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european junior championships final session

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Relay women

24 July 2011

5000m duo Emelia Gorecka (coach: Mick Woods) and Annabel Gummow (coach: Chris Wooldridge) finished second and third respectively on the final day of competition at the European Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia (21-24 July), but there was no doubt that the highlight of the evening came from the gold medal winning women’s 4 x 400m relay team who took the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland total to 15 overall for third place in the medal table.

“That was so close, I only noticed the Polish girl at the last minute,” admitted ecstatic anchor leg Kirsten McAslan (coach: Trevor Painter) who finished off the great job her team mates Katie Kirk (coach: Mark Kirk), Lucy James (coach: Nick Dakin) and Amelia Clifford (coach: Michael Coker) had started with an impressive last lap (52.42 - the fastest of the day) to take the win in 3:35.29.

“We obviously came here to win it, but I’m not sure we were expected to,” they all agreed. “We knew we had to make a few tweaks from qualifying and had a bit of work to do, but we’re delighted!”

On reflection, it was a solid result for the 5000m girls who also made the podium, but European junior cross country bronze medallist Gorecka - the European leader going into the event and a realistic gold medal hope - was hugely disappointed not to take the title: “It’s been such a long week waiting for this and I thought I could win it, I really did,” she said, having led for the majority of the race then finishing second in 16:13.04. “I should have beaten that girl (Turkey’s winner Esma Aydemir); I’ve beaten her so many times, but credit to her, because I just didn’t have a sprint finish today.”

The race had started slowly but gradually picked up as both Gorecka and Gummow moved from the safety of the back of the field at 800m through towards the front at 1km. Gorecka then led through 2km (6:41.15), 3km (9:50.18) and 4km (13:07.29) with Gummow for company as their breakaway group of five was soon whittled down to four and eventually three by the bell, but when Aydemir kicked into the home straight, they had nothing left to give.

“That was the hardest race I’ve ever done, much harder than World Cross, it was just stop-start, stop-start and I couldn’t get into my rhythm,” continued Gorecka. “I’m gutted, I really wanted to hear the national anthem up there, but I gave it my best.”

Gummow was more upbeat after winning her first major Championship medal in 16:14.62. “I went into it to enjoy it, and I did,” she said. “I’m happy really, because I came in ranked second (in Europe) and it was great for me to finish so close to Emelia.

“It was a very tactical race and there was a lot of stopping and banging into one another which I’m not really used to, but I kept my nerves under control and I’ve come away from it having learned a lot.”

Aviva GB & NI athletes won a total of five medals across the evening session, with both 4 x 100m relay teams also making the podium.

After an outstanding 39.85 in qualifying, the British men’s 4 x 100m quartet of Dannish Walker-Khan (coach: Linford Christie), Sam Watts (coach: Gladys Bird), Adam Gemili (coach: John Blackie) and David Bolarinwa (coach: John Powell) went even quicker in the final (39.48), but a rejuvenated French team returned from the morning’s heats in style to take victory in 39.35.

“It was our change from three to four that let us down,” admitted individual 100m silver medallist Gemili. “David (200m champion David Bolarinwa) probably went a bit early and I should have called it earlier.”

“It’s a good time though,” added Watts, “especially considering that last change. We’re still developing as a team and it’s only our first year together; we’ve only had about six months working together and while obviously this competition is important to us, I think we’ve shown that if we continue to build on this we’ve got a lot of potential as seniors, which is the most important thing.”

And although they’d have loved to do better, there was clearly huge relief from the women’s 4 x 100m team of Marilyn Nwawulor (coach: Harry King), Bianca Williams (coach: Lloyd Cowan), Jennie Batten (coach: Roger Walters) and Jodie Williams (coach: Mike McFarlane), who finished third in 45.00 after a blistering anchor leg by the double European sprint champion brought them back into medal contention from the wilderness.

“I thought we’d lost it,” said Batten, after the baton slipped in her hand during the change from Bianca Williams (leg two to three).

“I saw Jennie stop then start again and I was like, aaagh!” said Jodie Williams. “I was watching Bianca (Williams) and she was screaming too, but once I got the baton I just thought, ‘we really need this medal’ and there was no way I was giving it up.”

Outside the medals but delivering determined performances, the men’s 4 x 400m relay quartet of George Caddick (coach: Dominic Tighe), Greg Louden (coach: Dave Finlayson), David Lagerberg (coach: Phil Scott-Spencer) and Jarryd Dunn (coach: Keith Holt) were agonisingly close to a medal in fourth (3:08.71), UK number one Abi Fitzpatrick (coach: Morris Condon) continued her consistent European Junior Championship form with a solid fifth place in the women’s 400mH final (58.49), Freya Jones (coach: William Bushnell) finished tenth in the javelin (49.94m) and Jennifer Walsh (coach: Deborah Rowlands), after battling back from a fall, finished tenth in the 1500m (4:31.32).

“We knew the Germans (who finished third) would go off hard because they front-loaded,” said anchor leg Dunn after being beaten to the podium by less than two one-hundredths of a second in the relay. “I’d beaten their final leg runner in the individual 400m and I knew he had a strong finish so I had to pass him to be in with a chance, but he came back at me.”

Sale Harriers Manchester athlete Fitzpatrick, who arrived in Estonia with a 400mH best of 59.83, reduced that to 59.44 after round one, then recorded a massive PB of 58.38 in the semi final also did herself proud. “I’ll definitely leave here with a lot more confidence in what I can do,” she said. “I stuttered a bit on the back straight today compared to yesterday, but to run a PB in the semi final then come out and run another 58 today shows I’m getting more consistent.

“I actually had a smile on my face all the way through the race today,” she added. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of the experience.”

In the javelin, Jones, who recorded one mark from three attempts, is now determined to take the positives and build towards a successful senior career: “My warm up was good, but I think the problem was that I was too relaxed on my first throw,” she said. “Esa (team coach Esa Utriainen) has been great and I’m so glad he was out here with me, and the team support has been brilliant, it was insane out there listening to them, but I don’t really know what happened today - I’ll come back better for it though.”

Walsh, who went down after a congested 1500m pack of 12 began to battle for space, couldn’t have done much more after fighting to get back to the pack in the 1500m final, but ultimately the effort took too much out of her: “There was so much pushing and shoving early on and I’m not used to that,” she said. “After I fell I think I probably worked too hard to get back into it because I had nothing left when they kicked. I’m so disappointed, because it was my first GB vest and I knew I was in great shape going into it.”

The overriding team feeling was one of positivity, however:

“This team overall has been outstanding with 15 medals - six gold, five silver and four bronze - and it’s testament to a really successful junior programme we’ve seen develop and improve since the World Juniors in Canada last year,” said Aviva GB & NI Team Leader Kevin Tyler.

“The girls put in a really inspiring performance in the 4 x 400m relay tonight and it was a fantastic end to a really great Championship. To win three medals in four relays today has been brilliant and the men’s 4 x 400m deserve credit too, because they really fought hard in that last event.

“As well as those in competition, the support from the stands has been incredible and the staff have been excellent. It’s been a great team effort both on and off the track and everyone has worked really hard to make it happen.”