Johnson-Thompson seizes early heptathlon lead at Commonwealth Games

Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Liverpool Harriers, Bertrand Valcin) leads the heptathlon after two events as a number of English teammates progress to finals later in the programme.

Johnson-Thompson opened with a 13.54 (+0.6) clocking in the 100m hurdles, a solid mark to take fourth place at that point.

In her favoured high jump, there was a long wait to see her in action, such is her tendency to wait until the heights progress. She cleared 1.81m, 1.84m and 1.87m on the first attempts, looking incredibly comfortable in the process. This added valuable points to the tally as she leads the overall competition on 2111 points ahead of second place Nina Schultz of Canada on 2084.

She’ll return for the shot put and 200m later this evening.

Elsewhere in the heptathlon, Niamh Emerson (Amber Valley & Erewash, David Feeney) lies in fifth overall after a solid morning. The 2015 Commonwealth Youth champion had a strong start to the competition, stopping the clock at 14.08 in the same 200m heat as KJT, just 0.07 seconds outside her lifetime best. A clearance of 1.84m in the high jump added to that although she decided to stop at that height to leave her on 1996 points after two events.

It was a mixed morning for Katie Stainton (Birchfield Harriers, Kelly Sotherton) who showed grit and determination to return for the high jump after a heavy fall in the first event of the day. After hitting hurdle five, Stainton did not complete the race so received no points for the hurdles, but was eventually consoled by her opponents and teammates who came to support her off the track.

Not deterred by the anguish of the opening event, the West Midlandsbased athlete returned for a successful high jump series, 1.72m her final result.

Late drive seals Bell's final berth

There was an outstanding performance by Alex Bell (Pudsey & Bramley, Andrew Henderson) who set a personal best on the way to a maiden Commonwealth Games 800m final, her first at international senior level.

Placing well within the leading pack – including world champion Caster Semenya (RSA) – the Yorkshire born athlete maintained the pace, driving through in the closing stages to overhaul the Kenyan Eglay Nalyanya over the last 30 metres. Her time of 2:00.11 revised her previous best by 0.42 seconds and secured her second place behind the South African to confirm her slot in the final.

A thrilled Bell spoke afterwards: “I’m absolutely delighted to have a guaranteed place in the final. With 150m to go I felt really strong so I just tried to stay as close to the leaders as possible and drove through to the line. I could not believe it when I looked at the board! And to see a PB next to my name as well was amazing.

“It has exceeded all of my expectations. I haven’t run a PB in over two years; I knew it was coming but to do it here like that is fantastic.”

There was disappointment for Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow, Jon Bigg) and Adelle Tracey (Guildford & Goldalming, Craig Winrow), who both missed out on the final.

World Indoor bronze medallist Oskan-Clarke started in the outside lane, meaning she had to work hard to hit the front of the pack. She held the inside lane for the duration of the race but as Olympic medallist Margaret Wambui came passed to win the heat, the English athlete faced a battle to the line against Jamaica’s Natoya Goule, just getting edged out by 0.07 seconds. Her time of 2:00.81 was not fast enough to see her through as two fastest losers.

Tracey was sixth in heat three in 2:02.03, involved in the burn-up with 150 metres to go which was won by Kenya’s Emily Cherotich Tuie.

Two English athletes will feature in Friday night’s women’s 100m hurdles final as Tiffany Porter (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) and Alicia Barrett (Chesterfield, Toni Minichiello) advanced through their respective heats.

Barrett – up first – faced more favourable conditions than her warm-up race on a windy Sunshine Coast a week or so ago, clocking 13.19 (+0.4) for fourth position – a time she ran only bettered twice during a successful 2017. Going through as the final qualifier, she is excited about competing in her first senior final.

She said: “I’m really proud to make the final and get a chance to represent England again; the experience has been a great one so far so I’ll go out in that final and enjoy it as I have no pressure on me.”

Porter, silver medallist in Glasgow 2014, was third in the second heat, nicking the third automatic slot for the final. Her time of 12.99 (+0.8) sets up her well for the final as Jamaica’s 2015 world champion Danielle Williams progressed as the fastest overall.

No trouble for shot put trio

The trio of English athletes in the women’s shot put qualification all comfortably progressed to the final. Sophie McKinna (Great Yarmouth, Mike Winch) impressed with 17.24m on her opening throw to get the job done easily.

McKinna said: “It's absolutely amazing. 16.50m should've been within my realms, but I didn't expect to throw 17.24m. I hoped to plop it over, so it is a great start and it gives me a lot of confidence heading into the final.

“It's even better that all three of us made it. It's good to have three English people in the final, it's good to have representation. I'm really, really pleased.”

It took three attempts for Rachel Wallader (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow, Richard Woodhall) to achieve a 17.20m throw and confirm her advancement in the competition whilst Amelia Strickler’s (Thames Valley) second round 16.57m secured her spot.

There was comfortable progression to the men’s triple jump final for Nathan Douglas (Oxford City, Aston Moore), whose first round effort of 16.27m consolidated his place in his second Commonwealth Games final. Fourth in Delhi eight years ago, the 35-year-old will be looking to roll back the years in Saturday’s final where he believes he has every chance at a shot for a medal.

Zac Shaw (Cleethorpes, Joe McDonnell) missed out in returning to the track for the T12 100m final this evening. The world finalist – running in the T11 and T12 visually impaired class – started well but with only four going through to the final, his 11.58 (+1.4) time left him sixth in the standings overall.

Athletics resumes from 19:00 tonight local time (10:00am UK time). Full results can be found here.