Team England’s athletes kept the medals flowing with a series of spectacular performances on Wednesday under the bright lights of the Alexander Stadium, led by a resurgent Katarina Johnson-Thompson (coach: Aston Moore; club: Liverpool Harriers).
The former world heptathlon champion has been dogged by injuries since that victory but brilliantly defended her Commonwealth title from 2018, scoring a season’s best of 6377pts, much to the delight of a fantastically supportive and vocal home crowd.
“It feels amazing. This competition has served my career so well over the years,” said Johnson-Thompson. “The Commonwealths kick started my career all those years ago so hopefully this is the start of another one. It’s been hard and I’ve had moments when I didn’t know I wanted to carry on. But now I’m pleased I did I’m just so happy.”
“It feels incredible to do that in front of my home crowd. It was the crowd who got me through the competition, especially the 800m when the noise was so loud.”
“You know when you feel pain, you didn’t feel it, so I have got to thank them for that performance.”
Definitely the crowd’s favourite and ever the competitor, Johnson-Thompson saw the lead she had held ever since the high jump taken away in the second round of the javelin when Northern Ireland’s Kate O’Connor threw a huge 50.09.
O’Connor went even further with 51.14 in the third round, but before that KJT had responded with 41.37 to sneak back into the gold medal position and then, much to the capacity crowd’s joy – and hers – she ended the competition with a lifetime best of 44.33.
“It’s my first PB in three years, I actually couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Jade O’Dowda (John Lane, Newham and Essex Beagles) also rose to the occasion, throwing 42.15 to keep her in the medal hunt.
It all meant KJT carried a 136-point lead going into the 800m, with O’Dowda 164 points behind. Given Johnson-Thompson’s 2:07 speed and the form she showed in Birmingham that result was never really in doubt, and she crossed the line in 2:13.93 just behind Holly Mills (Laura Turner-Alleyne, Andover), while O’Dowda secured bronze.
“It was good but my 200m last night was disappointing,” said O’Dowda, reflecting on how things unwound.
“I’ve been running quicker, and it’s been going well in training but, on the other hand, in the long jump I knew I had a big jump in me and before it hadn’t been there but today it was the right jump at the right time [producing the best long jump of the session with 6.52m]. I got lucky with the wind and just happened to catch a big one. In the 800m, I just followed Kat and when we went past Kate [O’Connor], I thought it might be enough [to claim silver] but it wasn’t.”
Always a much-anticipated event, both 100m sprints produced electric races. With Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah, the No.2 of all time with 10.54 in the field in the women’s race, it was always going to be top billed and rightly so.
Thompson-Herah flew to 10.95 whilst England’s Daryll Neita (Marco Airale, Cambridge Harriers) finished third in 11.07 after a smooth looking PB of 10.90 in the semis earlier in the evening.
“It was nice to get a medal on home soil, but I didn’t put the best race together,” she said. “In fact, I want to get back to work right now,” she laughed. “It was an honour to race Elaine, almost like being a member of a Private Members’ club,” she added, proud to be competing with the world’s best but keen to go a stride further come the final.
Earlier, Imani-Lara Lansiquot (Stuart McMillan, Sutton & District) and Asha Philip (Amy Deem, Newham and Essex Beagles) did not progress past the semi-finals in the women’s 100m and it was a similar story for Ojie Edoburun (Stuart McMillan, Shaftesbury Barnet) in the men’s race, showing just how competitive the fields were.
In the men’s race England’s only finalist, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Ryan Freckleton, Newham and Essex Beagles) pulled up at the mid-way point and jogged across the line in eighth as, Kenya’s exciting new talent Ferdinad Omanyala clocked 10.02 to win the gold. The Kenyan struggled to be granted a visa for the World Champs in the USA and arrived just three hours before the heats in Eugene so he didn’t progress any further there, but with a legal 9.77 to his name this season he was always going to be the man to watch.
In the women’s 10,000m the English duo of Jess Judd (Mick Judd, Blackburn Harriers) and Samantha Harrison (Vince Wilson, Charnwood) both ran solid races with barely a stride separating the two as they crossed the line in fifth and sixth.
After a pedestrian opening three laps, the eventual winner, Scotland’s Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall, Dundee Hawkhill Harriers) picked up the pace so much that she was rewarded with a Games record of 30:48.60, while Judd clocked 31:18.47 and Harrison was rewarded with a personal best of 31:21.53.
The field events were all about solid performances. Three English athletes featured in the women’s shot final, led by Divine Oladipo (Ashley Kovacs, Blackheath and Bromley) who threw 17.28 for fifth.
Just behind her in sixth and seventh were Amelia Strickler (Zane Duquemin, Thames Valley Harriers) and Sophie McKinna (Paul Wilson, Great Yarmouth) who both threw 17.18, Strickler’s second best throw of 17.13 just 1cm better than McKinna’s 17.12.
Joel Clarke-Khan (Robbie Grabarz, Worcester) was fifth in the men’s high jump thanks to his third time clearance of 2.22. It was a close competition, won by New Zealand’s Hamish Kerr with 2.25.
The men’s discus for F42-44 and F61-64 saw two different categories throw together with just one gold medal on offer. That’s because it used the Raza points system devised to level the playing field in the same way a golf handicap does. That in turn meant F44 Dan Greaves (Zane Duquemin, Charnwood) threw 53.81 and 54.66 for Games records in his category but didn’t score enough to give him a medal. Roughly speaking Greaves had to throw 25 per cent further than the winner Wales’ F42 Aled Davis who threw 51.39 so he wound up fourth in what was a fascinating competition with the lead changing with almost every throw.
In the men’s T37/38 100 Shaun Burrows (Joseph McDonnell, Charnwood) finished fourth in 11.69.
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