It was a golden evening session at the European Indoor Championships as the Glasgow crowd were treated to four British medals in 15 minutes as Katarina Johnson Thompson (coach: Bertrand Valcin, club: Liverpool Harriers) and Laura Muir (Andy Young, Dundee Hawkhill) sealed the pentathlon and 3000m titles respectively.
In addition to the gold medallists, Niamh Emerson (David Feeney, Amber Valley & Erewash) won her first ever European medal, a silver in the pentathlon with a remarkable overall points tally of 4731. Elsewhere, Melissa Courtney (Rob Denmark, Poole) ran superbly to take bronze in the 3000m.
Earlier in the day, Katarina Johnson-Thompson opened up her pentathlon campaign with a season’s best of 8.27 in the 60m hurdles prior to an excellent clearance in the high jump – the Championship best mark of 1.96m was just 1cm short of the British indoor record. It was her best jump since her British outdoor record of 1.98m at the 2016 Olympic Games.
The rich form continued in the shot, with a first-round best of 13.15m – a personal best by 1cm – scoring 737 to take Johnson-Thompson to 2989 overall and in the lead heading into the evening’s conclusion of the event.
There was relief around the arena as the world indoor champion logged a mark of 6.53m in round two of the long jump following a first-round foul, which raised the tension. In fact, that leap was her best out of three and was the leading mark of the competition, winning the long jump event overall to tighten her grip on gold. She earned 1017 points which was added to her overall total, standing at 4006.
Running hard in the 800m, the clock just ran away for the Liverpool Harrier in the closing stages, stopping it at 2:09.13 to wrap-up the day with a world lead of 4983 points and second European indoor title to her name. In doing so, she became the third athlete to win two European indoor pentathlon titles following in the footsteps of Carolina Kluft and Nana Djimou.
Johnson-Thompson said post-event: “It was a really good day. I was going to say I couldn’t ask for more but I did want a little bit more. But what I did today was really high level. 4900 points is my second best ever so yes, I am very happy to come away with the gold.
“[On Niamh’s gold] I’ve been so impressed. I’ve seen glimpses of it but we got to know each other well at the Commonwealth Games and since then I’ve been one of her biggest fans. I said to her before the comp that I believed in her, so I’m really pleased she’s come away with a medal.”
Emerson enjoyed a fine day at the Emirates Arena courtesy of indoor personal bests across all events.
The first Brit in action at these European Indoor Championships, the reigning world junior heptathlon champion recovered brilliantly from a slightly slow start to take each of the five hurdles well and dip for the line in 8.54 to take 0.14 off her previous lifetime best for 1008 points.
The achievements didn’t stop there for Emerson, an equal indoor personal best 1.87m to the delight of the back-straight crowd inside the Emirates Arena. The 19-year-old produced a monster personal best throw of 13.93m in the shot put to bring a close to the morning’s action. Her opening round of the three scored 789 points and pushed her into bronze medal position overall after three events.
Moving into the evening session, a final round indoor long jump personal best effort of 6.29m was worth 940 points and moved her up to silver medal position on 3804 overall, ten points ahead of third place Laura Ikauniece (LAT).
Leaving every last ounce of energy on the track, Emerson dramatically fell across the line in 2:12.56 to add a further 927 points to her tally, leaving her with 4731 points overall to finish just eight ahead of France’s Solene Ndama who settled for bronze.
Emerson said afterwards: “It was stressful before the 800m, I’m not going to lie. I’ve been training really hard but I don’t really know if I’d put it down to anything specific – I just got into my stride and kept it going really. There weren’t really surprises in any events – I knew the shot PB was coming, I just had to get it done, and obviously knowing what you can do and doing it are different stories, so I just did it and was like ‘oh!’.
“I was so surprised because when you go to home events – in my experience at least – no-one really knows who you are and you just get a pity cheer, but when we came out for the 800m they actually cheered and I thought ‘oh my god, this is so cool’. The noise for Kat was amazing too.”
