“Obviously you’ve got to come in knowing you can win,” said Flannery, “but it’s also about knowing these guys (his fellow Brits Nathan and Jack) more than the other athletes and knowing it doesn’t get any better.

“We’re all working towards the same thing and we’re very focused, but we’re good friends too and having this standard in the UK has definitely helped me. It felt good out there and I’m happy I’ve got that one out the way.”

Green used the opportunity to progress his technique and was pleased to run off 13 strides through to the third hurdle for the first time, while Woodward is confident he’s coming into shape at the right time, both athletes admitting the pace was easy as they controlled their performances to perfection.

In the women’s 400mH, Meghan Beesley – who, along with Flannery and Woodward is one of Nick Dakin’s strong squad of athletes – was also a comfortable qualifier with victory in 57.38: “I was really confident I could go out and win the race,” she said. “That was what the first race was about, and obviously to get a good lane in the final.”

Eilish McColgan (coach: Liz McColgan) had the unenviable task of getting the Aviva GB & NI campaign off to a positive start in the women’s 3000m steeplechase in hot, humid conditions, but she didn’t disappoint when finishing third in heat two for automatic qualification in 10:03.19.

“I’d have preferred to be in the top three the whole way,” she admitted, “but right at the start you’re a bit worried because there are so many girls going over the barrier at the same time and I just wanted to stay clear of it all really. Overall I felt ok, but mornings just kill me, I find it so hard!

Spain’s Estefania Tobal had taken an early lead, but within minutes she came back to the pack as European leader Gulcan Mingir pushed on; McColgan, moving into the top four after 600m, remained a consistent presence thereafter, eventually picking up the pace to move into third in the final 200m.

“I felt so much more nervous today than in the Diamond League where there was much less expected of me,” she added. “Here I’m ranked fourth and I knew I should – had to – make the final, but there’s always a little bit of doubt, anything can happen and nerves kick in, but I managed to pull away quite strongly and kick on in the last lap rather than getting caught in the late stages which I was worried about. The strength is there, I just need to get used to the temperature.

Turkey’s Mingir, who has a lifetime best of 9:39.83 from June, took victory ahead of McColgan in 10:01.18, while heat one was won by Czech athlete Eva Krchova in a career best time of 9:55.99 with Norway’s Karoline Grovdal, ranked one place above McColgan in Europe, finishing second in 9:56.23.

The European Under-23 Championships will be shown daily on Eurosport – from 16.30-18.55 UK time today – in addition to being streamed live by European Athletics with English language commentary through their website at www.european-athletics.org.

Live streaming will also be available with Czech commentary through: www.sportzive.cz

Daily session reports will be published on the UKA website: www.uka.org.uk