The final evening of action at the European Indoor Championships saw a record Great Britain & Northern Ireland team deliver spectacularly as golds from Laura Muir (coach: Andy Young, club: Dundee Hawkhill), Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (Jon Bigg, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) led the way. Winning six medals on the night, the British team finished the Championships second in the medal table with a best-ever haul at the event of 12 overall (4 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze).
Bringing Glasgow’s Emirates Arena to its feet for the second time in three days, Muir lined up for the final of the 1500m with the ‘double-double’ of European Indoor middle distance titles – 1500m and 3000m – in her sights.
Immovable at the front of the field from the very start, the multi-medalled Scot had the backing of the sell-out crowd and controlled the pace of the race over the opening laps.
Gradually chipping away to build her lead, a surge in pace with 400m to go saw the gap between her and eventual silver-medallist Sofia Ennaoui (POL) grow, with a relentless final 200m seeing her romp to a historic gold on her home track, stopping the clock in 4:05.92, with the margin of victory some three and a half seconds.
Speaking post-race, the first ever double-double champion said: “I set myself a big test this weekend. There was a lot of pressure on me but I’m so pleased to have done the job and win the double gold.
“So much hard work has gone into this. People only see the race but so much has gone into making that possible. There is a huge team behind me led by my coach Andy, my therapists Derry, Cat and Poora, so I owe a big thank you to them.
“It’s so special for me to do this on my home track. It was such a big opportunity for me so I’m so glad I could deliver.”
Joining Muir in securing the highest step on the rostrum, an utterly dominant gun to tape run from Oskan-Clarke saw the Brit clinch 800m gold.
Asserting her authority on the race from the very beginning, the silver medallist from the last edition of the Championships charged to the front and led the field through 400m in 60.39, with a pursuit of the title well and truly on.
Holding off the dangerous Renelle Lamote (FRA) as she looked to come by several times, Oskan-Clarke fed off the noise from the home crowd to kick for home with 50m to go, with a brilliant run from gun to tape seeing her cross the line in 2:02.58 to claim the first major international title of her career.
“I’m just so pleased. I loved the feeling of crossing the finish line knowing I’d won gold,” commented an ecstatic Oskan-Clarke.
“I decided beforehand I wanted to go out and focus on getting out in front because I wanted it to be a bit quicker. I would then just work really hard on the third lap. I knew at 150m I just wanted to go, and remembered to pump my arms and turn my legs.
“I know I’m strong, but it is just about making the right moves at the right times. It’s hard indoors because if you don’t do that, it’s too late. I wanted to be out there early and hold on for home. I knew I’d have no regrets then.”
In the same race, and having surpassed her own personal expectations to the point she jokingly tweeted about running out of racing socks following qualification to the final, Mari Smith’s (Bud Baldaro, Birchfield Harriers) memorable Championships continued as she finished fifth overall in a time of 2:03.45, the sixth-quickest time of her career.
An athlete with one of the best views in the house for races on the track, and very much in the form of her life at current, Holly Bradshaw (Scott Simpson, Blackburn Harriers) headed into the pole vault final ranked second in Europe and aiming for another major international medal following European outdoor bronze last summer.
Entering at 4.55m and going over first time, a second-time success at 4.65m was followed by first-time success at 4.75m to all but guaranteed a podium place for the second consecutive European championships.
Guaranteed silver due to herself and Sidorova being the only two athletes to go clear at 4.75m – each at the first time of asking – Bradshaw was left to vault it out at 4.80m and beyond with the Authorised Neutral Athlete.
Having to make the decision to move up in height to attempt 4.85m due to Sidorova sailing over 4.80m first-time, it was one that didn’t pay off this time out as three failures confirmed the order of the podium, with Bradshaw proudly claiming silver at her first European Indoor championships since 2013.
“This indoor season has been shock after shock for me,” said Bradshaw. “Back in 2013 when I won I was coming off the high of the Olympics. Then 2014 to 2017 I had a real bumpy patch with a lot of injuries and there were times when I questioned if I could ever get back to the level I thought I could be at – this indoor season has really concreted it to me that I can compete with the best – I can be jumping 4.80-90m, so I am pleased to be out competing, doing what I love and winning medals again. That’s what I do it for. I am really looking forward to the outdoors now and seeing what I can do.”
