It was a case of deja-vu as evening six of the European Championships in Berlin saw Dina Asher-Smith (coach: John Blackie; club: Blackheath & Bromley) claim 200m gold in a stunning British record time to complete a historic sprint double on a night which also saw Shara Proctor (Rana Reider; Birchfield Harriers) and both 4x400m relay teams win medals.
Fresh from smashing the British record and setting a world lead en route to 100m gold earlier in the week, Asher-Smith dominated the final of the 200m from gun to tape to leave the field in her wake and post a time that stands at both the new British record and again the fastest time in the world this year
With plenty of expectation on her shoulders, the 22-year-old remained unfazed to blast out of the blocks and pass those directly outside of her almost immediately,
Putting together a magnificent bend sequence, Asher-Smith came into the home straight with a sizeable lead and gold in her sights. With world champion Dafne Schippers (NED) looking to close, a final push for the line saw gold clinched in a time of 21.89, a huge revision of her own British record which previously stood at 22.07, as well as the quickest time in the world this year.
“The race was over in a blur; I remember crossing the line and it was like a mixture of happiness and relief that I got it, but yeah, 21.8, honestly I haven’t taken it in yet. 10.8 and 21.8 is more than I could have asked for from this,” said an ecstatic Asher-Smith post-race, with the feat all the more spectacular as victory saw her become the first British female in history to retain a European title.
“This year I told myself that I at least wanted to run a 10.8 – I had a joke with my physio that if I run 10.8 I can buy myself a little cute necklace that I’ve been eyeing up. But I didn’t have a time in my head coming into the 200m because I’d done the 100m already and didn’t know how tired I’d be.”
Behind the medal placings, and both racing in their first major finals in British vests, Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan; Enfield & Haringey) and Beth Dobbin (Leon Baptiste; Edinburgh) placed in sixth and seventh respectively, Williams running 22.88 to Dobbin’s 22.93.
Claiming a superb bronze, a thoroughly entertaining and topsy-turvy women’s long jump final saw Proctor add a European medal to previous World and Commonwealth successes, with the final podium placings going right to the wire.
Opening up with a strong 6.58m (-1.0) to take some of the early initiative and be confident of receiving three further attempts past round three, Proctor improved to 6.69m (-0.3) in round four to move into silver, with compatriot Jazmin Sawyers (Lance Brauman; City of Stoke) also going well as 6.66m in round five bumped her up into bronze just three centimetres behind her teammate.
Come round six it was all change as a leap of 6.67m (0.5) from Maryna Bekh (UKR) trumped both the Brits and saw her move into silver. Amazingly Sawyers then matched the feat, with a stronger second mark in the series putting her on course for a second consecutive European medal.
Bekh then went one better than both Brits to land a 6.73m (-0.1) jump. With one jump remaining, Proctor mustered everything in an attempt to better her mark and clinch gold – a medal won with a distance of 6.75m by home-favourite Malaika Mihambo – with a slight improvement of 6.70m seeing her settle for bronze as Sawyers took fourth.
Reflecting on a second international medal of the year, Proctor said: “That definitely made it worth it for me – the fact that I had to battle a bunch of other talented women; the wind, the atmosphere – they were cheering for the Germans of course so I had to use that energy to propel me.
“I came away with a medal, I’m not happy with a bronze. I wanted a gold, but you know what? It’s better to have that than to not – so I am satisfied; we got the job done.”
The current world leader, Lorraine Ugen (Shawn Jackson; Thames Valley) suffered disappointment as an off day saw her fail to make the top eight after three jumps to leave her exiting the competition.
Bouncing back from a foul in the opening round, Ugen put a mark of 6.45m (-1.1), only for marks from fellow competitors to know her down into ninth place and needing an improvement with her third and final jump in order to receive another three attempts, a feat she couldn’t manage as she no fouled once again on the board.
Bringing the Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally to 12 medals overall with one event more following afterwards this evening, the men’s 4x400m delivered once again on the continent to bring home silver.
Kicking off for the British team from lane three, the Rabah Yousif (Carol Williams; Newham & Essex Beagles) saw the team get off to the start they would have wanted, with Dwayne Cowan (Cowan; Hercules Wimbledon) dropping a rapid opening 200m on his leg before being pulled back in slightly by France, Poland and Italy, with ground to be made up on the final two legs.
When the baton reached the newly crowned European 400m champion Matt Hudson-Smith (Brauman; Birchfield Harriers), the 22-year-old showed exactly why he is the best on show in Berlin as he passed four of his competitors by on the back straight to propel Britain into bronze with Martyn Rooney (Graham Hedman; Croydon) waiting to take the baton on anchor.
Using all of his experience and not expending too much energy early on, Rooney sat on the heels of the Belgian and Spaniard in front before picking off the latter over the final 50m to move into silver and win Britain’s 12th consecutive medal in the event at the European Championships in a time of 3:00.36.
Rooney said: “It was a scrappy race – I think a lot of teams went out to get in our way, that was their tactic and they made it hard for Dwayne – he held his head. I don’t know how they did it – I’ve ran beside Dwayne before in a relay for changeovers and it’s the scariest thing in my life!
“Matt was in a tough, tough space; he needed to have space to run and I think everyone just tried to get in front of us for the first three legs! Kevin’s [Borlee, BEL] a fantastic relay runner, myself and him are quite even on splits now and wins and stuff so I thought it was going to be tough.”