It was a busy evening session for Muir as just two and a half hours after stepping on the track for the 1500m heats – and progressing to the final with ease – she became the first British female athlete to retain a European indoor title with gold in the 3000m, much to the delight of the expectant Glasgow crowd.
The final lap showcased vintage Muir, accelerating with phenomenal speed away from the impressive Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER) to capture the gold, her last lap split recorded at 28.32.
The German had made the decisive break away move with eight laps to go, taking Muir with her and Courtney hanging onto their tailcoats. Despite the Welsh athlete’s attempts to keep up with the pace, it became very much a two-horse race in the closing stages. With 400m to go, the pace changed and Muir sealed the gold, with Courtney holding off a fast finishing Alina Reh (GER) for bronze.
Muir – who set a Championship Record of 8:30.61 – spoke afterwards: “To break the Championship record and get a world lead I was so chuffed. In a way it was so nice to have the [1500m] heat and see what the atmosphere was like and on the start line with the reception I was like ‘woah’, it overwhelmed me a little bit but it prepared me well for the final.
“The fans were crazy on that last lap. I thought I had quite a lot of pressure in Berlin [2018 European Championships] but here being an ambassador for the event and saying I was going to do the double. I’ve done a comp where things have been so close together with the final and the heat before, I thought ‘how am I going to rest and recover’ and the girls didn’t make it easy for me today and I was so glad coming through the heat and then the final tonight.
“To get my first medals indoors was special but it was in Belgrade, my first outdoors was in Berlin and again that was special but to be here and being defending champion for the first time and having that bib on, with so many friends and family watching it was amazing.”
Courtney, who’s 8:38.22 time was a lifetime best, added: “You know I kept getting myself in the wrong position all the time and all I could think was my coach is watching this thinking what am I doing, why are you going backwards, forwards, why are you in lane two lane three? But I just had to really try and focus and I missed the kick when Klosterhalfen went. And I thought ‘I need to react to this’. It did hurt, it was the more like the last kilometre was grinding out but we’ve been doing some touch sessions and I was going over them in my head on the last lap thinking I can do this!”
Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall, Dundee Hawkhill) ran solidly for seventh, having taken the lead early on but could not live with the hot pace of the Muir – Klosterhaufen duo. She crossed the line in 8:59.71.
Before her medal-winning antics in the 3000m, Muir had earlier progressed serenely to the 1500m final, winning her heat in 4:09.29. She allowed the Romanian athlete Claudia Bobocea to dictate the pace of the race from the off but bided her time before moving passed her on the final bend, expending little energy in the process, to earn automatic qualification for the 1500m final.
Two of her compatriots went in the second and third heats of the 1500m but unfortunately neither progressed to the final.
It wasn’t to be for Jemma Reekie (Young, Kilbarchan) who by her own admission afterwards said “it just wasn’t there on the day.” The Scottish athlete lost momentum going into the final lap, meaning she was chasing the leading pack in the closing stages, crossing the line in 4:13.44 for sixth.
For Sarah McDonald (David Harmer, Birchfield), the pace picked up in the latter stages of her heat and after just missing out on the two automatic qualifying spots in third place, her time of 4:17.64 was outside the three non-automatic qualifier times.
Meanwhile, by her own admission, it was not the easiest of high jump qualifications for Morgan Lake (Fuzz Caan, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) but she got the job done, clearing 1.93m to make her way into Sunday’s final.
After a first-time success at 1.81m, a first attempt foul at 1.85m was the only bump in the road until she reached 1.93m. After two fouls at that height, she knew 1.89m would see her progress regardless of the outcome, but she was determined to get the mark on her scorecard and she duly delivered.
“I didn’t do the easiest route to the final but I’m happy with how I composed myself for the last attempt on that jump,” Lake commented, “I thought I can either not clear it or clear it and make the final so that’s what I did in the end.”
