British stars step up to the plate

A return to the Olympic Stadium saw a number of British athletes lay down the gauntlet ahead of the World Championships in Beijing.

Dina Asher-Smith blazed her way to a new national record in her 100m heat, and in the process, became the first athlete from these shores to dip under 11 seconds. The 19 year-old KCL student could not quite reproduce that form in the final, clocking 11.06s and coming fourth, but her performances definitely point to an incredibly bright future for British female sprinting. Not to be outdone, 21 year-old Chijindu Ujah equalled his personal best of 9.96 to finish fourth in a high-class field, with the imperious Usain Bolt returning to form to take the win in 9.87s. Ujah also took the scalp of French and European record holder Jimmy Vicaut.

Newly-adopted Briton Zharnel Hughes finished quickly to claim victory in the 200m, breaking his personal best. Martin Rooney and Rabah Yousif struggled to make an impression in the 400m, while Christine Ohuruogu managed fourth in the same event, finishing in 51 seconds flat.

Despite his world-record run in the Olympic Stadium three years, David Rudisha has had to play second fiddle to Nijel Amos in the 800m ever since, and it was the Botswanan who once again edged out the Kenyan by one-tenth of a second. Both Michael Rimmer and Kyle Langford managed to attain the qualifying time for the World Championships of 1:46.00, with Rimmer running a season’s best (1:45.67) and Langford (1:45.78) smashed his personal best by just over a second-and-a-half. They finished fifth and seventh respectively. In the women’s event, Lynsey Sharp finished third in the women’s event, dipping under the two-minute barrier to record a season’s best.

Laura Weightman took advantage of a relatively slow 1500m pace to take the victory in a tight race. Her winning time was well over a second off her season’s best, but the outcome will have nevertheless been morale-boosting. In the one mile race, Charlie Grice did excellent to finish just four-tenths of a second off the winner Asbel Kiprop, who has the current world champion at 1500m.

Mo Farah was once again a class apart as he stretched away from the field to record a world leading time in the 3000m. Farah must be considered among the favourites for both the 5000m and 10000m crowns in China next month.

Jessica Ennis-Hill is slowly coming back to form, but is still undecided about the world championships. Her 200m was a tad disappointing, but she made up for it with an excellent run of 12.79s in the 100m hurdles. Team-mate Tiffany Porter finished fourth in a time of 12.67s

Niall Flannery finished third in the 400m hurdles. Meanwhile, Eilidh Child missed her season’s best by just two-hundredths of a second as she came fourth. Pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie was successful at 6m once again, while in the long jump, Greg Rutherford was pushed into third place, with a best jump of 8.18m. The event was Ennis’ only one of the day in the field, and although she came seventh, she finished with a creditable best jump of 6.37m. In the same competition, Shara Proctor improved her national record by three centimetres to 6.98m.

Finally, the sprint relays provided Great Britain with a lot of encouragement. The male quartet narrowly edged out the French, with Vicaut’s rapid recovery proving not quite good enough to catch Ujah, as GB finished with a time of 38.32s. One imagines that that time will need to be improved by at least a few-tenths of a second to get on the medal rostrum. The female four fared well, and were close to nabbing second place off the Netherlands. However, both countries had to accept defeat to a dominant USA team.

There were many outstanding performances on show, both from athletes gunning for gold and those with more modest aspirations. The strength-in-depth in British athletics has improved dramatically in recent years, and the team can look to surpass their last World Championship medal haul of 3 gold and 3 bronze medals.

Alex Bowmer


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