Teenager Kelly Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter; club; Leigh) claimed her maiden European senior title as the British team added seven medals to their tally to equal their best haul at the European Indoor Athletics Championships winning two gold, four silver and six bronze medals overall.
The teenager, who only turned 19 on Wednesday, timed her move around the outside perfectly to take the lead with 250m to go and held her nerve as she ramped up the pace for the final lap.
Despite a late surge from Joanna Józwik (POL), Hodgkinson kicked once again to power across the line in 2:03.88 for her maiden senior title and become the youngest British champion at the event since Marilyn Neufville in 1970.
After the race, Hodgkinson exclaimed: “I’m so happy. You never quite understand the shock when it happens. You picture it in your head so many times, but when the reality comes through, it’s just a different feeling.
“I didn’t really think about the pressure. I am only 19 and I’m still learning and there’s still things that I’m going to learn. I just wanted to keep my same relaxed state like I did in the heats and the semi-final. Me and Trevor [Painter] talked about that and we said not to change anything for the final. I just didn’t want to make any mistakes and I really believed in myself.
“They trust my instincts. They are really letting me grow into my athlete and Jenny’s [Meadows] experience is there to tap into if I need it. They said to me ‘just keep the same relaxed state and you’ll know how you feel and what to do’ and that’s what I did.”
Teammate Ellie Baker (Jon Bigg; Shaftesbury Barnet) narrowly missed out on bronze, crossing the line fourth in 2:04.40 after a last 50m burn up with Józwik and Angelika Cichocka, with Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn; Enfield & Haringey), also making her senior British debut, sixth in 2:07.26.
There was double relay delight for the women’s and men’s 4x400m relay teams as the women’s contingent secured silver in an impressive 3:28.20, with the men’s securing bronze in 3:06.70,
Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna; Thames Valley) put the British team into second spot at the end of the first leg and fresh from an individual 400m bronze, Jodie Williams (Ryan Freckleton; Herts Phoenix) moved the British team into the lead at the halfway stage with a strong second leg.
Ama Pipi (Linford Christie; Enfield & Haringey) produced a solid third leg, moving from third to first on the final bend before handing to Jessie Knight (Marina Armstrong; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow), who challenged Femke Bol (NED) to the line, ensuring silver for the British team in 3:28.20.
Assessing their performance, Knight said: “I’ve just had so much fun. It was so nice, athletics is usually an individual sport and this is my first time being part of a GB relay and I’ve loved it. I’m a bit gutted that I didn’t hold onto first, but I had Femke [Bol] behind me, so I had to be sensible when I had her on my shoulder.
“I could have gone and run a 300 metre PB, but then my legs could have gone and I could have lost us a medal together, so I think I made the sensible choice. I’m really happy with my split, all of the girls did amazing and I had so much fun, so there’s lots to take away for these championships.”
Williams, who added a 4x400m silver to her individual bronze, added: “It was so good. All of us are super inexperienced in this indoor 4×400 metre relay. None of us really knew what to expect, but we knew it was going to be a bit of a jostle. We had fun, it was great and I enjoyed every second of it.
“I just wanted to make sure that I got us in front and that I didn’t die too much at the end. It’s hard to judge the pace on a 4×400 metre relay because you don’t have that break and that’s usually my thing, so it was hard to pace. I didn’t want to go crazy on the first lap and die harshly in the last lap, so I tried to pace it and give the girls the baton in first.”
Earlier, the men’s quartet of Joe Brier (Matt Elias; Swansea), Owen Smith (Matt Elias; Cardiff), James Williams (self-coached; Liverpool) and Lee Thompson (John Henson; Sheffield & Dearne) secured bronze in 3:06.70, for their first medal in the event since 2013
A solid start from Brier was backed up by an excellent second leg from Smith and a slick changeover between himself and Williams put the British quartet well in the medal mix at the halfway stage in proceedings.
Williams produced an excellent third leg to keep the British team in bronze medal position with one lap remaining and Thompson dug deep on the anchor leg to hold off a very late challenge from the Belgian team to secure a first medal in the event since 2013.
After the race, Thompson said: “It was unbelievable. I’ve always dreamed of coming to these championships and walking away with a medal and to do it with these boys in our first ever running together is great. We’ve bonded like a family this week and it all worked out in the end.
“The practice that we’ve done, made it so slick and I knew these boys would do everything in their will to get in a medal position. We were just like a little family out there and I’m over the moon. I can’t put it into words how I feel right now and it’s great to see the girls get a silver medal as well.
“It’s insane, it’s the start of a lot of things to come. Joe ran an amazing leg first time around, Owen did unbelievably to put us in a great position. James in his first international event ran like a veteran and I had the easier job of just bringing in home, so I owe it to these guys tonight.”
Andrew Pozzi (Santiago Antunez; Stratford-upon-Avon) became the first British man to claim a medal at the championships as he claimed silver in the 60m hurdles final, equalling his personal best in 7.43s as he cut the tape.
It was a near-flawless run from Pozzi, who got out strongly and was level with France’s Wilhem Belocian at the halfway point. The Briton clipped the fourth hurdle before a lunge for the line saw him claim silver, just 0.01s away from taking the gold.
