English athletes shine at the Birmingham World Indoor Tour

A brand-new track at the Utilita Arena Birmingham, used for the very first time at the UK Athletics Indoor Championships just a week previously, meant excitement was high for the final leg of the World Indoor Tour. Plus, the talk of world record attempts from Gudaf Tsegay, Grant Holloway, Laura Muir and England’s Keely Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter, club: Leigh), meant the event certainly promised a lot. With multiple national records broken, a plethora of personal bests and a tantalisingly close world record attempt in the women’s 3000m, it’s safe to say the competition certainly delivered!

The first event of the day was the men’s 60m para event featuring an all-domestic field. Zac Shaw (Leon Baptiste, Cleethorpes) took victory in a season’s best time of 7.01 while Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker (Joseph McDonnell, Newham & Essex Beagles) finished second in 7.08 and Kevin Santos (Michael Utting, City of Norwich) third in 7.12. The women’s 60m para was equally as exciting. Faye Olszowka (Coral Nourrice, Bexley) put down a lifetime best performance of 8.09 which saw her claim victory over Esme O’Connell (Joseph Shepherd, Dacorum) and Ali Smith (Benke Blomkvist, Guildford & Godalming) who finished second and third with times of 8.38 and 8.40 respectively.

The men’s 60m was won by Charlie Dobson (Benke Blomkvist, Colchester Harriers) who held his cool after three disqualifications meant the sprinters had to start their race three times to find out who would emerge victorious. Adam Gemili (Blackheath & Bromley) finished second in a time of 6.68 whilst Wales’ Sam Gordon was third in 6.70. In the end, just four hundredths separated the second through fifth placed athletes.

Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita competing at the World Indoor Tour in Birmingham

If the first three 60m weren’t reason enough to get excited, the women’s 60m certainly was. Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie, Blackheath & Bromley) dominated the second heat setting a new British record of 7.03. With Daryll Neita (Marco Airale, Cambridge Harriers) taking the win in the first heat, the final was shaping up to be a cracker. And it certainly didn’t disappoint with Asher-Smith and Neita claiming first and second in times of 7.05 and 7.13. After this performance, Neita will surely be looking forward to racing at the European Indoor Championships in just over a week’s time. Whilst this was the final race of the indoor season for Asher-Smith, she can surely be looking forward to the outdoor season after today.

It wouldn’t be right to talk about the World Indoor Tour and not mention the distance events. Whilst there was no English interest at the front for the home crowd to cheer on, the fast pace meant there was plenty to be excited about. Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay finished just nine hundredths outside of the women’s 3000m world record in a blistering time of 8:16.69. Whilst it was heartbreak for Tsegay, Scotland’s Neil Gourley will surely be happy with his performance over the 1500m. Gourley ran 3:32.48 setting a new British record which was previously held by Scotland’s Josh Kerr. Adel Mechaal of Spain and Andrew Coscoran of Ireland also set national records. There were no records over the 1000m for Scotland’s Laura Muir, but a brave run meant she held off fast finishing Claudia Mihaela Bobocea in the final stages of the race.

Whilst things were heating up on the track, the field eventers were producing some equally impressive performances. The men’s long jump had a thrilling conclusion with Marquis Dendy and Tajay Gayle both saving their best efforts until the last round, jumping 8.28m and 8.13m respectively. English athlete Reynold Banigo (Matt Barton, Sale Harriers Manchester) finished in fifth. His jump of 7.81m was just outside his season’s best. Meanwhile, in the women’s pole vault, Sophie Cook jumped a season’s best of 4.41m.

Keely Hodgkinson competing at the World Indoor Tour in Birmingham

The last race of the day was the women’s 800m featuring Commonwealth Games silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson. Hodgkinson didn’t have it all her own way initially but at the halfway mark she was in the lead. She continued to stretch her advantage over the next two laps finishing in a new British record of 1:57.18. Australia’s Catriona Bisset finished second in 1:59.83 and England’s Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn, Enfield & Haringey) ran strongly to finish third in 2:00.25. This was a new lifetime best for the Birmingham-based athlete and with the outdoor season fast approaching, it seems just a matter of time before Boffey breaks the infamous two-minute barrier.

Utilita Arena Birmingham

England Athletics is particularly proud to support English athletes through the Talented Athlete and Coach Pathway. The talent pathway is tailored to meet the specific developmental, educational and employability needs of athletes and para-athletes to help them reach their full potential both inside and outside of the sport. We were especially proud to see so many Talent Pathway athletes taking part in this leg of the World Indoor Tour. One such athlete was Ben Higgins (Steward Marshall, Sheffield & Dearne) who finished fourth in the men’s 400m event. Here’s what Ben had to say about the Talent Programme:

“I first heard about the Talent Programme from a friend and wanted to be a part of it to help me achieve my goals. Being on the Junior Talent Programme has expanded my network and given me access to facilities, equipment and apps that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to use. This has allowed both me and my coach to push on and gain those extra one percents.”

It’s been a thrilling day of action in Birmingham at the World Indoor Tour. For those keen to see more, you don’t have long to wait as the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul are taking place from 2-5 March.