Eilish McColgan (coach: Liz Nuttall; club: Dundee Hawkhill) added women’s 10,000m European Championships silver to her growing list of honours this year as the British team enjoyed a fine first night in Munich.
McColgan – eight days after completing a stunning 10,000m gold and 5,000m silver double at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – got the British team up and running in Munich with a superb performance over 25 laps.
She was left battling for silver following a kick from Turkey’s Yasemin Can with seven laps to go but secured it impressively well from Israel’s defending champion Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, eventually clocking 30:41.05 minutes to finish second. Teammates Samantha Harrison (Vince Wilson, Charnwood) and Jessica Judd (Mick Judd, Blackburn) battled valiantly to sixth and tenth respectively.
There were two other finals on the first night, both involving British athletes, with Scott Lincoln (Paul Wilson; City of York) securing a top-ten finish in the men’s shot put by placing tenth while in the women’s event Sophie McKinna (Wilson; Great Yarmouth) was 12th.
This all came after a fine start to the night in Munich that saw six British athletes advance their own chances including a clean sweep in the men’s 1500m heats led by Neil Gourley (Ben Thomas; Giffnock North) with Matthew Stonier (Chris & Sonia McGeorge; Invicta East Kent) and Jake Heyward (Mark Rowland, Cardiff) non-automatic qualifiers.
Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey) won her heat in the women’s 400m, Jade Lally (Zane Duquemin; Shaftesbury Barnet) reached her third successive European final in the women’s discus and Ben Williams (Aston Moore; City of Stoke) made his first on his debut in the men’s triple jump.
Like those six, McColgan is down to appear again in Munich in the women’s 5000m final on Thursday night and she said: “I would have loved to have become European champ but tired, tired legs. It has probably been one of the craziest weeks of my life.
“Such a big high [after the Commonwealth Games], emotions, not a lot of sleep so it was tough to get myself up again but I can’t complain. I did a lot of the work and came away with a silver medal.
“She [Can] put in a 67 at that point and it was just tough with my legs like that. I have had a lot of races, she didn’t do Commonwealth Games or worlds either, and I felt that was in my legs. She is an incredible athlete, one of the best in the world. I did my best but she was far too strong.”
McColgan, Judd and Harrison were all at the front very early on in the women’s 10,000m final and, with four gone, the field was largely single file with the former in the lead. McColgan would form part of a group of four to break away involving Can and Salpeter with the battle for medals firmly now here with ten laps to go.
Then with seven laps to go the Turkish athlete chose to kick – and it was a kick that McColgan and Salpeter would never reel in. The pair were neck and neck for the remainder of the race and on the final back straight McColgan made her own move to secure an impressive silver.
Teammate Harrison ran her own race to finish sixth in a personal best 31:46.87 while Judd ensured she was a top-ten finisher with a valiant effort of 32:23.98 – both also having run at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Harrison said: “Obviously it’s nice to go slightly better than I did before but it was very consistent for me. [It’s] Sixth again so it mirrored the Commonwealth Games the other week so overall I’m pretty happy.”
Lincoln was the first British athlete to compete at these European Championships in the morning and back in finals action a mere few hours later as was McKinna. He opened with a 19.81m effort in men’s shot put final before throwing 19.90m second time out.
He needed a matter of centimetres to guarantee a further three throws with his third attempt but unfortunately fouled as he placed tenth overall in his first European Championship final.
Lincoln said: “It was a tough one, it is not how I imagined it to be. I guess it’ll be about regrouping and going again next year. It’s been a long season full of highs and lows. It just wasn’t quite good enough.
“It’s a new experience to do two competitions in one day. I’ve never done that before. But I’ll learn from this and take it on board for next season.”
Meanwhile McKinna, who admitted in the morning to battling technical changes, finished with a best of 16.29m in the women’s shot put final. That came with her opening effort, which was followed by a 15.63m and then a foul.
She said: “The distance was appalling, which is a bit frustrating, but I probably spent every bit of energy this morning [in qualification]. I can’t forget that feeling because there was a lot of relief and joy.
“I’ve done four championships this year, so I am absolutely exhausted. With all these changes it was always going to be really hard. I warmed up well but competition is very different to that so it is a bit frustrating, but I can’t sniff at being a European finalist.”
Gourley silently went about his business in the second of the men’s 1500m heats, keeping his place in the pack before an excellent kick saw him comfortably secure an automatic qualifying spot.
