Hollie Arnold (club: Blackheath & Bromley, coach: David Turner) completed the women’s F46 javelin Grand Slam as she took gold in a championship record on day one of the WPA European Championships in Berlin, Germany
It was an evening when the British team collected seven medals in total including gold for Harri Jenkins, four silvers and one bronze to start their campaign.
The Welsh athlete – Arnold – already held the Paralympic, world and Commonwealth titles heading into the event and broke the CR three times on her way to collecting her first European title.
Arnold’s opening effort of 38.94m was followed by a fourth-round 39.71m which was then bettered in the final round with a throw of 40.15m, the first time a 40m plus distance has been achieved at the European Championships.
After taking gold, Arnold said: “I am so happy to have all the titles now. It’s incredible to think I am Paralympic champion, world champion, world record holder and now European champion. I wasn’t expecting the Europeans to be in because my event is not normally in, so this is a bonus. This is just a stepping stone ready for next year and Tokyo. I am so excited to get knuckling down for winter training.
After winning the Commonwealth title and extending her world record in April, it has been a long season for Arnold, but paid special tribute to her coach David Turner for his support throughout the season.
“A massive thanks to my coach Dave Turner; he has been an absolute legend, supporting me through my ups and downs and before this competition we were like ‘we’re not ready’ but today just proves that it is still there, and I am really excited for the next upcoming events. He [Dave] is fantastic, we are a perfect match for coach and athlete, he just gets me and supports me. He has really helped me side-by-side and I probably wouldn’t be here winning this gold medal if it wasn’t for him so a massive thanks to him. We have got bigger things to fry and I am really excited for the next few months ahead.”
On his international debut for GB & NI, Harri Jenkins (DSW Para Academy, Anthony Hughes) kick-started the gold medal haul for the British team as he won the T33 100m.
With two athletes lining up in the event, both competitors knew only the winner would take home a medal. With this on the line, the Welshman was fired up and pushed hard to win in a time of 19.44 (-0.2), defeating Denis Schmitz (GER).
With his family cheering him on in the crowd, the South Wales-based athlete was buoyed to his first international medal as he asserted himself on this stage.
Jenkins commented afterwards: “I didn’t get out very well, but this track isn’t the best for times, so I wasn’t really concentrating on that, it was just about getting the win. I was going into the event hoping for gold and I have come away with it in the end, so I am really happy.
“Before coming out I was really disappointed I was competing right at the start of the week, but when I got here I was so happy I was right at the start. This week is going to be a lovely learning curve for me for the future, I am just going to soak in this week and just learn where everything is and how everything goes, and this is what this week will give me. I think this week will be key going forward to hopefully the world championships next year and going forward to Tokyo.”
A first senior medal for Zak Skinner (Tonbridge, Aston Moore) was greeted with delight by the British supporters in the crowd as he earned silver in the T13 long jump.
There was drama in the final moments as it looked like his last leap had pipped the Spanish leader to gold, but he was just 5cm outside the winning mark of 6.77m by Spain’s Ivan Cano Blanco to seal the podium spot.
A 6.72m (+0.5) leap by Skinner was just three centimetres outside his best ever mark, and he admitted afterwards, there was little more he could have done as he brought his best to the table in Berlin.
A leap of 6.27m opened up his series which initially placed him third overall, but it was a 6.64m leap which put him in the lead until the fourth round. His best effort in the final round earned him this maiden international honour, one year after his senior debut at London 2017.
Skinner said afterwards: “I am really pleased with the performance. Compared to last year when I only got one good jump in, to now come away with six jumps and I think every single one was improving pretty much so I am happy. I gave it my all, I think I ended up 6.72m which is only three centimetres off a PB. I am happy, I am really happy obviously to medal, but there is still that little bit of me, that competitive edge, which is saying that was close.
