Co-captains Andrew Pozzi (coach: Benke Blomkvist) and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (Jon Bigg) delivered inspiring performances to add to the British team’s medal haul on the final day of action at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
Great Britain and Northern Ireland ended the championships with seven medals overall, with Pozzi’s gold in the 60m hurdles coming after Oskan-Clarke’s bronze in the 800m earlier and a late addition with bronze in the women’s 4x400m relay.
Pozzi won his first global title in exceptional style, much to the delight of the home crowd. The Stratford-upon-Avon athlete’s first experience of watching athletics was in Arena Birmingham at British Championships many years ago, so it was a fitting finale for the local boy to secure gold on home turf.
Despite crashing into the second hurdle – which appeared to lose him ground on Jarrett Eaton – he fought back superbly with a dip reminiscent of British legend Colin Jackson, to win by just 0.01 seconds ahead of the American.
Pozzi, twice a fourth-place finisher at the World Indoor Championships, spoke afterwards:
“My heart stopped there. I knew at the fourth hurdle I was behind. I can’t describe how much I wanted it; I threw everything at the line hoping to get there and I just about got there.
“This championship has been incredible. To be voted co-captain is the biggest honour of my life. Every single member of this team has just been perfect and I just delighted I could win gold for them.
“Every interview I’ve done this year I have said I was in good shape but I came in ranked 10th/11th in the world. But in training I have been running 7.4s so I just had to remain confident that it would happen in competition. I knew it was coming but I knew it would be so competitive.”
He has earlier flown through the heats as the fastest qualifier for the final, a sizzling 7.46 clocking showing his class at that stage.
He added: “This is absolutely the springboard into the outdoors. I have about a week and then I’m heading out to the Gold Coast for the Commonwealths but there is no way I would miss coming to Birmingham for these world championships; it has been an absolute delight.”
Earlier in the first semi-final, David King (James Hillier) was just 0.01 seconds outside the time he recorded in the heats which left him in seventh place which was not enough to progress any further in the competition.
Earlier Oskan-Clarke proved her fantastic ability on the world stage to win her first global medal with bronze in the 800m in an indoor personal best of 1:59.81.
The Windsor, Slough Eton & Hounslow athlete ran a very tidy race, much like her heat on Saturday morning. Whilst others may have been tempted to surge with the changing paces of the leader and eventual champion Francine Niyonsaba, but the Briton waited which was the smart tactic.
As Ethiopian Habitam Alemu – the long-time member of the leading three – dropped off the pace on the final lap and could not handle the fast finishing, Oskan-Clarke powered past, coming off the bend to secure her first medal at world level.
She said post-race: “I’m happy to have got a medal; I really had to dig deep for that one.
“It was a scrappy start to the race – the first 100m was fast but then it slowed out which was the problem. I was expecting them to go off faster but it became a bit of a 200m race. You just have to be careful not to surge too much and tire yourself out. But the other girls did that so I did get a bit detached at one stage.”
On the pride at the captaincy, she added: “Obviously I wanted to lead by example and hopefully inspire people but it didn’t create more pressure.”
There were mixed emotions in the women’s event as the British quartet were eventually awarded the bronze medal after initially crossing the finish line in fourth place.
The quartet of Meghan Beesley (Michael Baker), Hannah Williams (Colin Gaynor), Amy Allcock (Glyn Hawkes) and Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna) were given a brief lift into bronze medal position after the Jamaican team were also disqualified. However, a later judgement ruled a British team’s infringement, meaning a DQ. But then, a couple of hours after the event, the GB&NI quartet were reinstated whilst Jamaica lost their appeal.
Beesley said afterwards:
I think I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all. It’s just so nice to be part of the team again. I’ve had a few years being injured but it’s great to be with these girls. Especially since none of us have really run with each other before
It’s just really exciting. This is my first final where we’ve won a medal. I was in the team a few years ago when we broke the British record but I was reserve but this is just great to be in the final and be on the podium
A 75-second first lap set the tone for the men’s 1500m final, leading to a plethora of surges and the inevitable burn up over the last few laps.
Jake Wightman (Geoff Wightman) surged a few times to maintain the gap with the leading Ethiopians but this ultimately cost him a shot at a medal. Coming into the final bend in fifth position, Wightman could not push on once more, ultimately getting overhauled into sixth position with a time of 3:58.91.
A disappointed Wightman commented: “I’m a big gutted I was hoping to be in contention. It was always going to be anybody’s race but I didn’t get it right today. I left myself too much to do and surged at the wrong point so it’s not a very pleasing day for me
“I’m going to get back into training and get some base work then I head out next week and start the build up to Commonwealths.”
After facing an MRI scan after yesterday’s heat, Chris O’Hare (Terrance Mahon) was relieved to be able to line up in the final but was ultimately frustrated that he could not deliver the performance he wished for, finishing eighth in 4:00.65.
“It’s been a tough last 24 hours. Yesterday lying under the MRI thinking ‘I hope it’s clear so I can run but what am I going to do if I can run?,” he said.
“Just the form wasn’t there. We’d been working really hard at getting the knees out front and driving, and 200m to go the legs were back and I was kicking my own butt and that’s just not powerful. You can’t come into a champs like this not fully prepared and I wasn’t.”
In a race that saw the indoor world record fall to Poland, the British 4x400m men’s quartet found the going tough but the relatively new line-up showed their credentials for the future.
Owen Smith (Matt Elias) began proceedings but a rapid first leg from the Americans strung out the field with Grant Plenderleith (David Lothian), Jamal Rhoden Stevens (Donovan Reid) and Lee Thompson (John Henson) trying their best to get the team back into contention but eventually crossed the line in sixth position in 3:05.08.
Performance Director Neil Black commented on the IAAF World Indoor Championships:
“It has been a fantastic championship for the British team and I am delighted to see the team bring home seven medals and finish second in the placings table.
“I am particularly pleased with athletes converting their ability into medals on the world stage. Andrew Pozzi, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke are just some of those athletes have stepped up when it mattered and delivered outstanding performances. They have been inspirational to the rest of the team and that positive energy has been evident amongst the squad over these last few days which has been pleasing.
“There are some athletes who won’t be happy with their performances but they will have to learn from this experience and produce at championships later this season.”
British Athletics Medal Tally (7):
Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Pentathlon)
Andrew Pozzi (60m hurdles)
Laura Muir (1500m)
Eilidh Doyle (400m)
Laura Muir (3000m)
Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (800m)
Women’s 4x400m Relay Team