Day 1 of the highly anticipated athletics and para-athletics action at the Commonwealth Youth Games saw 13 of the 31 Team England athletes kick-start their campaigns and they did so in style. Team England secured a superb four medals, two gold and two silver.
The morning session of athletics and para-athletics was all about the 100m, where six Team England athletes were hoping to successfully navigate their respective heats. The first athlete to compete in the Hasley Crawford stadium was Mabel Akande (coach: Denise Timmis, club: Lincoln Wellington AC). Mabel ran strongly to win her heat in a time of 11.72.
Next up was the men’s 100m where Team captain Teddy Wilson (coach: Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai, club: Be Fit Today Track Academy) was in action alongside teammate Ebuka Nwokeji (coach: Ty Holden, club: Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers). Both won their heats in times of 10.60 and 10.64 respectively meaning they qualified second and third fastest for the semi-finals.
T38 athletes Maddie Down and Rosie Porter were equally as impressive. Maddy won her semi-final in a time of 13.59 while Rosie finished second in her semi in a time of 14.83. Meanwhile, Vincent Forkner (coach: Jo Abel, club: Huntingdonshire) finished third in his semi-final of the T38 men’s 100m in a time of 14.32, earning a spot in the final.
The afternoon session proved just as successful for Team England’s sprinters with Mabel, Teddy and Ebuka all successfully navigating their semi-finals, ensuring there would be English interest in all four of the 100m finals later in the day.
Next, it was the turn of the middle-distance athletes. As is often the case in championship middle-distance races, the 1500m semi-finals turned out to be a tactical affair. Annie Mann (coach: James Mann, club: Winchester and District AC) ran a smart race to finish fourth in her heat in a time of 4:40.64 and gain automatic qualification for the final. In a similar fashion, Lyla Belshaw (coach: David Smith, club: Colchester Harriers) also ran sensibly to secure her spot in the main event. Her time of 4:45.80 meant she came 5th in her heat. In the men’s 1500m, William Rabjohns (coach: Mark Pauley, club: Poole AC) stayed out of trouble finishing fourth in his heat in a time of 4:09.62, again gaining that all important automatic qualification.
1 lap battles
Charlotte Henrich (coach: Carlo Monticolombi, club: Invicta East Kent AC) was the first of the 400m athletes to take on the Commonwealth. Charlotte ran a brilliant lap of the track to take the win in the second semi-final in a time of 55.16, securing her spot in the final.
Next up, it was the turn of the men to battle for a place in the final over one lap of the track. With perhaps the toughest qualification of the day, only the winner of each heat making it through with four fastest loser spots, both Stanley Chevous (coach: Lee Bowker, club: Ipswich Harriers) and Alexander Beck (coach: Mark Upton, club: Winchester and District AC) needed to come out firing. And they did just that! Stanley was in one of the closest races of the day with just 0.02 seconds separating 1st and 3rd. Despite finishing 3rd in the heat, Stanley’s time of 48.15 was good enough to earn his position on the start line for the final. Meanwhile, Alex ran 48.28 to win the fourth semi-final and automatically go through to the next round.
It was then the turn of Team England’s flag bearer, Bebe Jackson (coach: Michelle Dawson, club: Harlow AC), to fly the St George’s flag, this time on the field in the F42-44/F61-64 women’s discus. Despite throwing 23.52m in the first round, just shy of her personal best, Bebe’s best throw came in the third round where the discus went out to 24.24m. Bebe’s brilliant throw was not only around half a metre improvement on her previous best, but it was also enough to secure her a silver medal. Bebe gave her thoughts on her fantastic second place:
“I feel very excited and very proud of myself for getting a PB and second. Well done to all of my opponents. I really like the colour silver so that is the best thing. I am going to take this away and use it as a learning curve. I did get a bit annoyed with my throws, but I am going to learn to not get annoyed. It was a great atmosphere, I’m so happy and I hope to do this again some time.”
Finishing in first
Finally, we headed back to the track to watch the men and women battle it out over the blue-ribbon event. First to take to the track was T38 athletes Maddy and Rosie. Both ran strongly from gun to tape, with Maddy taking the win in a fantastic time of 13.47 and Rosie finishing just outside the medals in fourth with a time of 14.86. Similarly, T37 athlete Vincent Forkner finished 4th in his final in a time of 13.98.
English hopes were just as high as we headed into the final two events of the day. After being 0.01 seconds shy of her personal best in the semi-final, Mabel backed this up with a fantastic time of 11.68 in the final, finishing in 6th position.
Having qualified as first and second fastest in the semi-finals, the possibility of an English one, two seemed closer than ever and Teddy and Ebuka certainly delivered. Teddy and Ebuka stormed to gold and silver in times of 10.37 and 10.43 respectively, holding off the Jamaican athlete who also finished in a time of 10.43. Afterwards, Teddy spoke about his gold medal winning performance:
“I feel great, I won and it was England one and two so you can’t be disappointed with the result. The crowd were loud, it was an atmosphere that made us want to perform. It was amazing [to celebrate with the team], they came out here to support us and now we have to support them over the next couple of days.”