English athletes contend for Tokyo places on opening day of British Championships

Stakes were high for English athletes on the opening day of the Muller British Athletics Championships and Olympic trials in Manchester as competition heated up in preparation for the finals on Saturday and Sunday.

Mo Farah (Newham & Essex Beagles; Gary Lough) unfortunately failed in his last-minute bid to gain the qualifying time for Tokyo 2020. The four-time Olympic champion clocked 27:47.04 in the invitational 10,000m to finish more than 19 seconds outside the time needed by the end of the qualifying window this Sunday. Having struggled with an ankle injury in the build-up to the official trial earlier this month, Farah was three seconds quicker than on that occasion. However, despite a gutsy solo effort over the last 3.5km, he ultimately fell off the pace when his pacemakers dropped out. The 10-time global champion said afterwards:

“You go out there and give it your all and that’s all you have. I was trying to push and push and push, but nine laps out I knew I was on my own. I’ve had a long, wonderful career but now that’s all I had.”

After switching to the marathon, he returned to the track this year at the age of 38 in a bid to win a third successive Olympic title at 10,000m. Asked by trackside interviewer Iwan Thomas whether this would be his track event, he replied:

“It’s a tough one. I’ve always said ‘If I can’t compete with the best, I’m not just going to go there to finish in the final.’ I’m going to go there to compete and tonight shows it’s not good enough.”

Elsewhere, the only trial events on the opening day were heats. In the finals, the first two finishers in each event will gain automatic selection as long as they have the relevant qualifying standard.

100m heats

World 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith (Blackheath & Bromley; John Blackie) was not expected to have any trouble making her way through to the semi-finals of the 100m and she duly delivered. Entered only for the short sprint here, she made light work of winning her heat in 11.28, looking easy despite running into a 2.2m/sec wind. The other three athletes with the Olympic standard, Daryll Neita (Cambridge Harriers; Rana Reider), Imani Lansiquot (Sutton & District; Steve Fudge) and Asha Philip (Newham & Essex Beagles; Steve Fudge) also won their heats.

Meanwhile, among those going safely through in the men’s 100m were UK No.1 CJ Ujah (Enfield & Haringey; Ryan Freckleton) and European gold and silver medallists Zharnel Hughes (Shaftesbury Barnet; Glen Mills) and Reece Prescod (Enfield & Haringey; Mike Holloway).

1500m heats

In the men’s 1500m, which promises to be one of the highlights of the weekend, Charlie Da'Vall Grice (Brighton Phoenix) was a heat winner in 3:46.63. He reached a final in which he and four other athletes who already have the standard will be chasing those two automatic selection places. On the women’s side, Katie Snowden (Herne Hill; Daniel Stepney) and Revee Walcott-Nolan (Luton) were the two heat winners who were among those going through to the final.

400m and 400m hurdles heats

Sisters Jodie Williams (Herts Phoenix; Ryan Freckleton) and Hannah Williams (Herts Phoenix; Glyn Hawkes) were two of the heat winners in the women’s 400m, running 51.92 and 52.26. In the case of Hannah, that was a PB. In the men’s 400m, which has been thrown open by favourite Matthew Hudson-Smith (Birchfield Harriers; Lance Brauman) pulling up injured mid-race, Niclas Baker (Crawey; Piotr Spas) was the fastest to go through to the semi-finals, running 46.81.

Jessie Knight (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) led the qualifiers for the 400m hurdles final in 56.88. Jessica Turner (Amber Valley & Erewash; Nick Dakin) and Lina Nielsen (Shaftesbury Barnet; Ryan Freckleton), the other two athletes with the qualifying, also progressed.


Tim Duckworth (Liverpool; Toby Stevenson) holds a big lead overnight in the decathlon, but unfortunately his chances of a late Olympic qualifier dwindled as he picked up an injury in the 400m. The former European indoor heptathlon silver medallist led throughout but midway through the final event of the day, his gait gave away a problem and he slowed to just 53.62. His 3900 points nevertheless puts him 244 points ahead of England silver medallist Harry Kendall (Tonbridge; Mike Corden) in second.

3000m trial races for the European Athletics Junior Championships

Also held were the two 3000m trial races for the European Athletics Junior Championships. Jess Bailey (Leven Valley), a first-year under-17, secured her selection, having already gained the qualifying standard as she finished second in 9:32.93. In an exciting junior men’s 3000m, Will Barnicoat (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) also gained automatic selection as he stormed through from fourth at the bend to win in 8:23.10. As a bonus, it was enough to win him the official performance of the day award announced in the stadium.

Photo by Mark Shearman