In-form Neil Gourley (coach: Stephen Haas; club: Giffnock North) claimed his first career major medal with silver at the European Indoor Championships as bronzes for Daryll Neita (Marco Airale; Cambridge Harriers) and Melissa Courtney-Bryant (Rob Denmark; Poole) gave the British team their first three medals in Istanbul.
New British record holder Gourley ran superbly in a drama-filled men’s 1500m final, that saw teammate George Mills (Thomas Dreißigacker; Brighton Phoenix) suffer the cruellest of fates as he fell early, battling favourite Jakob Ingebrigtsen every inch to claim silver inside Championship record pace in 3:34.23 minutes.
Neita meanwhile, who set her medal charge up in the women’s 60m with a 7.07 seconds semi-final run, clocked 7.12 for bronze in the final, battling well to maintain that position and secure the British team’s third medal on the night.
Courtney-Bryant repeated the same feat from her European Indoor Championships in 2019 with a fine run for bronze in 8:41.19 in the women’s 3000m final, a medal which looked secured well before the finish such was her race, which got the British team off the mark in Istanbul.
Teammate Hannah Nuttall (Helen Clitheroe; Charnwood) ran a personal best 8:46.30 for a fine fifth in that women’s 3000m final while Holly Mills (Laura Turner-Alleyne; Andover) battled valiantly in the final event of the pentathlon, the 800m, to move up to finish sixth overall.
There was a terribly cruel start to the men’s 1500m final as within the first 30 seconds George Mills suffered an awful fate as he fell. Mills got straight back up, but it was too much to come back from.
At the exact same time Ingebrigtsen had gone to the front and would lead the race at a quick pace. Gourley moved up to second with three laps to go, running very well. With a lap remaining it was a three-way fight for the medals. Gourley attacked the favourite Ingebrigtsen down the back straight and was right with him all the way over that final 300m however the Norwegian just managed to hold him off as silver had to be settled for at the line.
It was Gourley’s first career European indoor medal and a second for the British team at that point in the evening. He clocked 3:34.23 for silver – Ingebrigtsen setting a new Championship record 3:33.95, which Gourley also went inside – and he said: “I definitely believed it [he could pass Jakob]. He is who he is, he’s one of the best ever to do this, so it’s always going to be hard to come up against someone like that.
“I put myself in the right places but I just didn’t have it. I got beaten by someone who was just better and I’ve just got to take that on the chin and move forward for outdoors because we’ve built up some momentum going into it.
“I feel for George, I saw him go down just in my peripheral to my right, it’s a shame. Sometimes you make your own luck with these things but sometimes you’re just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It was important to win a medal here, I hadn’t done that yet, I hadn’t won a major medal, so it was important to get that started. This is building blocks for the summer, we’re not there yet but we’re getting there.”
Mills meanwhile showed what a great professional he is to put his fall to one side and complete the race in 3:51.28. He said: “I’m raging – I was ready to go but it happens. I’d never drop out of a race no matter what happens, and I’ll try to get up and fight to the end but obviously after falling you’ve got no chance. I’ll get them [finals] back, I’ll get them back. I have more motivation now.”
Neita would have felt great going into the women’s 60m final having won the second of three semi-finals in 7.07. It would be a hotly-contested battle for medals with Neita running a solid race to take the bronze.
Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji ran a Championship record 7.00 flat to take gold with Poland’s Ewa Swoboda taking silver in 7.09 before Neita in third in 7.12. And Neita said: “It feels amazing to bring a medal home. It has been a fun indoor season and I have really enjoyed it. I am not particularly happy with this result, but it feels amazing to get a medal and bring it home.
“Consistency is key. I feel the way I have been running all of these 60m is a hell of a lot better than I did in my 100m outdoors last year. I already know this indoor season has put me in an amazing place heading into the outdoor season.
“I would have liked more from myself, but it is a bronze medal and I have got to be grateful. I haven’t seen the race over again, but I think my reaction wasn’t good enough and it cost me. I will go back, review it – a bronze medal is good.”
Asha Philip (Amy Deem; Newham & Essex Beagles), European indoor champion in 2017 and bronze medallist in 2019, had joined Neita in reaching the semi-finals of the women’s 60m but despite a bold effort, didn’t reach the medal showdown after clocking 7.35.
Courtney-Bryant and Nuttall were the first athletes on the British team in finals action as the women’s 3000m presented a great opportunity for medal success. Latvia’s Agate Caune led the race out initially before Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen injected some pace just before halfway.
Klosterhalfen really stretched it out thereafter with compatriot Hanna Klein and Courtney-Bryant staying close behind the leader. It was on Nuttall to get to the back of that lead three, but they would extend even further, to the point where the medals were almost out of reach for the rest of the field.
The German pair kicked away from Bryant with 400m to go and Klein would surge past Klosterhalfen for gold while Courtney-Bryant battled valiantly on her own to claim European indoor bronze yet again after the same achievement in 2019, and also the honour of being the British team’s first medallist of these Championships.
“I just did what my coach said,” said Courtney-Bryant, who clocked 8:41.19 for bronze. “He told me to be bold but I got myself in a bit of a rubbish position at the start. I just kind of said ‘stay patient, be calm, work my way up and just go with it’.
“I know I am in really good shape, and I just had to push on and this feels so much sweeter than Glasgow , it’s really emotional! There were a lot of good girls in there and I am really happy with that performance – and Hannah got a PB as well which is amazing, really good.”
Nuttall ran her own race as the medallists pushed away and, while outside of the podium positions in fifth, she surged to a personal best of 8:46.30. She said: “I’m really happy – I think I did everything that I wanted to.
“I said top six, and I would be happy and to come out with a PB as well after those heats, I am really happy about that. I did want to stick with them a bit more but I’m honestly really happy with how I did and couldn’t have done any more on the day. It’s so nice to be at my first major champs and I’m going to try enjoy this experience as much as I can and make the most of it as well.”
Holly Mills returned for the final two events of the pentathlon in seventh place and put in a solid effort in the long jump. She improved throughout her three jumps, registering 5.65m first, then 5.71m before ending with a best of 5.85m.
Unfortunately, that dropped her a place to eighth overall with 3524 points ahead of the concluding 800m, which Mills took out really strong and which would go down in history. Poland’s Adrianna Sulek first broke the world record and then Belgian Nafi Thiam bettered it to take gold ahead of her Polish rival.
It was Mills’ first 800m of the season and she would run 2:12.58 to move up to sixth overall with 4451 points. She said: “It’s not the score or the place that I wanted. But I am proud of what I put down considering I didn’t run for three months over the winter, have barely done any speed work coming into this and it’s really been a very different approach to indoors than I have had in previous years.
“Usually, I am a lot stronger indoors but I can’t complain competing against the new world record holder and the fact that two people broke the world record in that competition, that is insane. Multi events is in an incredible place at the moment. It just makes me hungrier and makes me want it even more.”
Coverage of the European Indoor Championships continues at 0545 on BBC Two on Saturday 4 March and runs until Sunday 5 March. Full details can be found here.
A timetable, start lists and results can be found on the European Athletics website here.
Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally:
Silver: Neil Gourley – 1500m
Bronze: Melissa Courtney-Bryant – 3000m
Bronze: Daryll Neita – 60m