Rounding off the evening’s action, the British female quartet of Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna; Thames Valley, Anyika Onuora (Reider, Liverpool Harriers), Amy Allcock (Glyn Hawkes; Aldershot, Farnham & District) and Eilidh Doyle (Brian Doyle, Pitreavie) went about maintaining the women’s fine record in the event too, with Clark setting them on their way with a solid opening leg.
Passing to Onuora with Britain in the top three, the Liverpool Harrier ran a considered leg to enter the home straight on the heels of the medal positions, with Allcock then taking charge with the task of keeping the Belgian team who were running terrifically in touching distance.
Once round and the hand-over had been completed to the vastly experience Doyle, the multi-global medallist bided her team before moving past Belgium’s anchor and into bronze, with a kick down the home straight clinching a podium spot for the new-look quartet in 3:27.40.
Of her experience of the race and her task at hand, anchor leg Eilidh Doyle: “I was just trying to hang on. This is the best way to come back after I had the disappointment of my individual. To get the opportunity to go out and redeem yourself on the track and I just knew we were capable of getting a medal.
“The other girls are great in that situation – they’ll pick you up and they’ll support you to get out there and have another opportunity. I knew it would be tough, there were four or five teams there who could potentially win. To win a medal is a nice end to the champs for me.”
A world medallist in the 4x400m herself last summer, and on the back from two consecutive personal bests earlier this week which saw her enter the final of the women’s 400m as the fastest qualifier, Laviai Nielsen (Christine Bowmaker; Enfield & Haringey) went in search of a maiden senior medal on the international stage.
The quickest to react to the gun in the field, running from lane five Nielsen pushed out well to quickly make up the stagger on Iga Baumgart-Witan (POL) outside of her in six before running a tight penultimate bend to put herself in contention for the podium.
With Greece’s Maria Belibasaki pushing on well out in front coming off the final bend and looking a sure bet for gold only for a storming finish from Justyna Święty-Ersetic (POL) to deny her, Nielsen tried with all her might to fight the lactic rushing into her system and clinch bronze. Ultimately it was a medal which went the way of Lisanne de Witte (NED) as she pipped Nielsen 50.77 to 51.21, with Nielsen’s time being an equal personal best to match the time posted in her semi-final earlier this week.
Rightly proud of an impressive championship, the 22-year-old said afterwards: “It’s been such an incredible year – I’ve switched coaches this year to Christine, and it’s been such an incredible journey learning about the event – It’s felt like I’ve had to start from scratch.
“I came into these champs ranked 16th, I had to run the heats which was fine and yet I’ve not come last I’ve come fourth – to me that is such an achievement and something I can build upon going into next year. I’ve run PB after PB – I can’t ask for more.”
The final of the men’s 5000m saw British trio of Marc Scott (Jerry Schumacher; Richmond & Zetland), Chris Thompson (Alan Storey; Aldershot Farnham & District) and Ben Connor (Steve Vernon; Derby) put themselves to test.
Fresh from a block of altitude training in St Moritz, Scott’s gutsy crack at the podium fell narrowly short as a time of 13:23.14 saw him place in fifth. Scott moved through from tenth at the 3500m mark to pick off competitors and claim a great finishing placing of fifth.
Having done much of the early running, Thompson saw a number of the field come by him as he took ninth in 13:25.11, while the experience of competing at a major championships clearly agreed with his compatriot Connor as he ran a mature race to clock a personal best time of 13:25.31 for 11th.
In field action, and throwing in her second consecutive European final following safe progression from her qualifying pool earlier in the week, Jade Lally’s (Zane Duquemin; Shaftesbury Barnet) trio of throws left her marginally down on the top eight of the field and out of the competition at the half-way stage. Opening with 55.73m, Lally’s best came in round two and 57.33m, with the mark just shy of 70cm down of leaving her in the top eight.
The final day of action tomorrow sees British action in the women’s marathon at 09:05am before the closing session of action at the stadium tomorrow evening. The full timetable for the championships, including results, can be found here.
Medal count: 13
Gold, 4: Zharnel Hughes (men’s 100m), Dina Asher-Smith (women’s 100m & women’s 200m), Matt Hudson-Smith (men’s 400m)
Silver, 4: Reece Prescod (men’s 100m), Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (men’s 200m), Katarina Johnson-Thompson (women’s heptathlon), 4x400m Relay (men)
Bronze, 5: Holly Bradshaw (women’s pole vault), Meghan Beesley (women’s 400m hurdles), Jake Wightman (men’s 1500m), Shara Proctor (women’s long jump), 4x400m Relay (women)
Top eight finishes:
4th – CJ Ujah (men’s 100m), Adelle Tracey (women’s 800m), Laviai Nielsen (women’s 400m), Jazmin Sawyers (women’s long jump)
5th – Andy Vernon (men’s 10,000m), Tim Duckworth (men’s decathlon), Adam Gemili (men’s 200m), Zak Seddon (men’s 3000m steeplechase), Charlie Da’Vall Grice (men’s 1500m), Marc Scott (men’s 5000m)
6th – Imani Lansiquot (women’s 100m), Dan Bramble (men’s long jump), Alice Wright (women’s 10,000m), Lynsey Sharp (women’s 800m), Andrew Pozzi (men’s 110m hurdles), Bianca Williams (women’s 200m)
7th – Sophie McKinna (women’s shot put), Morgan Lake (women’s high jump), Beth Dobbin (women’s 200m)
8th – Eilidh Doyle (women’s 400m hurdles), Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (women’s 800m)