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Five More Medals At Euro Juniors

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Lawrence Clarke dives for the line in 110mh
Lawrence Clarke dives for the line in 110m hurdles to take gold

 

25 July 2009

In an exciting afternoon of action for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the European Junior Championships in Novi Sad Serbia, another five medals were won including gold and a UK junior record for sprint hurdler Lawrence Clarke.

The Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow athlete took the team’s second gold, and sixth medal of the campaign when winning the 110m hurdles in a UK Junior record of 13.37 (+1.1m/s).

Clarke – incidentally the second Clarke to win gold for GB & NI this week - was barely in contention heading into the last few flights but in a superb surge, pierced through the field and he stumbled shoulder-first over the line and onto the floor. Team mate and 16 year-old World Youth silver medallist Jack Meredith (Liverpool Harriers) was sixth in a huge PB of 13.51.

Clarke revealed his coach Malcolm Arnold had predicted the win earlier in the year, after linking up with the Eton college student in November 2008:

“I told Malcolm I could win it but it wasn’t news to him he told me that about six months ago,” he said.

“I can’t believe it – I qualified sixth fastest and wasn’t the favourite but I knew I had bad wind in my heats and semi, so I knew it was there.

“I’m pleased for Jack – he’s just 16 and he’s run 13.51! What’s that all about?”

Meredith continued to be “made up” about his European Junior experience:

“I’m well over the moon with that,” he said. “I’m just 16 – I’ve done 13.51 in my first year. Lawrence’s record is on borrowed time I’m telling you.

“To do what he did and not even be thought of as a favourite was amazing. I was just happy to be in the mix.”

In the men’s 1500m final there were thrills and spills as all three Brits battled in a race where pushing, tripping and stumbling were the main theme. Simon Horsfield (East Cheshire), Daniel Clorley (Luton) and Ross Murray (Gateshead) were prepared for a certain amount of physicality, but as the field dawdled through 800m in 2.13, it was obvious the track was about to explode into action.

And it did, ending happily with a bronze medal for Horsfield, and three in six for GB and NI with Clorley in fourth and Murray in sixth.

With the pack surging and slowing the three Brits almost took each other out as they went into the final 700m, and Horsfield found himself three from the back and off the pace. But with all the determination they could muster they powered up the back straight and going round the final bend, there was a thrilling sprint finish in prospect.

Spain’s David Bustos took gold with 3:53.31; Turkey’s Resul Cevik was silver in 3:54.30 and Horsfield clocked 3:54.56, just ahead of the fast finishing Clorley just a tenth of a second behind.

Horsfield said:

“When I found myself at the back I just thought how the hell am I going to get out of this? I had to get myself back into a better position, and when I did that I got blocked again.

“Coming down the home straight I saw that the medals were still in reach and I just urged myself to hold on. Then I felt someone on my shoulder and I was disorientated when I crossed the line so I didn’t know what I’d got until the result.

“I’m just so pleased. I just want to say thanky-ou for everyone who has believed in me, this was for you!”

Glynn Tromans – acting as team coach for the endurance athletes summed up the GB performance after the final:

“They were messy... then they were perfect.. Then they were out of it... then they were back in it... three from six, they all deserve a well done, it was great.”

Minutes later Horsfield – coached by Mick Woods - watched as another Woods-coached athlete Louise Small (Aldershot Farnham & District) made the step up from World Youth 1500m to the podium of the women’s 3000m.

And it was two from three for the Brits, as Kate Avery (Shildon) led the way with silver in the same race in a superb show of controlled racing.

Despite the early pace being taken out by Azerbaijan’s Gezashign Safarova, Russia’s Yelena Korobkina won in 9:13.35, passing Avery on the final lap. However Avery looked anything but disappointed and joined her team mate in celebrating after the finish line:

“The Russian was just stronger; I’m so pleased with that. It didn’t matter that I was top ranked coming into this - there was no way I came here thinking this was mine,” said Avery.

“No you just can’t afford to do that,” chipped in Small. “When I came here straight from the World Youths I was hopeful of top six, but to medal is just amazing.”

Two medals and two PBs: Avery clocking 9:13.68 and Small managing 9:15.47. Beth Potter (Victoria Park, City of Glasgow), the third Brit in the race made it three in five with fifth place finish in 9:18.81, having led for parts of the race.

Another happy smiling face in Saturday’s session was Louise Webb (Team Southampton) who ran a lone race detached from the leaders but ahead of the pack to take bronze in the 3000m steeplechase. It was a sensible run by Webb who has been getting faster with every race this season and her new PB of 10.10.34 took a sizeable five seconds from her best before the championships.

In order of arrival it was a lucky seventh medal for the GB & NI team, the second in an endurance event and Britain’s first in the women’s 3000m ‘chase.

Webb – coached by former 400m athlete Todd Bennett – told how the GB and NI support in the crowd had kept her pace on PB pace:

“I didn’t know how far I was ahead of the rest, so couldn’t relax,” she said. “I don’t know whether they thought I needed gee-ing on but there was a group of British team members who kept shouting that they were catching me up so I just didn’t know.

“I came here ranked third but you just never know. I’m so pleased, I have to thank Todd and my training group for their support – I’ve had so many good luck texts, it’s unreal. The team are so supportive here too – I don’t want to go home!”

Nicola Hood (Victoria Park, City of Glasgow) suffered a fall on the back straight but in true battling fashion picked herself up and ran solidly to finish tenth in 10.34.68

Earlier, Alison Leonard (Blackburn) suffered the cruel fate of finishing in fourth position for the second consecutive major championship in the women’s 800m final. After a painful experience at the 2008 World Junior’s she ran a sound race staying out of trouble and avoiding being boxed in.

