On a brilliant night of track and field action in Estonia, the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team won their first medals of the 2015 European U23 Championships, much to the delight of the travelling British supporters.
Starting as favourite and leading the European U23 rankings, Nick Miller (coach: Tore Gustafsson) set out in pursuit of hammer gold. After putting his first throw into the net, the Glasgow 2014 silver medallist produced 74.46m in round two to become Britain’s first ever winner of the event.
“I’m very happy to win as that’s all that matters today and that’s what I came here to do. At a championship it doesn’t matter whether you win by a centimetre or ten metres so that’s all I wanted. There was a lot of pressure wearing the blue number as I always want to do well for Great Britain and for myself, so there’s always pressure. The goal now is the British record!”
Once Nick Miller had opened the GB & NI medal account, the team wanted more, and Rhona Auckland (Joyce Hogg), Alice Wright (David Walker) & Becky Straw (Bud Baldaro) weren’t about to waste a golden opportunity as they lined up in the women’s 10,000m.
From the gun it was evident that it was going to be a quick race as Jip Vastenburg of The Netherlands, fastest on paper, took up the running. Passing 5,000m in 16.15 the lead group was down to three, but thankfully Auckland was amongst the trio. Running alone in fourth was Wright just shy of ten seconds back, but she hadn’t given up the ghost.
With six laps to go the lead group was down to two as Florea of Romania became detached, and it was at this point that Auckland decided to take up the running. Doing her best to force the pace the gutsy Scot couldn’t shake off the tall Dutch woman no matter how hard she tried. Further back the drama continued, as Wright began to catch Florea, passing her with three laps to go. It wasn’t over though as the Romania tucked in behind the diminutive Brit, whilst Auckland was still plugging away at the front. With 200m to go both the battles for gold and for bronze were still undecided, but Britain had at least one medal.
In the end though, it was two, as Wright kicked hard to take bronze, whilst Auckland fought all the way but had to settle for silver. Naturally they were both delighted, doubly so as they recorded personal bests of 32.22.32 and 32.56.33 respectively.
“I’m really pleased with that. Winning the European cross gave me the belief that I could take it on and I’d have the strength. I can’t remember what I was thinking when I went on either occasion, but I just went for it! I’ve been inspired by both Laura Muir and Kate Avery and the way they run so fearlessly, so I just thought lets go for it and I’ll suffer the consequences later! I was pleased that I gave it a go and to get a PB I know I couldn’t have given it any more.”
Wright was equally ecstatic.
“I’m over the moon! I was just trying to keep to a rhythm as the girls were getting away in front. I had my teammate Calli shouting and keeping me going, and I had the GB team in another corner and my dad as well, so all the support kept me going. With seven laps to go I thought I might have a chance and I started to pull her back metre by metre. Coming into the last lap I knew it was going to come down to a sprint finish, which it did! I’m just so pleased that I managed to have a sprint finish.”
Ninth at the halfway mark, Becky Straw also ran a gutsy race, moving through in the final stages to finish a very credible seventh, less than 20 seconds outside her personal best.
Leon Reid (James Hillier) looked cool, calm and collected as he came off the bend in his 200m heat. Storming out the blocks and running a faultless curve, the 2013 European Junior silver medallist had the luxury of being able to take his foot off the gas down the home-straight, whilst still recording an impressive 20.78 victory.
“I just want to get through to the final and save some energy. That was easier than I thought it would be, although some guy on the outside went off like a house on fire but I knew he wasn’t strong enough to hold it. I was able to shut it down with 80m to go as I knew I was in control.”
For full results please head to: https://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-athletics-u23-championships/2015/schedules-results/