“I thought my final jump was further than what it was, but I wasn’t sure whether it would be enough. Five centimetres isn’t a lot, but you learn from it and, although I have got that little bit of disappointment that I didn’t win, I have taken a massive positive away from my first medal at my second champs. I gave it my all, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t quite good enough, but it is only going to make me a better athlete in the future.”
On his debut, 16-year-old Luke Nuttall (Charnwood, Vince Wilson / Alison Wyeth) secured his first international medal by winning silver in the men’s T46 1500m, clocking 4:22.28 to claim the first British medal of the championships.
Long-time leader of Bulgaria – Hristiyan Stoyanov – was the last person on the mind of the Briton as he became embroiled in a battle for silver with the German Johannes Bessell. The home favourite pushed him throughout the contest, but the Briton kicked away in the final 100m. It was a final lap of 61 seconds which made all the difference for the Briton, producing a perfectly executed race in what was a tactical affair.
His silver was matched by David Devine (Liverpool Harriers, Anthony Clarke) in the men’s T13 1500m. T12 athlete Devine led for almost all of the race but in the final 200m, was pipped to victory by Serghii Berezuik (UKR).
Devine – who has endured injury troubles since 2012 – was back on the podium but was disappointed to miss out on the gold.
He said: “It’s definitely good to be back seeing this is my first major competition since London 2012 so it is really good to be back racing again. I am a little bit disappointed because I think I am in the shape to have won it but when you get beat you just have to take it, I was second best today.
“I thought I would go to the front and just control it and then when they decide to pick it up I am the person in control, instead of trying to react and potentially missing the break because of not being able to see that good. I think being at the front is the best place for me to be.”
The medal rush continued for the British team in the women’s T38 400m final as Ali Smith (Guildford & Goldalming, Paul MacGregor) clocked a personal best 1:04.95 to take a silver medal.
An excellent final bend saw her catapult herself into contention for a gold, but a final kick from Germany’s Lindy Ave saw her hold onto gold.
It was mixed emotions for Smith who reflected on her race: “Silver is good but I was hoping for more, but I have got to be happy with second at my first international and a PB as well. It was really hard work out there because I didn’t expect the German girl, who won, to go so quick but obviously it is a race. I executed all my tactics, but she was just quicker than me.
“I saw her [gold medallist Germany’s Lindy Ave] and I thought ‘come on, I can do this’ but my knee started to give way and when that happens I have to move back because otherwise I might hit the floor. “But that is what happens because I have got weakness down my left side and I just didn’t have the legs to catch her because she ran a really good race.”
Adding to her European medal collection, Laura Sugar (Birchfield Harriers, Joe McDonnell) was a bronze medallist once again in the T44/ 64 100m. Blasting out of the blocks, she got the better of eventual gold and silver medallists Marlene van Gansewinkel (NED) and Irmgard Bensusan (GER) over the opening half of the race but was overhauled by the fast finishing pair to clock a time of 13.63 (+0.8).
However, she was content with her first race of the week, with the 200m coming up on Wednesday.
She added: “I looked at the second-place time and that would have been a big PB for me to have come second. I would have liked to still come third in that race but with a slightly quicker time. But I am happy I have got a medal. I had two world record holders against me, but I knew I wanted to push in the first 60 which I think I did. The last 40m is not quite there yet, but I am getting there.”
Seventh place was the final position for Amir Sarvestani (self-coached) in the T11 long jump final as his competition came to an abrupt end after he sustained an injury on his third attempt. Ironically, it turned out to be his furthest effort of the evening – 5.37m – but an awkward landing brought an encouraging international debut to a close.
Earlier in the Men’s T12 100m heats Zac Shaw (Cleethorpes) was third in the second race, missing out on a place in the final despite his time of 11.89 (-1.0).
British Athletics Medallists: (7)
Hollie Arnold – F46 Javelin
Harri Jenkins – T33 100m
David Devine – T13 1500m
Luke Nuttall – T46 1500m
Zak Skinner – T13 Long Jump
Ali Smith – T38 400m
Laura Sugar – T44 / 64 100m