Jazmin Sawyers (coach: Alan Lerwill) produced a true captain’s performance, jumping a personal best to win long jump silver at the European U23 Championships.
On the final day of action in Tallinn, Estonia, Sawyers was in danger of being eliminated after two rounds, however a 6.49m jump in round three kept her in the competition. Now able to relax, the Glasgow 2014 and European junior silver medallist did what she does best, rising to the occasion and soaring out to 6.71m in round five to claim silver.
The last time Sawyers produced a personal best was in winning bronze at the World Junior Championships a full three years ago, but true to her captains speech, she believed in herself and her preparation.
“I’m so chuffed! I feel like that’s the kind of jump I’ve been waiting to show I can do for ages and it’s been so frustrating that it hasn’t come out. When it came up on the board I could barely believe it – I’m so so happy! It’s my first PB in almost three years – I’ve got no more words.”
“My first round was really average and my second round I went flying and fouled, so the third round was the first time in the competition that I actually felt really nervous. I was standing on the runway knowing I could go out. I managed to pull something out though and once you’re through to the top eight anything can happen.”
Reflecting on her captain’s speech with a grin from ear to ear, Sawyers added:
“I told everyone they know how to do their event, so just go out and do it, and that’s what’s been running through my head. I’ve been obsessing over other things and today I just came out and said right, this is step one, step two and step three, so just go and do it. There it is, in black and white, a new PB. I couldn’t ask for more!”
In the penultimate event of the day the women’s 4x400m team grabbed GB & NI’s third and final gold medal of the championships. After disappointment in the individual event, Seren Bundy-Davies (Stephen Ball) ran a scintillating first leg to set the team up perfectly. Handing over to Scot Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna) the team were in the lead, and Clark wasn’t about to let it slip. Neither was Christine Ohuruogu (Chris Zah) who on leg three opened a gap on the chasing teams, before handing over to Kirsten McAslan (Trevor Painter). As in the individual event, McAslan battled hard, and despite being closed down by the individual bronze medallist from Poland, the GB & NI anchor was strongest in the home-straight, kicking away to bring home the gold.
Of her first leg effort, Bundy-Davies said:
“It was really hard to see how good a chance I’d given the girls as the stagger was so big and I’ve never done leg one before. I’m so happy because as a team we glued together so well.”
Running leg two, Clark commented:
“Seren gave us such a great start so it was great to just get in there, claim my position in first and then hold it together.”
Next up was Ohuruogu, who has bags of relay experience:
“I saw that we had the lead and I just had to keep it. The girls did a really good job and we fought for it and won, so I’m really happy.”
Running the all important anchor leg, McAslan was visibly delighted with the outcome.
“The girls gave me such a good lead so I knew I had to go out hard and just keep it. The Pole was third in the individual so I knew I’d have a battle on my hands and when I saw her on the screen with 200m to go I tried to kick again. I’m so happy we managed to do it!”
Shona Richards (Marina Armstrong) delivered the kind of championship performance that saw her pick up silver at the World Junior Championships last summer, smashing her personal best to finish fourth in an extremely close 400mH final. Coming off the final bend it was still all to play for and running from the inside lane Richards fought all the way to run 56.05, just 0.01 shy of a medal and less than 0.2 seconds from gold.
“I’m really happy! I gave it my all and as I’ve said before the season hasn’t been too smooth, so I just thought go out and have fun, and it was the most relaxed I think I’ve ever been! I’m a bit gutted to 0.01 off a medal but to run a PB from lane one after two rounds is great. I was on the floor with a broken arm three months ago, so if you’d have told me I’d have come fourth at U23s as a 19 year old I wouldn’t have believed it!”
Incidently that run by Richards breaks Perri Shakes-Drayton’s (Chris Zah) UK age 19 best and is also inside the World Championship qualifying standard.
Flying the flag for GB & NI in the women’s 1500m final were Melissa Courtney (Mark Pauley) and Rhianwedd Price (Houston Franks) and neither expected the race to be won in a championship record of 4.04.77. After slipping back as the pace really hotted up, Price rallied over the final 400m to take fourth in 4.10.25, less than a second outside her personal best.
“I didn’t expect it to be a fast race as it’s a championship, but I knew there were girls in here who could run fast! They all came past me at 400m to go but I couldn’t give up, so I just kept attacking and I’m really happy to be just a second outside my PB. I’m happy with that. The experience will certainly help me improve.”
Boxed in over the first couple of laps, Courtney also finished strongly to finish tenth in 4.17.49.
Bravery was the order of the day in the women’s 5000m, as all three medallists produced national U23 records. Calli Thackery (Joe Franklin) gave herself every chance of a medal, as she formed part of five-strong lead group, whilst Bethan Knight (Shayla Houlihan) ran alone in sixth. With two laps to go the pace kicked on again, and it was just slightly too much for Thackery who was forced to settle for fifth in 15.47.71, just outside her personal best.
“I put too much pressure on myself today to try and get a medal spot. It went out hard, harder than I thought it would and my legs just weren’t quite there. I can’t be disappointed but I’m competitive and I really wanted to be up there with those lead girls – next time!”
Maintaining focus all the way, Knights finished strongly and rewarded with a massive 11 second personal best of 15.51.49 in sixth.
“The first group was going so fast and I’ve learnt this season that I do better if I just go at a comfortable pace and then try and kick the last mile. There are some really talented girls in there so I just tried to race smart. My goal was a personal best today so I’m really happy with that. I’ve dreamt of being in this moment and racing for Britain for so long, so to go out and do that is just an amazing experience.”
For live results from the championships head to: https://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-athletics-u23-championships/2015/schedules-results/