The Letzigrund stadium was treated to six British medals on the second night of the 2014 European Athletics championships in Zurich. Everyone knows about the exploits of ‘Super Saturday’ and ‘Thriller Thursday’ but after three golds, tonight may well go down in history as ‘Wicked Wednesday’.
Kick-starting the GB & NI gold rush was Mo Farah (coach: Alberto Salazar) who returned with a bang to secure 10,000m gold and lead Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) to a British one-two. Inspired by Jo Pavey’s (Gavin Pavey) performance last night, the duo were to the fore in the closing stages, and despite only racing once on the track since the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last year, Farah knew where he needed to be. He hit the front just before the bell and controlled things with a 54 second last 400m to cross the line punching the air.
“It means a lot to me because I went through a lot from recovering from the marathon and then getting ill so this medal means so much. It’s probably close to the Olympics because only three weeks ago I had to pull out the Commonwealth Games and things weren’t going so well. So to come here and win it meant so much to me tonight.”
For Vernon, it was the major breakthrough he has been threatening to make for a couple of years, timing his effort to perfection to overhaul Ali Kaya of Turkey with his final few strides.
“That means a lot; every day you go out and train and you train for races like this. When they pay off it’s an amazing feeling.”
James Dasaolu (Steve Fudge) converted his 9.91 personal best into his first major title, taking the European Championship 100m title in 10.06 (-0.4m/s). The temperature had dropped to just 14 degrees by the time they lined up at 21:49 but it didn’t stop Dasaolu powering out of the blocks and storming to victory. Defending champion Christophe Lemaitre took silver, with Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Reider) running a great race to take bronze in 10.22.
There was jubilation all round; the race capping off a memorable night for the GB & NI team, and Dasaolu said:
“It’s a wonderful feeling. If I roll the clock back to February or March, I tore my hamstring and wasn’t sure if I was going to have a season. Fast forward to now in Zurich and I’m European champion! I’m over the moon and just trying to take it all in right now.
“Today was tough; we had delays, it was cold, there was stuff going on with the start. I’m just happy that I could focus on my race and give it my best which was good enough on the day. It was a good race and I’d have loved to have been sub ten but championships are all about winning and I’m happy to be European champion. I ran 10.03 in the semi and 10.06 in the final so it just shows that I was able to go back to back and my body was able to hold up.”
Aikines-Aryeetey was visibly ecstatic at the finish, and after running a lap of honour with teammate Dasaolu he said:
“In a championship anything happens! We were delayed 50 minutes for the semi, and 15-20 minutes for the final. You’ve just got to go through the rounds and I’m happy because I’ve delivered for myself. I’m coming out injury free and now I am in a position where I get to stand on that podium tomorrow so I am really happy.”
There was disappointment for Sainsbury’s British Champion Dwain Chambers (Reider) who finished just outside the medals in fourth. Despite the margin between Aikines-Aryeetey being just two tenths of a second, Chambers was typically gracious:
“It’s just sport. Naturally you are going to be slightly disappointed; anyone who finishes outside the medals is going to feel like that. However this is sport and the cookie crumbles different ways and fortunately for our country the European title comes back to us for another few years. Harry and James did a great job and they both deserved it because we’ve all worked hard.”
Tiffany Porter (Reider) finally got the chance to stand on the top step of the podium thanks to a true champion’s performance in the women’s 100mH final. Lining up as favourite after a scorching 13.63 run in the semi-finals, Porter handled the pressure to break the tape in 12.76 (-0.7m/s) and bag her first international gold.
The Loughborough-based sprint hurdler has won Commonwealth Games silver and World Championship bronze in the last 12 months, but she finally got her hands on gold in Zurich, much to her delight.
“I’m thrilled to get my first gold medal – I’m at a loss for words! I’ve had medals before but not a gold. At the beginning of the season my aim was to win my first gold medal and I’m very happy I was able to achieve that and run a race that allowed me to do so.
