The British Athletics team opened their IAAF World Championship campaign tonight at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, with Zharnel Hughes (club: Shaftesbury Barnet; coach: Glen Mills) and Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn; Scott Simpson) impressive in their respective qualifying rounds.
All three men’s 100m representatives progressed to the semi-final stage following qualifying heats. Ojie Edoburun (Shaftesbury Barnet; Steve Fudge) finished fifth in 10.23 in the opening race of the men’s 100m heats. Whilst he had a frustrating wait for confirmation, he later qualified for Saturday’s semi finals with fastest non-automatic qualifying spot.
Not long after, Adam Gemili (Blackheath & Bromley; Rana Reider) was third in a high-quality heat with 10.19 with Hughes following up in the third heat to win convincingly in 10.08.
Hughes said of his race: “I am happy I got through and that’s the main aim. That’s what I came here to do to get through the rounds and onto the semi-finals and the final. I know the start wasn’t amazing but I’ll work on it!”
Edoburun reflected: “It was tough – it was a tough draw, the sort of draw you might see on the circuit in the Diamond League. I knew it was going to be tough, I just tried to run the best race I could, only it wasn’t enough for automatic qualification.”
Another impressive qualifying performance came by way of the pole vault with a confident start to Bradshaw’s World Championship campaign. Bradshaw chose to open the competition at the automatic qualifying height of 4.60m and took just one effort to make her way to Sunday’s final.
She said: “That was always plan A – we decided to open at the auto qualification height. I’ve done it a couple of times in training and I felt really good for it, so I went for it and it went really well.
“I usually open at a 4.50m/4.55m in a qualification anyway so I had to wait maybe an extra 10-15 minutes. It’s always pretty good practice for me as at the British champs I have to wait quite a while. I knew I was going to have to wait 90 mins to two hours – that doesn’t really bother me, I have quite a good strategy for that. I’m ready for the final now!”
Back on the track, two out of three of GB & NI women’s 800m representatives progressed to the semi-final stage taking place on Saturday evening. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow; Jon Bigg) was the first of the GB & NI team to compete on day one and made certain of automatic qualification through a determined home straight run to finish second in 2:02.09.
She said: “I’m thrilled to make it through, obviously I want to make it to the final so I had to get through this bit. I was panicking but I had to keep calm even though I was boxed in and getting squashed.
“Even though I have done a few champs, it is still nerve wracking in the first round. It is always nice to just get going and get a feel for it and start the run for hopefully getting into the final. I am glad I am on my way and made it through.”
Alexandra Bell (Pudsey & Bramley; Andrew Henderson) lined up in the fifth of six 800m heats and a slower run race resulted in a blanket finish. Bell however maintained her cool, surging enough to take the final automatic qualification spot in 2:03.34, commenting:
“Oh my goodness I relied on my speed – I just thought oh my goodness just get your head down and do what you can in those last 50m to try make up for it!”
However Lynsey Sharp (Edinburgh; David Harmer) was unable to follow her teammates through in a tough sprint to the line in a slower heat and her fourth place in 2:03.57 was not enough to see her proceed.
In the men’s 400m Hurdles Chris McAlister (Thames Valley; Marina Armstrong) also enjoyed progression through to the next round with his fourth place run in the evening’s final; qualifying heat.
McAlister made sure of his spot in Saturday’s semi finals by racing hard through the line when it looked like he might have to settle for fifth. Yet his lunge paid dividends and his fourth place was confirmed soon after in 49.73.
He said: “I knew from my ranking coming in that I was going to be there or thereabouts for a spot and I beat one of the top guys into fifth, which was really nice and I got the big Q for tomorrow, it is a really awesome feeling. I’ll learn loads from this. To be able to get through and go into the semi, running against guys who are going to be battling it for a world record on Monday. That will be awesome.”
In the women’s 3000m steeplechase there was disappointment for the British trio as none of the competing athletes progressed to the final, however there were two lifetime bests to celebrate for both Elizabeth Bird and Aimee Pratt.