He muscled his way a lane before the final bend and, once on the home straight, he powered through, picking off the field to finish fourth in 3:38.07 and secure his place in the final.
Gourley said: “I’m pleased to come through it but it was a bit of a messy race. I made some mistakes in the middle of the race and I was a bit hesitant to make a move but I still had enough in the last 150m to reduce the gap and make the top four.
“I need to run tactically better in the final. A good sprint finish will only get you so far, so I don’t want to have to rely on that. I’ll need to be sharper and much closer to the lead.”
Stonier meanwhile made his move at the bell and was well placed in second coming into the home straight. He didn’t quite have the finish of Gourley but still booked his own place in the final after clocking 3:38.37 for fifth in that heat.
He said: “I thought it might be quick because the first heat was slow but I just tried to position myself so the last lap I was in a position where I could go through.
“I died a bit in the last hundred. I think that’s a bit of Commonwealth Games legs but happy to get through and just need to rest up now before finals.”
Heyward meanwhile ran a near perfect 1400 metres in the first of the men’s 1500m heats, going wide to take the lead early on and completely controlling the race all the way up to the final bend.
Even when Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen came past, Heyward still looked set for an automatic qualifying place however he couldn’t hold on as the line drew closer, dropping down to fifth.
A dive at the line saw him clock 3:39.30 to secure fifth, which would prove to be just enough for a non-automatic qualifying spot and a successful night for the British men in the 1500m heats.
He said: “It’s relief to be honest. I got lucky – that’s not exactly how I planned it to go. It wasn’t really a good enough run, but I scraped through, I’m in the final. It doesn’t matter how you get there.”
Williams was another successful qualifier on the night for the British team as he made light work of progressing to the men’s triple jump final on his European Championship debut.
A second-round attempt of 16.47m placed him fourth in qualification group A and eighth overall with the top 12 advancing and he said: “It feels great to make the final. It was difficult to navigate the conditions, there were big head winds but we managed it well.
“I got a foot on the board something I didn’t do at the Commonwealth Games last week. Hopefully I can replicate some of the distances I did there but this time clean.”
Nielsen, who finished an agonising fourth in the women’s 400m final the last time the Europeans were held in 2018, stormed into the semi-finals in Munich in some style. After a strong start, she cruised through the middle of the race before powering down the home straight.
She was comfortably in the lead with 100 metres to go and ensured she ended as she started, maintaining distance between her and Dutch sprinter Eveline Saalberg in second, as she crossed the line in a season’s best 51.60 seconds, eventually ranking third overall.
Nielsen said: “I think I’ll bring a lot more [for the semi-finals], which I’m excited about. It’s a tough schedule with a semi-final in the morning. I’ve never run heats in the evening before so it’s going to be a really quick turnaround so I wanted to run it as comfortably as I could.
“I was really surprised coming into the home straight how comfortable I looked. I set a target in 2018, when I came fourth and I remember walking off the track thinking this is a horrible position to finish in so for four years my goal has been a medal. There have been a lot of setbacks but I’m still thinking about it and anything is possible.”
Lally reached her third successive European final in the women’s discus after progressing out of qualifying in 11th overall. Placed in group A, Lally had to wait to see if her best effort of 57.68m would be enough to advance.
She registered that mark with her third and final throw, adding to the drama, and it would prove to be a distance fit for the final. British teammate Kirsty Law (Duquemin; Sale Harriers Manchester) was placed in group B and attempting to repeat Lally’s feat.
Law opened up with a 52.31m effort and improved to 54.83m before a foul with her last attempt. Unfortunately, that placed her 21st overall and outside the top 12 to advance to the final.
Lally said: “I just wasn’t firing how I needed to or how I was yesterday in fact. It’s living life on the edge with that throw, that’s dangerous, I know that. I don’t think there’s anything I need to change; it was just a flat performance and happened to come in the qualifying round. I don’t need to panic; it was just a flat day.”
Elsewhere Joe Brier (Matt Elias; Swansea) unfortunately agonisingly missed out on a place in the men’s 400m semi-finals. Racing on his European Championship debut outdoors, Brier looked good rounding the final bend and posted 46.06 to finish fifth in the second of four heats. That was however to be 0.01 shy of a non-automatic qualifier place.
Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal tally:
Silver: Eilish McColgan – 10,000m