Speaking after the race, Pozzi said: “It’s an equal PB. I was actually doing really well at the start, I just lost a couple of steps in the middle. It’s a championships and the better man won today, so it is what it is. I’m a bit disappointed, but I gave it everything I could.
“I’m not worried. It’s straight onto the outdoors now. I just couldn’t get prepared at the right time today, but I did a good job. I’m definitely in the best shape of my life. The timing wasn’t perfect, but I’ve ran two incredibly fast times and I managed to equal my PB, so it’s just accepting that the result is the result.
“For me, during the last outdoors I didn’t actually start that well. It was the second half of the race that took me to an equal PB. Now that I’m back to full strength at the start here, it’s only going to get better. I’m happy with where I’m at. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get the job done today, but it’s straight onto the outdoors and we keep moving because it’s the Olympic Games.
“I really enjoyed the championships, I wish I could have won, but they’ve done a really good job and I’m just incredibly grateful that there are competitions to be doing because I realise that it’s pretty tough right now.”
In the women’s equivalent, sisters Cindy Sember (Jeff Porter; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) and Tiffany Porter (Jeff Porter; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) secured silver and bronze to boost the British medal tally, clocking 7.89s and 7.92s respectively.
Sember exploded out of the blocks and put together an incredibly clean race, powering off the final hurdle to ensure she secured her first senior medal for Great Britain & Northern Ireland as Nadine Visser (NED) defended her title in a world leading 7.77s.
Sister Porter, running from lane eight, put together a solid series of hurdles and was rewarded as she came off the final hurdle and lunged for the line, pipping Finland’s Nooralotta Neziri to a medal by one hundredth of a second, 10 years on from claiming silver at the championships in Paris.
Sember said afterwards: “It’s absolutely amazing. I’m so happy to be here and I’m so happy that I could do it alongside my sister. We’ve both been through a lot, so it’s amazing to be medalling.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence. I didn’t think I would be able to do the indoors with some things going on, so now that I’ve been able to match my PB, I think there’s a lot more in store and I’m super excited.”
Porter added: “It’s been a huge journey. I’m so pleased and I’m so grateful to be back. I’m running well. The first two rounds weren’t where I wanted to be, but I was like ‘you know what Tiffany, you’ve been here before, just execute a better race in the final, medals aren’t given in the first two rounds.’
“That extra year, we have no choice but to use it to our advantage. I think it’s going to be helpful for me because it gives me an extra year to come back from having my daughter. We’re just going to keep building on from this and do better in the outdoor season.”
A bold front-run from Jamie Webb (Adrian Webb; Liverpool) in the men’s 800m final saw him rewarded with a bronze in 1:46.95 following a sprint-finish.
It all came down to a sprint finish for the Briton, who had led from the first lap of the race, but as Poland’s Patryk Dobek hit the front at the bell, Webb found himself having to hold off the challenge of Adam Kszczot (POL) and Mateusz Borkowski (POL) in the final 100m on the final bend.
Webb gave it his all but could not hold off the challenge of Borkowski, who pipped him to silver on the line in 1:46.90, with Dobek notching a personal best 1:46.81 for gold.
After winning bronze, Webb said: “I’m really happy to come away with another medal and repeating being on the podium in Glasgow. I wanted to upgrade my medal but I wouldn’t quite call it a downgrade.
“I’m a much better athlete than I was two years ago and I gave it a good go today. I got out there and maybe made a few mistakes but I’m proud of how I ran. Maybe I could have taken it through 400m a little quicker and split everyone up a bit more, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“To come away with another medal at the end of a fantastic indoor season is great and I’m looking forward to the outdoors now. I’ve learnt a huge amount and I felt great today of the back of a really tough race yesterday so it shows I’m strong, but now it’s all about the summer.”
In the men’s 3000m final, Andrew Butchart (Barry Fudge; Central AC) and Jack Rowe (Tim Eglen; Aldershot, Farnham & District) came home in seventh and ninth position respectively, clocking 7:52.15 and 7:53.47 respectively, a season’s best for the latter.
A slow start to proceedings left the pack very bunched in the early stages but as the pace wound up in the final 800m, Butchart and Rowe found themselves playing catch-up with Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s (NOR) speed.
The British duo found themselves searching for space in the final four laps, being forced to settle for seventh and ninth respectively, with Norway’s Ingebrigtsen clocking 7:48.20 for gold.
Having set a personal best 1.91m in qualifying for the women’s high jump on Friday, Emily Borthwick (Fuzz Caan; Wigan & District) cleared a best of 1.85m as she finished eighth on her maiden senior Championships.
The Wigan & District athlete required a third time clearance at her opening height of 1.85m to progress, but three fouls at 1.89m signalled the end of the competition.
British medallists at the 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Toruń, Poland:
Keely Hodgkinson (women’s 800m), Amy-Eloise Markovc (women’s 3000m)
Holly Archer (women’s 1500m), Andrew Pozzi (men’s 60m hurdles), Cindy Sember (women’s 60m hurdles), women’s 4x400m relay
Verity Ockenden (women’s 3000m), Jodie Williams (women’s 400m), Holly Bradshaw (women’s pole vault), Tiffany Porter (women’s 60m hurdles), Jamie Webb (men’s 800m), men’s 4x400m relay