Thomas Young (coach: Joe McDonnell, club: Charnwood) and Sophie Hahn (Leon Baptiste, Charnwood) were both victorious, while Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Bertrand Valcin, Liverpool Harriers), Adam Gemili (Rana Reider, Blackheath & Bromley), Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie, Blackheath & Bromley) and Lynsey Sharp (David Harmer, Edinburgh) impressed with second place finishes amongst the world’s best at the Müller Grand Prix Birmingham today.
In a highly anticipated women’s long jump containing both Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam (BEL) and home favourite Johnson-Thompson among others, the event lived up to the hype as the pair were separated by just 1cm come the conclusion of the six rounds.
Jumping bests of 6.85m and 6.75m respectively, both Johnson-Thompson and Abigail Irozuru (Sale Harriers) both secured the World Championship qualifying standard for the women’s long jump courtesy of their marks, with all eyes now on the Müller British Athletics Championships next for Irozuru as she bids to make the British team for Doha.
Johnson-Thompson’s 6.85m was her fourth best-ever, and afterwards the Liverpudlian said:
“I haven’t jumped that far in a long time and I’m really happy with that showing. I have had to adjust a bit to being out in Montpellier but that’s life for me now and I don’t need to travel far for the national championships next weekend because they’re here once again.
“It spurs me on going up against her in an individual format like today. She is the European champion in the heptathlon and it’s one of those things, all I can do is my best and I did that today.”
Reflecting on her performance and world qualifying mark, Irozuru said: “This is the second-best performance of my life after jumping 6.80m in 2012. I had a legal 6.70m last week so had some really consistent performances and very thankful for that,”
“It’s not about making the podium next week, it’s about one and two. I’m the number one Brit behind Kat who’s not competing over long jump next weekend. I just really need to step up my game from here and giving me confidence.”
Lorraine Ugen (Shawn Jackson, Thames Valley) saved her best jump to last, but her distance of 6.61m was only good enough for seventh as Johnson-Thompson’s heptathlon rival Nafissatou Thiam furthered her Belgian national record en-route to victory (6.86m).
In another of the British performances of the day, Adam Gemili (Rana Reider, Blackheath & Bromley) finished a close second behind Yohan Blake of Jamaica with only eight-thousandths of a second separating the pair on the line come the men’s 100m final.
The fastest qualifier from the heats with 10.08, Gemili reflected on his two outings, saying:
“It wasn’t my best start but I’m just so happy to be healthy and back up running. It’s good to be in the mix with some of the best sprinters in the world. To win my heat and second in the Diamond League race, it bodes well for next week and hopefully I can make the team for Doha.”
Ahead of next week’s world trials, he added: “The last few years especially there’s been a massive surge in sprinters coming through and pushing through and happy to be a part of that. I feel like I’m fit enough to make the team for both distances. As long as I’m in the final, I’ve got a chance.”
Alongside Gemili, fellow Britons Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Oliver Bromby ran 10.37 and 10.44 respectively in their heats on the day.
Tasked with bringing down the curtain on proceedings, the women’s 200m went to the wire, with home-favourite Asher-Smith narrowly edged out by the ever-strong Shaunae Miller-Uibo.
Leading coming off the bend after an electric start, Asher-Smith was roared on by the home crowd only for Miller-Uibo to reel her in over the final 20 metres, with the Briton clocking 22.36 (-0.4) to Miller-Uibo’s 22.24.
Clearly buoyed by another strong showing ahead of the world championships, Asher-Smith said:
“I am really happy to have finished second in that race although having said that, I am a competitor so obviously I want to win every race. To maintain my form and finish strongly against arguably the best 400m runner in the world is good so all in all, I am happy with that race.
“When I am on the start line I always try to pick off the girls outside me to hunt down but I remember looking today and thinking if I can get any of those women today it would be a blessing. Normally I think I want to be ahead of this one by 60m, this one by 80m but today I looked and thought it is what it is. And that doesn’t happen too often which is a testament to the meet organisers for getting that field together for today.”
Earlier in the session, para-athletics stars Young and Hahn set the tone for a fast and furious afternoon of athletics at the Alexander Stadium with dominant victories in the men’s and women’s T35-T38 100m races, with Young stopping the clock at 11.37 in his race, nearly half a second ahead of Rhys Jones (T37, Kevin Williams, DSW Para Academy) in 11.84.
Ross Paterson was the first of five British athletes to lower their personal best in Birmingham – lowering his own PB by 0.29 seconds to 12.02 to claim third.
Commenting on his win, Young said: “It felt so good, I got a quick start and I’ve been working on starts with my coach Joe McDonnell and I knew if I could get a quick start the result would be good. Going into the World Championships in Dubai I’m ranked third so hopefully I can win a medal out there.”
It was an equally dominant performance from Paralympic, world, Commonwealth and European champion Sophie Hahn in the women’s equivalent. The world record holder was in control from the blocks to the line, clocking 12.67.
