10th July 2012

Good Start For Gb & Ni Juniors In Barcelona

10 July 2012

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team started its 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships campaign on the right foot as seven athletes out of eight clinched qualification to the next rounds. With the splendid surroundings of the Olympic Stadium in Montjuïc, Barcelona, this convincing start will hopefully set the tone for the rest of the competition.

The session started with British athletes involved in the first events on both track and field. Pippa Woolven (coach: Janet Nash) ran in Heat 1 of the 3000m steeplechase against rankings leader Evdokiya Bukina of Russia: the Wycombe athlete finished fifth with an ample margin over her pursuers and with the time of 10:19.28 – her third best ever performance over the distance – in a race that ultimately went to Tejinesh Gebisa of Ethiopia (10:01.48, a new World Leading performance).

“The race went off at a very fast pace that made things difficult, especially in this heat,” said Woolven at the end of her trial, ran in the baking sun of this Barcelona morning.

“I am still reasonably happy about my performance and I hope it is enough to qualify to the final." An outcome that was easily achieved with Woolven having a better time than some of the automatic qualifiers in the second heat.

Sophie McKinna (Geoff Capes) took only one shot to break through the qualifying benchmark of 15.70m. Her first attempt recorded a 15.80m, which was enough to place her in the afternoon session’s final.

“The first throw is almost still part of warm-up so it is great it was already past the qualifier,” the 2011 World Youth Championships silver medallist commented. “I said before the race I would be pleased to hit 15.80m fromthestart and that’s exactly what happened.

“I felt really good and now I can go straight back to the team hotel to rest for this afternoon’s final.”

Phoenix AC’s Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) had a big task on his hands after two very fast heats in the 1500m, won by Jerome Thirsa (Ethiopia) in 3:41.78 and Hamza Driouch (Qatar) in 3:38.06. Unfortunately, a very tactical race meant the only way through was a top 3 finish, which the youngster missed by a very small margin. On a sprint finish against three Africans, Grice was 0.3s off the third position of Morocco’s Abdelhadi Labali, finishing with 3:47.05.

There was no such drama for Jessica Judd (Jeremy Freeman) and Emily Dudgeon (Stuart Hogg) who both qualified by winning their 800m heats. Judd, one of the favourites before the event, led a fast heat from gun to line and finished with a time of 2:02.71.

“I didn’t expect the heats to be this fast but it was a good way to dust away the cobwebs after resting for a couple of days,” commented the Chelmsford athlete. “I could just go for it and hopefully I’ll feel the same way tomorrow. It was great out there.

“I was surprised about how easy it felt. At the Olympic Trials I ran 2:05 and it felt much harder than this. I am remaining focused though, anything can happen in Championships.”

Edinburgh AC’s Dudgeon bid her time in her heat, running in the shadow of Ethiopia’s Dureti Edao before going wide in lane two on the home straight to claim victory in 2:05.73.

“I just tried to stay calm even though the heat was faster than expected. I knew I had to avoid being boxed in, and I made sure I had space when I needed to. I am really pleased with my race.”

“I am taking this step by step, I need to warm down properly and be in an ideal shape for tomorrow. The conditions were good, it was cloudy during the race which made it a good day’s practice.”

Hurdler James Gladman (James Hillier) did not let some good performances from his likely medal rivals get to his head in the first round of the 110m hurdles. Gladman coolly executed a clinical start, edging comfortably ahead of the pack by mid race and allowing himself to slow down after the last flight of hurdles to record a time of 13.69.

“I am in great shape, I hit the first five flights well, which was my race plan and that allowed me to slow down a little and have a little jog to the line,” said the number 2 in the world.

“I have plenty more in the tank and I can’t wait for the next round” were his parting words. In the other heats, Cuban Yordan O’Farrill – one of Gladman’s main threats in the quest for gold – recorded a time of 13.44 to win his race.

Pre-Championships sensation Adam Gemili (Michael Afilaka), who headlined the official IAAF Press Conference yesterday, looked comfortable as he sped to a 10.37 time in his heat, never looking within grasp of his rivals. The current World rankings leader appeared at ease during and after the race: “I tried to execute the start and I think I did just that. I saved myself today, it’s really hot and I know I can go much, much faster.”

“I have been working hard with my coach and my group and I have become much more better – my technique has improved a lot lately and it is showing through my running. I am happy about where I am now."

The last competitor in the morning session was fellow 100m runner Chijindu Ujah (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo), who has been elected Team Captain by his squadmates alongside long jumper Jazmin Sawyers (Alan Lerwill). Ujah was slow off the blocks but recovered strongly to finish second in his heat, booking a place in the next round.

“The start was just awful, I really had to work hard to get this race back,” said the race’s runner-up, who finished behind the USA’s Aaron Ernest in a time of 10.48s.

“The rest of the race was good though. The transition was good, everything else was in place and I managed to qualify. I will need to do a better race next time.”

With seven out of eight athletes involved in the morning session earning a place in the next round, it has been a successful start for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team, and hopes are high the squad will be able to keep up the momentum. The afternoon session sees the debut of Elliot Safo (John Shepherd) in the long jump, Sophie Papps (Neil Dodson) and Rachel Johncock (Philip Oliver) in the 100m, Nick Percy (John Hillier) in the discus throw and Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) and Laura Muir (Andy Young) in the 3000m.