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two brits reach 800m final

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Jenny Meadows
Meadows powers into 800m final

17 August 2009

On the third day of competition at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes Marilyn Okoro and Jenny Meadows stormed into the final of the 800m, against arguably one of the most competitive fields in international athletics.

Meadows was the first to put her name on the start list when she ran in a tactical race in the second heat, lining up against current world leader Caster Semenya (RSA).

Meadows paced herself for the entirety of the race, sitting comfortably in fifth for much of it and showed no sign of her notorious kick advancement until the dying stages.

The inevitable happened on the final bend and with great stamina she made up considerable ground, taking advantage of the front runners’ tiring legs. The Wigan AC athlete, fondly nicknamed ‘Pocket Rocket’, lived up to the tag as she sprinted towards the line past two competitors to take second place in 1:59.45.

She said: “What can I say, let’s start at the beginning. I made an absolute pig’s ear of it! I got boxed in and ran into the back of everybody but then I was still only a few metres off the pace and I still felt strong. I decided to run wide and I didn’t think that I was going to qualify.

“There’s no-one prouder than myself to make the final- I’ve worked so, so hard since the age of seven.”

Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet) made it two Brits for the final as she grabbed second place in the last race of the semis, powering to the line in 2:01.01. 

Running in fourth on the second bend she looked comfortable on the inside of the track and stayed put until the bell.

Then, gently easing her way into second just before the pack split, she was in a good position and took advantage pushing all the way to the line.

Relief poured from her after the race: “I’ve been in a nervous wreck all day. I’ve had to call on my strength and my faith in God and really believe why I’m here. I was thinking on my feet the whole way round. It felt so good to be ready and keep running.

“I’m just so happy to finally make a final, both me and Jenny. I saw her run and thought ‘Dammit I’ve got to be there too.’ Third time lucky, I had to make it this time.”

The highly anticipated women’s 800m semi-final rounds didn’t come without disappointment as Jemma Simpson (Newquay & Par) tried unsuccessfully to translate her great 2009 form into a place in the final.

Earlier in the afternoon, during the first race, Simpson had looked in good shape early on holding fourth place within the tightly formed group at 300m.

Her fortunes changed as Yuliya Krevsun (UKR) strode out with a 10m lead at the bell and she found herself jostling for second place which was, when gained, short lived. As the pack advanced Simpson lost ground coming into the home straight and finished in fifth place with 2:00.57.

She said: “I think I ran tactically well and put myself in a good position. I just wasn’t strong enough in the last hundred. It was a true-run-race, the leader went through in 57, it could have played into anyone’s hands.

“I learned from it. I think for a championship I ran tactically my best ever- I think I got the hardest heat but sometimes it comes down to luck- that’s the way it goes.”

In the final of the women’s pole vault Kate Dennison (Sale) continued the season of her career which has seen her break multiple British records to finish in a very respectable sixth place with a best of 4.55m.

Dennison began well with first time clearances at 4.25m and 4.40m as she eased into the competition. At 4.55m, nearing her personal best of 4.58m, she faulted on her first attempt but came back with a successful second attempt at the height. 

She gave 4.65m, which would have been a new personal best and British record, her all but failed to conquer the formidable jump and bowed out of competition at that stage.

She said: “I enjoyed it, it’s better when the bar gets higher quicker, that’s the aim of the competition!

“It was a bit unfortunate the bar didn’t go through 4.60m, and I know 65 is in my reach. It just wasn’t quite there today.

“I’ve got to be fairly happy. If you told me in January I’d finish top eight in the world championships I’d have laughed at you. So to be here I’m happy but also a little disappointed at the same time.”

Following his outstanding 1500m first round effort James Brewer (Cheltenham) had looked at ease amongst the world class field early on in the first semi-final of the men’s 1500m and very narrowly failed to qualify for the final.

Running in the middle of the pack for much of the race he showed tactical and physical strength as he kept up with the advancing pace.

On the final lap things looked positive as he advanced into contention in fourth place on the penultimate bend only slipping back into sixth place within near sight of the line. He was placed thirteen overall with his 3:37.27 time, narrowly missing a place in the final by just eight one-hundredths.

“I don’t know what to say about it. I’m really happy to have been here and proud to represent GB at a senior championships. I should be really happy, it’s been a brilliant season but you always want that little bit more don’t you.

“I seem to have a habit of doing this at world championships. I missed out on the final at world youth, junior and now senior level. But at least at this level I can come back and have another go. Next time I’ll come back stronger and get in that final.”

Andy Baddeley (Harrow) fell foul of the trademark African late stage push in his tough 1500m semi-final draw which subsequently ended his championships.

After holding position towards the back of the field for much of the race, he showed a glimmer of hope with 800m as he moved towards the front of the group.

Advancement was unfortunately brief and as the pace quickened he lost valuable ground and regressed in position to cross the line in eleventh position with 3:38.23.

He said: “I’m gutted. I came here to be in the final and challenge for medals. I worked- to put it in polite terms- really bloody hard. I’ve been running outdoors for three weeks now –that’s not an excuse, that’s testament to the medical team around me who have worked really hard with me.”

GB & NI’s young contingent made their first outing of the competition, promising great things to come for developing talent in the team. European U23 400m hurdles gold and silver medalists Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park) and Eilidh Child (Pitreavie) both progressed through the first round of qualification. 

Child was first out of the two youngsters to take to the bright blue track in the Olympic stadium. She looked comfortable in qualifying for the semi-final, maintaining a presence among the front runners and driving home in third place with 55.96.

She said: “I’m pleased with that- I knew it was going to be hard. I thought I would do what I normally do until 200m, and then use Jesien (Anna, POL) round the bend.

“I thought ‘It’s going to be tough’ when I saw the line up. I’m not disappointed with the time, tomorrow will be about times.”

Team mate Perri Shakes-Drayton had a good start in the third heat, striding out ahead of the pack with only eventual winner Melaine Walker (JAM) for company. As she came into the final bend the rest of the group advanced, however undeterred Shakes Drayton found extra strength to take back ground she had lost on the penultimate hurdle and finish in third with 56.49.

“That felt good, I had to go for it. I’m glad to have got through. You know what, I didn’t even know who was in my race until the call room because I don’t ever check the line-up.

When asked about improvements going into the next round the Sports Science student said: “I’ll have a word with my coach because he’ll tell me, I haven’t seen fully what’s going on.”