Hahn said: “I’m happy with the time because I raced on Wednesday. I just want to keep on training hard. It was a little bit windy, but I’m happy with the performance.
Olivia Breen (T38, Aston Moore, City of Portsmouth) was Hahn’s closest challenger (13.28), while Kadeena Cox (T38, Matt Cullen, Sale Harriers Manchester) claimed third in a season’s best of 13.52.
Another second-place finish for a British athlete on the day came in the women’s 800m, as the in-form Sharp held off the challenge from behind and closed the gap on US national record holder and eventual victor Ajee Wilson. Sharp stopped the clock in 2:01.09, 0.3 seconds behind Wilson, with the performance once again boding well ahead of next week’s British championships on the very same track.
After the race, Sharp said: “The rain and wind picked up just before we ran, and we had to just adjust and execute the correct race for the conditions and thought that went well.
“It’s been a pretty boring few weeks. I love racing and I’d race every weekend if I could. It’s good to just get out again and especially ahead of next week to come here and practise.
“Last couple of years, I’ve not been as close to Wilson and the other girls and I felt good coming off the last bend and being able to pick people off rather than being picked off.”
Joining her Scottish compatriot in showing well, both Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall, Dundee Hawkhill) and Jemma Reekie (Andy Young, Kilbarchan) both set lifetime bests to finish in the top-six in the Millicent Fawcett Mile.
In a race which saw the 27-year-old meeting record fall, McColgan produced a quick finish down the home straight to finish third in a PB of 4:24.71. Reekie was close behind McColgan for most of the race and finished three places behind her compatriot in 4:27.00.
In the men’s 110m hurdles, European U23 bronze medallist Cameron Fillery (Michael Baker, Woodford Green & Essex) continued his impressive 2019, lowering his personal best for the fifth time this year.
Fillery – who clocked 13.54 – finished two places ahead of the only other Brit in the field, David King (James Hillier, City of Plymouth), who ran 13.69, with both times unfortunately not quick enough to see them through to the final.
Competing in his first race since September 2018, European champion and local favourite Matthew Hudson-Smith (Birchfield Harriers) made a solid return to competition, finishing third in the men’s 400m in 45.55.
Jacob Paul (Marina Armstrong, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) was the only representative from Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the men’s 400 hurdles. Paul stopped the clock in 50.71 in the inside lane to finish seventh.
In the field, Holly Bradshaw (Scott Simpson, Blackburn) had to settle for sixth after three failed attempts at 4.65m. In blustery conditions on the back straight, the European bronze medallist cleared 4.55m with her second effort after passing the opening height of 4.40m at the first attempt.
Chris Baker (Graham Ravenscroft, Sale Harriers Manchester) was the only British high jumper to post a height with Tom Gale (Denis Doyle, Team Bath) not recording a mark. Baker cleared 2.19m with his first effort to finish sixth, before failing with all three attempts at 2.23m.
Another British lifetime best quickly followed with Rachel Miller (Linford Christie, Thames Valley) leading home the British contingent in the women’s 100m in 11.42 for sixth place. Kimberly Baptiste (Crawley) and Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan, Enfield & Haringey) followed in 11.71 and 11.77, respectively.
Chris O’Hare (Terrence Mahon, Edinburgh AC) was the fastest British athlete over 1500m, finishing 10th in 3:41.98; the first of four home athletes to cross the line in quick succession. European U23 silver medallist Piers Copeland (Bob Smith, Wimborne) was next to cross the line, then his compatriot Jake Heyward (James Thie, Cardiff), before Zak Seddon (Bracknell AC) with a season’s best of 3:44:44.
On the track, Elizabeth Bird (George Harrison, Shaftesbury Barnet) was the fastest Briton in the women’s 3000m Steeplechase, finishing 13th in 9:50.97. Rosie Clarke (David Harmer, Epsom & Ewell) finished 15th with Aimee Pratt (Vicente Modahl, Sale Harriers Manchester) just behind in 16th.
Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg’ Birchfield) finished strongly in the men’s 800m, passing compatriot Jamie Webb (Adrian Webb, Liverpool Harriers) in the closing stages to finish third in 1:46.27.
Webb was side-by-side with Kenya’s Alfred Kipketer heading into the final 100m, but Giles’ late surge along with a very quick finish from winner Mark English of Ireland, saw Webb finish just behind Giles, but ahead of Guy Learmonth (Henry Gray, Lasswade) in fifth.
Spencer Thomas (Jon Bigg, Brighton Phoenix) was two places behind Learmonth in seventh, with Thomas Staines (Basingstoke & Mid Hants) one place further behind. Max Burgin (Brian Burgin, Halifax) finished 10th.
Action on home soil continues next weekend when Britain’s best return to Birmingham to battle for British silverware and spots on the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team at the Muller British Athletics Championships (24-25 August).
- Full results available via https://birmingham.diamondleague.com/home/