Bird (Shaftesbury Barnet; George Harrison) enjoyed a sixth-place finish in a PB of 9:30.13, whilst Pratt (Sale Harriers Manchester; Vicente Modahl) was eighth in a PB of 9:38.91.
Bird said: “I’m happy with that – I felt a lot better than I was expecting. My aim was to really stay strong in that middle kilometre, because that’s where I have been struggling a little bit recently to hang on and I did.
“The group kind of got away from us which was a bit disappointing but I think I managed to hold on, just enough to get a couple of girls at the end. And the time is obviously a big bonus – I could see it!”
Pratt said: “It was really fun, I was smiling on the start line it was amazing to experience it! It wasn’t anything to be scared of they’re just people – I was lining up against the world champion, but it was nothing to be intimidated by, it was just inspirational.
“You know all it is, is hard work there is nothing special about anyone. This was a big aim this year and I managed to run a decent race and I think hold my form quite well. A PB is all you can ask for really – I’m quite happy with it.”
Unfortunately, Rosie Clarke (Epsom & Ewell; David Harmer) finished 12th in 9:49.18, whilst in the high jump Morgan Lake (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow; Eldon Lake) did not progress from tonight’s qualifying session with a best height of 1.85m.
In the men’s 5000m heats it had initially appeared that GB & NI missed out on a place in the final for all three athletes competing, with Andrew Butchart (Central; self coached) coming closest missing out on a spot in the final by less than half a second across the two heats. Butchart finished seventh in 13:26.46 ahead of team mate Marc Scott (Richmond & Zetland; Jerry Schumacher) who was 15th in 13:47.12 also in the first heat.
Yet a late evening disqualification resulted in Butchart being promoted the one vital position that means he will now take part in Monday’s final. Butchart said: “I knew it was going to be hard to get top five – it’s such a strong field right now. It’s what I kind of expected, I thought I’d be fourth or fifth or just off it.
“I’m disappointed not to make top five but that’s just the way it happens. It was a hard race and in these conditions strength wins – the stronger you are, the better.”
Scott said: “I got a stress injury in May and there is not much you can do about that except take time off and cross train as much as you can.
“It wasn’t necessarily a quick race, on a good day I will be up the front, it just didn’t happen today. You can’t fake what shape you’re in when it comes to a championship race.”
With the benefit of a spot in the second heat Ben Connor (Derby; Steve Vernon) knew the pace had to be quicker and chose to push it on himself mid race, however he finished 12th in 13:36.92, but took confidence from his front running experience:
He said: “The pace was decent early on but I knew my best chance of getting through was as a fastest loser, but everyone else can finish a lot quicker than me so I thought ‘why not let’s just give it a go!’
“I’m proud I gave it a go and obviously I’m disappointed with the outcome out there but I couldn’t have given it anymore. Its’ cooler than outside in the stadium but it is still warm – a ‘warm English day’ but as you can see I’m still sweating!”
Ben Williams (Sale Harriers Manchester; Aston Moore) was another to agonisingly miss out on a final spot to further continue what has been a great season for the triple jumper.
Victorious at the European Team Championships and British champion, setting successive personal bests, Williams has been in great form but his best effort of 16.77m in qualifying was just short of a place in the men’s triple jump final.
He said: “It just didn’t click today. I felt alright going into it. There are no real excuses, I just wasn’t executing right. Maybe there was something wrong with my preparation going in, but I felt great at the holding camp and I felt great in warm up.
“Sometimes things don’t click. It was quite a long competition in the heat, even though the stadium is air conditioned it is still quite hot, and maybe I didn’t account for that correctly but no excuses, I’ll do better next time, it’s that simple.”
Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot Farnham & District; Nic Bideau) was the first British athlete in finals action in Doha as she contested the women’s marathon later in the evening.
Purdue, the third fastest British female marathon runner of all time, started well but unfortunately chose to withdraw just after the start of the third loop with stomach cramps.