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Brits Blitz Medals in Kaunas

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Eden Francis and Jade Nicholls

 

17 July 2009

The sprinters may have set the standard on day two of the European Under-23 Championships (Kaunas, Lithuania, 16-19th July), but it was the discus thowers who stole the show with an almost unheard of medal double taking the Aviva GB & NI team tally to six.

Top ranked European under-23 Eden Francis (Birchfield) won gold in her number one event with 57.29m – almost 3m clear of runner-up Vera Karmishina of Russia (54.48m) - while Jade Nicholls (Shaftesbury Barnet), with a lifetime best performance of 54.44m, won bronze with her final throw of the competition.

“I’m tired and I’m hungry,” said an ecstatic Francis who had finished sixth in the shot putt final earlier in the day with 16.23m. “I enjoyed it which is different for me. This is the first European Championships where I’ve come away not crying - and we both won a medal – woohoo!”

“My little bit of paper said I was to peak at the trials and I did,” said Nicholls, the English under-23 champion behind Francis. “It also said I was to peak here, and I did, so my coach knows what he’s talking about. Job done!”

Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Sutton & District) had earlier led GB & NI’s men to a brilliant clean sweep in this afternoon’s 100m final (Friday 17th).

The British trio qualified as fastest from their semi finals and didn’t disappoint.

Aikines-Aryeetey won with a season’s best performance of 10.15s, followed by Leevan Yearwood (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) in second, also in a season’s best performance (10.26) and Rion Pierre (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) in a lifetime best performance for third 10.28s.

“That was the toughest start of my life,” said Aikines-Aryeetey, the only British athlete ever to have won gold medals at youth, junior and U23 major championship level following his 100m/200m double at the 2005 World Youth Championships and 100m gold at the 2006 World Junior Championships.“I just ran as hard as I could; the start was so poor it was unreal. Lucky enough I came through – a one-two-three – that’s amazing; it shows the strength and depth we have in sprints at all levels. We’re all just happy to be in the mix and all happy to win a medal. I’m so glad I was representing Great Britain.” 

Yearwood said: “I’m happy, but I don’t feel like I executed the race as planned. I’ll come back stronger.”

Pierre added: “A PB is good, I can’t complain, but like Leevan, I didn’t really run the race as I had planned but I got a bronze medal representing my country and this time last year I wasn’t sure I’d carry on in the sport, so I’m happy man, now it’s back to the drawing board and gold next time.”

And it didn’t end there – Nigel Levine (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) made it four medals in a little over one hour – and two PB’s in two days - when finishing second in the men’s 400m (45.78s). “I kinda knew I could do that, I ran a PB! I haven’t beaten that guy yet, he beat me last European Championships. I ran 45.7…I can’t believe it man!!!

Elaine O’Neill (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) finished fifth in the women’s 100m final clocking 11.61s, just outside her best ever (11.59s).

Building on today’s outstanding efforts, medal prospects are also looking good over the weekend with a number of successful qualifiers over the course of the day.

110mH duo Gianni Frankis (Newham & Essex Beagles) and Callum Priestley (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) qualified in first and second from their respective semi finals in 13.58s – a new lifetime best for Frankis – and 13.70s. They start as second and third fastest for Saturday’s final.

“I treated that like a final,” admitted Frankis, “that was always my plan. I had to because I think I was third going into that. I had an Olympic finalist on the outside but I know he doesn’t get out very well. I’m sure he took that a lot easier than he will in the final, but my plan was getting to the final and Ill be concentrating on that now.”

Zara Hohn (Wakefield), who had a tense wait to find out if she’d made this afternoon’s 100mH semi final as a fastest loser, endured another emotional rollercoaster as she waited for news of her progression through to the final after finishing fourth (13.39s), a time equalled by Switzerland’s Lisa Urech. Unfortunately she missed out by the tiniest of margins after a photo-finish decision, but was happy with her performance after a frustrating round one race.

It was good news in the 1500m heats however, with all four GB & NI athletes progressing to Sunday’s finals (19th July).

World Junior Championships 1500m bronze medallist Emma Pallant (Aldershot, Farnham & District) finished second in heat one of the women’s event (4:13.98) and goes into the final as second fastest qualifier. “I think it was ok,” she said. “I didn’t get in the best position at the start but I just tried to stay calm. I just tried to cover it and then down the home straight I was just looking, checking I was alright. I feel good.”

The boys matched that performance, Ricky Stevenson (New Marske) and James Brewer (Cheltenham) clocking 3:44.52 and 3:44.77 to qualify automatically in second and third respectively from heat one, while David Forrester (St Helens Sutton), in 3:43.61, went through in second from heat two – the second fastest time overall going into the final.

Also in qualifying, Robbie Grabarz (Bedford & County), in spite of an incredibly frustrating competition was halted for every track race, made it through to the men’s high jump final on Sunday with 2.17m.

In the men’s 200m heats, Toby Sandeman (ThamesValley) in heat two (20.87s) and Richard Kilty (Gateshead) in heat four (21.19s) qualified automatically for tomorrow’s semi final.

In the 400mH, Lloyd Gumbs (Shaftesbury Barnet), Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets) and Eilidh Child (Pitreavie AAC), the latter two top tanked European under-23s, progressed to their respective finals.

Gumbs clocked a brilliant PB for third in his heat (50.12s), while Shakes-Drayton (55.84s) and Child (56.45s) qualified automatically in first place from their heats, first and third fastest overall.

Meghan Beesley (Birchfield) just missed out, clocking 57.32s – a season’s best performance – to finish fifth, while in the men’s event Toby Ulm (Swindon) didn’t start due to a hamstring injury.

“Roll on the final,” said Shakes-Drayton. Indeed.