It was an action-packed evening for the British team as they won seven medals on the final day of the 23rd European Championships in Amsterdam. Gold medals for the men’s 4x100m and the women’s 4x400m relay added to the final tally of 16 overall.
There was a magnificent world leading performance by the women’s 4x400m relay team as they won European gold. It was a truly dominant display and never looked in doubt as they led after every leg. British Champion Emily Diamond (coach: Jared Deacon) opened with a 51.80 lap, handing over splendidly to Anyika Onuora (Rana Reider), in a leading position. The individual bronze medallist ran a split of 50.70 before handing over to Eilidh Doyle (Malcolm Arnold) who ran a split of 50.99. They already had a substantial lead at this point so it was left for Seren Bundy-Davies (Stephen Ball) to finish the task, as the team crossed the line in a WL of 3:25.05.
Bundy-Davies spoke afterwards: “I went out quite hard because I wanted to build on a decent lead and make sure no one thought they could catch us. I had no idea what was going on behind me, like in Beijing, so I just ran a sensible and controlled leg. The girls gave me such a good lead, they keep putting me in such a good position, so all I have to do is just bring home the gold.”
Additionally, Doyle said: “I prefer first leg, but third was good. It’s very hard to run when you’re in that much of a lead because you don’t know what’s going on behind you. I just tried to run a good solid leg, and when I pass the baton to Seren I just know she is going to do the job and we came away with the gold.”
There was a fantastic gold for the men’s 4x100m who retained their European title in a time of 38.17. The quartet were led off by 2014 European 100m gold medallist James Dasaolu (Steve Fudge) who handed over to training partner Adam Gemili (Fudge) in fine style. Gemili ran at a blistering pace down the back straight, handing over to James Ellington (Linford Christie) in the lead. It was then the job of CJ Ujah (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) to anchor the team to Britain’s fourth European gold medal in the event.
Ellington spoke afterwards on the great camaraderie within the whole relay squad: “The main thing today was all about safety. We knew we had the fire power to get the job done. We are a bit disappointed that we didn’t run faster but we did the job and got the gold medal. The team have been on plenty of training camps together so we have got to know each other a lot better.”
Gemili added: “We are delighted to get it right and have two good rounds. We’ve all got Rio to push on for and we are excited to see how far we can go. We will be in better shape then, than we are at the moment. We don’t want to be making up the numbers, we want to be challenging for medals in Rio.”
There was a silver medal in store for the women’s 4x100m relay team as they set a season’s best of 42.25, to place behind the Netherlands who posted a national record of 42.04. It was the same line-up which ran a European leading time in the heats yesterday, and they went faster than that time but the Dutch quartet, with world 200m champion Dafne Schippers within their ranks, pulled off victory in front of the home crowd.
Asha Philip (Steve Fudge) started well before handing over to Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie) who pushed hard down the back straight. A smooth changeover to Bianca Williams (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) had the British team in medal contention before Daryll Neita (Tawiah-Dodoo) held off a fast finishing German team to secure the silver.
Asher-Smith commented on the silver success: “Oh there is definitely more in the tank – we want to be running our fastest times in August at the Olympics. We’ve all got to hit our peaks individually during the summer so there is definitely more to come, it bodes well. We are happy that we ran a time which we only bettered once in Beijing (World Championships). We weren’t the best on the day but the Dutch team did really well. I do think we put together a solid performance though.”
There was double medal joy for the Great Britian and Northern Ireland team in the men’s high jump with both Robbie Grabarz (Fuzz Caan) and Chris Baker (Sharon Heveran) winning silver and bronze respectively. There were nervy times for both early on in the competition, Grabarz fouling once at 2.24m, and Baker missing one at 2.29m, however, they both cleared 2.29m. There were three failures apiece at 2.32m which meant Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy won the gold but they secured their place on the rostrum.
Grabarz, who won the European title in 2012 before going on to win Olympic bronze, said: “It was great to jump with each other to be honest; we use each other in a positive way. But we both should have jumped higher! It’s great to get to this point in the season and be winning a medal, so it is great preparation for Rio.”
Baker added: “I jumped an outdoor PB today and it’s great to get a medal as well – I’m really looking forward to Rio. I did a lot better than I did in Zurich a couple of years ago so that is a positive.”
There was an outstanding bronze medal for Elliot Giles (Matthew Yates) in the men’s 800m final, the debutant setting a huge personal best of 1:45.54. After impressing through the rounds, the Birchfield Harrier did not look fazed as he lined up against some experienced international athletes. He sat in fifth coming into the home straight but he calmly moved around his rivals and nearly bagged silver, and a photo finish was required. However, he claimed his first senior championships medal and ran inside the Olympic qualifying standard.
After his maiden medal, Giles said: “It is my first GB vest, my first championships and my first medal, so that is an achievement in itself. I actually thought I had got second but I am really happy with the bronze medal. It was also inside the Olympic qualifying standard which is huge! I wanted to win, that may seem like a long shot but I am really confident in my ability.”
There was agony in the men’s 4x400m relay final as the British team were in the gold medal position until the final few metres but were overhauled by the Belgian and Polish teams to take the bronze medal. They clocked a time of 3:01.44 with the quartet of Rabah Yousif (Carol Williams), Delano Williams (Neil Harrison), Jack Green (June Plews) and Matthew Hudson-Smith (Tony Hadley) claiming a spot on the podium.
Green, who ran on the third leg, commented: “I actually had a bit too much left at the end. I was probably in good enough shape to hit it earlier. We’ve got a great team here, we have 7-8 guys who we can bring in and do a job. I think it is really exciting for Rio. We may not have won this one but this was a step along the way to try a few things. We should be looking for medals in Rio, that’s the aim.”
After a slow start to the women’s 1500m final, it burst into life during the final lap as the whole field scrambled to get amongst the medals. On her senior debut for the British team, Sarah McDonald (Bud Baldaro) finished ninth in a sprint to the line, recording a time of 4:34.93.
After a good performance to qualify for the hammer throw final on Friday, Chris Bennett (Mick Jones) was content with a tenth place finish. In his first European final, the Shaftesbury Barnet athlete threw a best of 70.93m in round three but it was not enough to progress to a further three attempts.
In the men’s 5000m final, Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees) came home in 13th place, clocking 13:55.20, a solid performance. Also, Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim) ran 14:04.13 to claim 16th spot.
Neil Black, the Performance Director for British Athletics, reflected on the Championships, saying: “I look at the medal tally and see five gold, three silver, eight bronze and sixteen in total. I see a number of athletes who have stepped up. Elliott Giles springs to mind – first GB international and he grabs a medal, performing like the ultimate professional.
“Generally it has been a good performance and a learning experience as we look toward to the Rio Olympic Games next month.”
Full results from the European Championships can be found here: https://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-athletics-championships/2016/schedules-results/
British Athletics medal tally at the 23rd European Championships (16):
Dina Asher-Smith – Women’s 200m
Martyn Rooney – Men’s 400m
Greg Rutherford – Men’s Long Jump
Men’s 4x100m relay
Women’s 4x400m relay
Robbie Grabarz – Men’s High Jump
Jazmin Sawyers – Women’s Long Jump
Women’s 4x100m relay
Chris Baker – Men’s High Jump
Elliott Giles – Men’s 800m
Anyika Onuora – Women’s 400m
Tiffany Porter – Women’s 100m Hurdles
Julian Reid – Men’s Triple Jump
Danny Talbot – Men’s 200m
Steph Twell – Women’s 5000m
Men’s 4x400m relay