Twelve years after winning silver at the 2007 European Indoor Championship, Nathan Douglas (Aston Moore, Oxford City AC) will take his place in the 2019 final after taking the final spot in qualification.
His second-round effort of 16.48m saw him consolidate his place in the top eight positions, and he will go again at 19:35 on Sunday. Julian Reid (Moore, Sale Harriers Manchester) missed out on a place in the final. His best mark of 15.93m saw him finish down in 17th.
It was a case of three out of three in the men’s 800m heats, with all of the British contingent progressing to the next stage at the Emirates Arena.
Most impressively, Jamie Webb (Adrian Webb, Liverpool) – who teaches Science at secondary school level – stormed through to win the final heat of five in 1:47.96, taking the plaudits from the home crowd.
Team captain Guy Learmonth (Henry Gray, Lasswade) led by example in the 800m heats, carried over the line by a roar from the Glasgow crowd, earning automatic qualification for the semi-finals.
Among the top four throughout the contest, the Lasswade athlete came around the final bend in third position having to make a decision to either wait for a gap to open on the inside lane or go the long way around. He successfully went for the latter, much to the delight of everyone in the arena and at home. He clocked 1:48.98 for second place and will go again in the semi-finals.
“That was the plan today – to get the job done,” said a happy Guy post-race. “My coach texted this morning and said, ‘don’t do anything daft Guy, just run smooth, run smart, don’t do any of the work until the last lap’ and I almost did that. I think I could have won that race pretty comfortably but I didn’t want to knock the Polish boy. There’s been a lot of people DQ’d at indoor championships, so I just had to be very, very careful and kicked home the last 50m and make sure I was in that qualifying position. I was happy with that and I’ll be getting ready for tomorrow now.”
The reigning British indoor champion Joe Reid (Matt Elias, Cardiff) had a nervous wait to see if he had advanced to the semis. After placing fourth in the first heat, he had a long wait to see if his time of 1:48.56 would see him claim the second of only two non-automatic qualifier spots. After 30 minutes, the good news was delivered, and the Isle of Man athlete will go again tomorrow evening from 18:25.
After earlier coming through her heat as a fastest non-automatic qualifier after placing third, Eilidh Doyle (Brian Doyle, Pitreavie) returned to the track for the 400m semi-finals but saw herself run out of it in a final lap burn-up. With only the top two from each of the three semis qualifying, she had it all to do, and despite her best efforts, it was fourth place in 53.28 meaning she bowed out of the individual event.
After successfully negotiating their 400m heats during the morning session, the semi-finals proved a tougher affair for Cameron Chalmers (James Hillier, Guernsey) and Owen Smith (Matt Elias, Cardiff) who both missed out on spots in the final but produced encouraging performances throughout the day.
After a bright start to the race, Smith was outrun in the final stages, fading back to fifth in 47.39. As for Chalmers, he found the going tough from the inside lane, placing sixth in 47.83.
British indoor champion Sophie McKinna (Mike Winch, Great Yarmouth) and Amelia Strickler (Zane Duquemin, Thames Valley) both missed out on a spot in the women’s shot put competition.
McKinna was tenth, with only eight progressing to the medal mix-up on Sunday, with her 17.10m some way down on her season best. The Great Yarmouth athlete put it down to a bad day but will take comfort in an indoor season which saw her produce a lifetime best of 17.97m at the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships last month.
For Strickler, 14th and 16.81m saw the Thames Valley athlete bow out but spoke afterwards that this performance had motivated her even more for the outdoor season.
Action continues on Saturday morning from 10:00am. The timetable for the championships can be found via https://bit.ly/2VwqMRX and there is live coverage on BBC2 from 9:30am.
British Athletics medal tally (4):
Katarina Johnson-Thompson – Pentathlon
Laura Muir – 3000m
Niamh Emerson – Pentathlon
Melissa Courtney – 3000m