Co-Captain Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (coach: Jon Bigg) led by example on day three of the IAAF World Indoor Championships as she notched one of three victories for the British team during a successful morning session.
Roared on by the home crowd in Birmingham, Oskan-Clarke ran the perfect heat in the women’s 800m for victory while Jake Wightman (Geoff Wightman) followed suit in winning his race in the men’s 1500m as did CJ Ujah (Stuart McMillan) in the men’s 60m.
The men’s 4x400m relay team of Owen Smith (Matt Elias), Seb Rodger (Stephen King), Jamal Rhoden-Stevens (Donovan Reid) and Grant Plenderleith (David Lothian) and the women’s quartet of Amy Allcock (Glyn Hawkes), Anyika Onuora (Rana Reider), Hannah Williams (Colin Gaynor) and Meghan Beesley (Michael Baker) both also progressed out of the heats.
Oskan-Clarke, named Co-Captain of the British team alongside Andrew Pozzi (Benke Blomkvist) on Tuesday, made an impressive first appearance at Arena Birmingham in the women’s 800m heats.
She timed her move to the front to perfection and, cheered on down the back straight by the home support, clocked 2:01.76 minutes for victory and the second quickest time overall going into the final.
“I had to be quite patient on the last bend to make sure I had enough to kick off into the straight. I’m so pleased to be in that final,” said Oskan-Clarke.
“It was really fast but I had to stay cool and calm. I may have looked it but I’m not sure I was. I’m just pleased to have won the heat and gone through.”
Oskan-Clarke was joined in the women’s 800m heats by Mhairi Hendry (William Parker), the British indoor silver medallist from two weeks ago making her senior international debut on the same track in Birmingham.
Hendry didn’t follow Oskan-Clarke into the final, finishing third in the final heat in 2:02.65 but the experience of competing for her country for the first time as senior is having an impact.
“I think it is just a bit surreal to be lining up alongside such amazing athletes, especially to be competing in front of such a loud crowd in Birmingham. I think that spurred me on a bit,” she said.
“To be racing against those girls and not be miles off them is really encouraging. For the future it just makes me a bit more driven to challenge them more. I know I can compete against them now.”
British indoor champion Ujah looked cool, calm and collected as he cruised into the semi-finals of the men’s 60m, winning his heat and clocking 6.59 for the equal third quickest time of the field.
Ujah, part of the British men’s 4x100m relay team that won world gold last summer, has been consistent throughout the indoor season and ran an equal personal best of 6.53 at the start of February.
His effort of 6.59 in the heats was level with that of Asian record holder Su Bingtian while Emre Zafer Barnes of Turkey was second quickest in 6.58 and American Ronnie Baker quickest in 6.57.
“You’ve just got to come out and take it round by round. I just wanted to run a little faster than I did here at trials a couple of weeks ago,” said Ujah.
“I wanted to get the legs turning over quickly, which I did, so I’ll go back to the hotel now and rest up. It’s coming to the moment now and I have to be ready.”
Team mate Andrew Robertson (Sam Robertson) suffered a scare and had to wait before his place alongside Ujah in the semi-finals was confirmed, his 6.74 effort for fourth in heat four enough to see him through.
Barnes was drawn in heat four with the Brit, the Turkish sprinter receiving a yellow warning for moving on the blocks, with Robertson recovering to do just enough to advance to tonight’s semi-finals.
“The start issue affected me a little, but then it’s not been happening for me this season. I’ve been all over the place in competitions. The semi-finals are a different race,” said Robertson.
“Everything has been improving in training so there are lots that should be coming into races. There’s nothing I can do, I have to push on from this.”
British indoor champion Wightman is enjoying a fine season so far and followed Ujah’s lead in winning the third and final heat of the men’s 1500m to qualify automatically for the medal showdown.
Roared around the final two laps by the home crowd, Wightman kept American Craig Engels and Brahim Kaazouzi of Morocco at bay to clock 3:47.23 minutes for victory and progression.
“The only experience I’ve had of a home crowd was London [World Championships] last year and that was immense but this being indoors makes that noise even more amplified,” said Wightman.
“When I hit the last lap in front they were roaring which is always going to help you keep your form down that home straight. It was alright but I just need to get a nap in now.
“Back-to-back races are things I haven’t done too much of, but it’s good that it’s in the morning so I can go home and spend the whole day recovering.”
It looked as if teammate Chris O’Hare (Terrance Mahon) wouldn’t be joining him in the final at Arena Birmingham after he finished fifth in the opening heat in 3:42.46 – however that time was enough.
Heat one was the quickest of the three and O’Hare, who has been struggling with a foot injury recently, managed to do enough to take the last of the three fastest loser spots.
“I thought it [the injury] was going to be OK. I’ve avoided the indoor track, and managed to do some good sessions on lane four and lane eight on the outdoor track in the hope it would hold up for seven and a half laps,” said O’Hare.
“But by 700, to go I took a couple of steps where I was smashing that lateral chain and that sent that nerve shock up the spine. Then it’s just hard to shake that off and concentrate on the plan and when it picked up even more I tried to push through that leg and it wasn’t coming.”
Smith gave the men’s 4x400m relay team the perfect start, settling in behind the USA and Rodger, Rhoden-Stevens and Plenderleith ensured that second was theirs with a fine performance.
Racing for the first time ever as a quartet, they clocked 3:05.29 – the fourth best time ever by Britain indoors – to finish over two seconds ahead of Spain in third and comfortably advance to the final.
“The boys set me up well but I knew I had to get the job done. I had some strong runners behind me so I had to keep the momentum going,” said Plenderleith.
“We managed to be in touching distance with the Americans so that is fantastic and we are all excited about a world final tomorrow.
“It is incredible to do that in front of the home crowd. We couldn’t ask for much more, well we could, a medal tomorrow would be incredible. That’s our next target.”
Allcock and Onuora worked hard to put the women’s 4x400m relay team into position during the first two legs of their heat before Williams and then Beesley made certain that they finished second.
Beesley made the move into the second on the final leg and held of the challenge of Italy with the quartet’s final time of 3:32.57 a season’s best and good enough for the final.
“It has been an amazing experience; I am the youngest member of the team so I was nervous coming into it,” said Williams. “But the girls have really made me feel welcome and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m happy with my performance; it was tough but I’m glad I could produce a strong leg.”