“I saw Mo, Harry and James as well, which was great and it’s so encouraging; we’re all just working hard to do what we have to do.”
There was further success in the women’s 100m final as Ashleigh Nelson (Michael Afilaka) secured a surprise bronze medal, putting together three great races over the last two days. Joined by GB & NI senior debutant Desiree Henry (Rana Reider) in the final, Nelson ran a storming last 50 metres to move through for bronze in 11.22 (-0.4m/s), just three hundredth’s down on the personal best she set in the heats yesterday. Afterwards, through tears of joy, Nelson said:
“I feel amazing as you can tell from the tears! I’m just so happy! My coach obviously knew what I was capable of; he said go into the final and give it everything and look what’s happened!”
For Henry, who also set a personal best of 11.21 in the heats, just making the final was a great achievement. Still a junior, the 19 year old finished seventh in 11.43 and post-race she commented:
“I’m just absolutely delighted, and so glad to be there in the field and in the mix. I think I’ve done myself so proud just to get here and get in the final. I’ve no complaints this week, running a lifetime best and I am fit and healthy!”
Earlier in the evening there was heartbreak for Asha Philip (Christine Bowmaker) who missed out on a place in the final by just one thousandth of a second. Third in the final semi-final, Philip clocked 11.24, which meant there was a three way tie for the final fastest loser spot, which in the end went to French athlete Distel-Bonnet.
The men’s 400m gave the mood in the GB & NI camp a huge boost, with British athletes winning all three of the semi-finals this evening. Conrad Williams (Linford Christie) got the ball rolling, winning semi-final one in 45.85 from the outside lane, leading all the way.
“It’s all about making sure I was in that final, there’s three Brits and I wanted to lead by example and I am glad I started off with a win.”
Next up was Martyn Rooney (Reider), and he looked silky smooth winning in 45.40, to secure himself a good lane draw for Friday’s final. New kid on the block Matthew Hudson-Smith (Tony Hadley) completed the job, winning the final semi-final in 45.30 ahead of Jonathan Borlee of Belgium.
“Today I had a few words of advice from Martyn saying just be comfortable, and from my coach too who said just get to the final and do a job. I’ve got a lot of good people around me. Watching the others make the final spurred me on because I wanted to join them.”
Christine Ohuruogu (Lloyd Cowan) continued her return to form, taking second in the first of two women’s 400m semi-finals to book her place in the final on Friday. Coming off the bend the Olympic and world champion still had a lot of work to do, but in typical Ohuruogu fashion, she powered home, moving from fifth to second with a 52.56 clocking.
“That was a lot harder; I was running thinking ‘this does not feel like yesterday’. Then the wind hit me and I thought I can’t do this anymore! But credit to the other girls they ran well.”
Seb Rodger (James Hillier) was the pick of the Brits in the men’s 400mH semi-finals, finishing fourth in his race and running a season’s best of 49.47. Nevertheless, he wasn’t quite quick enough to secure a spot in the final. It was a similar story for Tom Burton (Nick Dakin) and Niall Flannery (Dakin), who were fifth and sixth in the second and third semi-finals respectively, with times of 50.47 and 50.15.
Full results from all of day one can be seen here: https://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-athletics-championships/2014/schedules-results/
Tomorrow morning sees both the men’s and women’s 200m heats get underway, as well as the men’s pole vault. Team captain Goldie Sayers (Mark Roberson) lines up in the women’s javelin final in the evening.
GB & NI team performances:
GOLD – Jo Pavey – Women’s 10,000m
GOLD – Mo Farah – Men’s 10,000m
GOLD – Tiffany Porter – Women’s 100m hurdles
GOLD – James Dasaolu – Men’s 100m
SILVER – Andy Vernon – Men’s 10,000m
BRONZE – Ashleigh Nelson – Women’s 100m
BRONZE – Harry Aikines Aryeetey – Men’s 100m
4th – Dwain Chambers – Men’s 100m
7th – Desiree Henry – Women’s 100m