This year’s event, at which the best of Britain’s athletes met to fight for the hotly contested title of British Champion, was held over the final weekend of June at Birmingham’s
This year’s event, at which the best of Britain’s athletes met to fight for the hotly contested title of British Champion, was held over the final weekend of June at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium.
The winners of each event would not only be crowned the best in Britain, but would also receive automatic selection for the European Championships. Understandably then, tensions were running high as the fittest men and women in the country gravitated to the Midlands, along with the nation’s (somewhat less physically dominant) Athletics Weekly subscribers.
Despite the typically British drizzle, Saturday’s event got going with a bang, as Britain’s fastest men silenced the stadium as they took their positions on the start-line for the 100m heats. The young Harry Aikines-Aryeetey was described by Iwan Thomas as “a force to be reckoned with,” as he eased over the line in first place in the opening heat of the day. In heat 2, 36 year-old Dwain Chambers slowed down in the last 30 metres to take his place comfortably in the semi-finals.
While the drama unfolded on the track, two young heptathletes were up against the likes of 6ft3 Isobel Pooley in the High Jump. Seventeen year-old Morgan Lake took third place behind Katarina Johnson Thompson, who joined Jessica Ennis-Hill in London 2012. Pooley took the title after being the only one to attempt (but fail) to clear 1.93 metres.
Described as “one of the races of the day,” the men’s 200m final was set to be a nail-biter. The pressure of the situation was reflected in a false-start by Kyle Ennis, resulting in immediate disqualification. Ennis had qualified as a fastest loser, meaning that his mistake failed to threaten the quality of the battle to come.
Despite being the fastest in the heats, Adam Gemili was pipped to the post by Danny Talbot, who won in 20.42, although Gemili did get a SB (season’s best) of 20.61. In third place was James Ellington, who had also hoped to take the title, in a time of 20.64.
The spectators, most of whom cowered from the rain under rugs and waterproofs, were then treated to several more brilliant finals that saw Jodie Williams storm through in 22.79 to win the women’s 200m and American-born Tiffany Porter take an easy first place in the women’s 100m Hurdles.
Michael Rimmer, wearing his customary T-shirt, surprised many in the 800m final as he beat the fresh talent of middle distance, Mukhtar Mohammed as well as Andrew Osage to defend his title for the seventh time. In the last event of the day, the women’s 1500m final, Laura Weightman did Steve Cram (her coach) proud, as she beat Hannah England in a time of 4:09.77.
Sunday’s timetable proved athletics to be a real spectator sport, with the rain staying away in agreement. In the men’s Triple Jump, Julian Reid was urged on by the crowd to jump a huge 16.82m, which saw him not only take first place, but also surpass the European ‘A’ qualification standard.
A wonderful showcase
In the men’s Discus Throw, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers showed the club’s dominance in the field by having four athletes in the final, including Nicholas Percy, who won the U23 British Championships last weekend and Zane Duquemin, who took this weekend’s title.
Next came a real treat in the form of the men’s 400m final, the line-up of which was arguably the best there’s ever been. The stadium fell silent as all eyes turned towards the eight starters settling into the blocks. In the end, the fight for first place was between Rooney and Williams, with Rooney just beating Williams’ 45.88secs in a painfully close 45.78.
In the equally competitive women’s 400m final, Kelley Massey beat Shana Cox and Emily Diamond, but her time of 52.43 fell just short of the European ‘A’ standard. Elidh Child, however, had already achieved the European standard, so her win over Meghan Beesley in the 400m hurdles only served to solidify her prowess in the event.
The heptathletes met again in the women’s Long Jump, with Johnson Thompson achieving a PB (personal best) of 11cm to beat the young Jazmin Sawyers to first place. Despite specialising in seven events, Lake took a respectable fifth place and also secured a PB. In the women’s 5000m final, 20 year-old Emelia Gorecka stuck with 40 year-old Jo Pavey for all twelve and a half laps of the track, until an exciting sprint finish saw Gorecka take the title.
In the interview after the race, Pavey congratulated the rising star, who explained her determination with the words: “it’s not over until it’s over.”
The final two events of the Championships were the much-awaited 100m finals. In the women’s event, the race began with a false-start and disqualification for Bianca Williams, whose subsequent tears highlighted the importance of the weekend to the athletes. Asha Philip went on to win in a time of 11.11 seconds.
The competition was fierce in the men’s race, as the young Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Chijindu Ujah came up against Chambers. In the end, experience prevailed, as Chambers took the prestigious title in a time of 10.12 seconds. However, this was arguably a hollow victory, as Britain’s two best sprinters, Adam Gemili and James Dasaolu, didn’t race.
As promised, the weekend proved a great showcase for British Athletics, if not for British Summertime. The very best athletes will be competing in the European Championships in Zurich on 12th-17th of August.
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