But in the home straight she could not bring the three athletes ahead of her any closer and missed out on a medal by a devastating seven one-hundredths with 2:04.66.

“I can’t believe it. Fifth place would have been better than that. Not again,” she said.

“I don’t think I got anything wrong. Maybe I ran wide too much I didn’t know – I just didn’t want to get boxed. I thought the Russian was coming back to me but I just couldn’t get there by the line.”

The sprinters had their fair share of disappointment too. Shaunna Thompson (Sale) and Emily Diamond (Bristol & West) could not add to the team medal pile although they performed well to make it through to the final, finishing fifth and eighth in 23.93 and 24.43 (+2.5 m/s)

Thompson had earlier powered to victory in her semi final with a 24.20 (+0.6m/s) clocking; whilst Diamond had managed a faster 24.14 (+0.6 m/s), but was left in fourth position in her semi, just reaching the final through a fastest loser place.

Unfortunately Junior Ejehu (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) was not to join his team mates in the final stage, exiting the competition earlier in the afternoon at the semi finals.

In his race, the first of the three, Ejehu worked hard to stay on terms with Germany’s Robert Hering but maintained his form for fourth place in 21.24 (+1.8m/s). He was left with a nervous wait which lasted until the last semi final, where unfortunately he saw his chances of progressing disappear.

In the men’s high jump, Mike Edwards (University of Alabama) could not repeat his early season stateside form in the final ending in equal ninth position. His best clearance of 2.11m was matched by six other athletes, but a first time failure at 2.07m cost him dearly on count back.

Elsewhere in the field, Sally Scott (Gateshead) finished 10th in the pole vault with a best vault of 3.80m – down on her personal and season’s best of 4.05m.

In qualifying action earlier in the session, UK Junior Record holder Peter Smith (Kingston Upon Hull) made Sunday’s hammer final after clearing the automatic standard of 71m with his 72.79m throw. He was sixth best out of the two qualifying competitions, with Hungary’s Akos Hudi leading with 74.91m.

In the heptathlon Katarina Thompson (Liverpool Harriers) had a tough first day, and ended the evening session in sixth position.

Thompson started the afternoon with 10.19m in the shot put, giving her 542 points but dropping in the overall rankings to eleventh position with 2332 points. She then had a solid 200m with 24.70 (+0.9m/s), but in finishing her session declared herself almost as ‘heartbroken’

“I’m not sure if that’s too strong a word for how I’m feeling but that’s close,” she said. “I’m so disappointed. I keep thinking about the World Youth and where I was in each event, which probably shows I’m not in the right frame of mind.

“Tomorrow I have to get a strong long jump in, give it some in the javelin hen go for it in the 800m.”

Niall Brooks (Sale Harriers) and Robbie Schofield (Newham & Essex) both qualified for Sunday’s 800m final with intelligent running and strong finishes. Schofield was up first and finished third in his semi with 1:50.31, in prime position for a fastest loser spot. Brooks then won the next heat convincingly, sitting in until 200m where he was jostled, and using the timely prod as an excuse to move his way around into the lead and safely across the line in first with 1:49.98.

“I thought I would sit in today, then I got a bit of a push but I used that as a reason to get going,” said Brooks. “That felt good, I had a lot left.”

Schofield said: “I knew the field had gone off too fast so had to hang back as I knew they would come back. But at 300 to go I still had a bit too much to do and couldn’t get on the back of the French guy so I took the wind in my face and it took the sting out of my sprint. But at least I was there.”

Ese Okoro (Birchfield) and Lauren Bouchard (Chelmsford) had strong opening rounds in the women’s 400m hurdles despite a warm wind circulating throughout the stadium.

In heat one Okoro ran a PB of 59.49 but could only achieve fourth place in a closely matched field. It did not matter however as she later made it through as a fastest loser. In the second heat Bouchard finished second to pre-event favourite Germany’s Inga Muller in 59.84 to qualify for the final.

Despite the worry over whether she would progress, Okoro was happy with her performance:

“That back straight is windy, but it’s a PB and I’m pleased. It was good to finish strong – I’ve been working on the last 200m of my race and it showed.”

Bouchard seemed satisfied with her race having to run scared in the outside line:

“I prefer an inside line so you can see how hard to go off,” she admitted. “The wind mucked up my stride somewhat, and it’s so hot on the track. But I’m through now. I was ranked seventh coming here so I would like to achieve something within the top six.”

Niall Flannery (Gateshead) put on an impressive display of one lap hurdling when easily winning his semi final of the 400m hurdles. It was a boost to the GB contingent as Jack Green (Kent) was forced to pull out of his semi with an abdominal injury.

Flannery, who looked to be struggling when languishing in fourth at about 200m turned up the revs and in doing so powered down the straight with a significant lead, easing up well before the line with 52.18.

But after he proved it had been part of his master plan to tackle the windy conditions:

“I checked out the track this morning and I knew the way it was windy would be tough. So I tweaked my stride pattern slightly,” he said.

“I knew that it meant I would be a bit down going into the bend, but that I would have an advantage with what I had saved. That’s the advantage of living in the north – it’s usually windy and I have been able to practice so many different race strategies.

 

“Tomorrow it’s all about the medal and then the time, nothing else until after the line.”

The team finished day three with a medal count of ten; Simon Lawson’s 10,000m silver, Sophie Hitchon’s hammer bronze, Eugene Ayanful’s 100m bronze, Chris Clarke’s 400m gold, Louis Persent’s 400m bronze, Lawrence Clarke’s 110m hurdle gold, Louise Webb’s 3000mSC bronze, Simon Horsfield’s 1500m bronze, Kate Avery’s 3000m silver and Louise Small’s 3000m bronze.