Heading into the final full of confidence following top-two finishes in both his heat and semi-final, Jamie Webb (Liverpool; Adrian Webb) took the bull by the horns in the final of the men’s 800m and wasted little time in mixing it at the front of the seven-strong field.
Attacking down the inside with 300m to go and ‘running for gold’ as he stated he would do the day before, Webb held silver at the bell and dug in deep down the back straight with the intention of letting no-one by him as he charged for home down the home straight.
Rewarded with a magnificent personal best of 1:47.13 and a hugely eye-catching silver medal – Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s best result in the men’s event for close to 30 years on the European indoor stage – Webb was unsurprisingly delighted when he spoke afterwards.
He said: “Everyone’s got opinions; I’ve learnt a lot and that I’ve just got to look after myself. People who think because I’m 23-24 going on 25, you’re not going to improve. But you are sort of a master of your own destiny, and I’ve got another six years of improvement.
“I look at people like Nick Symmonds who won Olympic bronze at 30-31 I think. There’s no reason why I can’t be 1:44-1:43s this summer, or 1:42, chipping away. I’ve improved every year and I was a latecomer to the sport. I only started training at 18 properly, very progressively and we’ve got a long-term view – it’s a big 18 months now with world champs all the way through until Tokyo.”
Heading into the evening in the silver medal position following a strong conclusion to day one and a good showing in the pole vault earlier today, Tim Duckworth (Toby Stevenson, Liverpool) knew there was still work to do with just the 1000m remaining in his heptathlon campaign.
Not known for his endurance strength, Duckworth produced when it was required as a seven-second personal best run of 2:44.44 scored 771 points and cemented his hold on silver to ensure the pain of the seventh and final event of the weekend was entirely worth it.
Scoring 6156 overall, and making history in becoming the first-ever British heptathlon medallist at the European Indoor championships, Duckworth reflected on his success: “There were lots of ups and downs. That’s for sure. It started out well, took a dip with shotput, came back up with high jump, then the beginning of today kind of went back down but I finished strong.”
On knowing what was required ahead of the 1000m, he continued: “I needed a PB and I knew I could do it in the 1000m, so that was the main goal going into it – just run as fast as I can, for as long as I could. And I just kept going with the group so I thought OK, just keep riding it out!
“It’s hard to describe – I knew I could do it but to come here and do what I did in the thousand was great. I’ve been dreaming about that feeling of winning a medal for a while.”
Winners of silver at the last edition of the Championships in Belgrade, a strong-looking quartet of Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey; Christine Bowmaker), Zoey Clark (Thames Valley; Eddie McKenna), Amber Anning (Brighton & Hove; Lloyd Cowan) and Eilidh Doyle (Pitreavie; Brian Doyle) lined up for the final event, the women’s 4x400m relay, with a medal in their sights once more.
Taking the stagger out of Belgium early doors, Nielsen put the team straight into bronze and maintained the position come handing over to Clark. Bursting into the silver medal position almost immediately and only showing sign of tiring come the final 50m, the Scot clung on to second before passing to senior debutant Anning with less than half of the race to go.
Showing no sign of panicking in the Championship environment, Anning appeared serene as she coasted round her two laps while fending off Italy, with a roar erupting as she handed over to home-favourite Doyle who was tasked with running down leaders Poland and keeping Italy at bay.
Eating up the metres on the reigning champions Poland, Doyle just ran out of track as Poland snatched gold in a repeat of the one-two from two years ago as the British quartet clocked 2:29.55 to Poland’s 3:28.77, with the medal bringing the curtain down on Britain’s most-successful showing at the Championships.
The youngest member of the British team at 18, Amber Anning said: “I’m so excited, I knew that we had it in us and had to deliver it. Those girls set it up so well for me and all I could do was keep it going and get it to Eilidh. But I knew we had the ability to do it, I’m just so glad that we could deliver it in the last race of the competition!”
Adding yet another medal to her haul, Scotland’s most decorated athlete of all-time Doyle said: “We knew we were a strong team; we had such a battle against each other at the British Championships but we know we’re all pretty similar. To come back together as a team and share all our talent, it was fantastic. We knew we could really challenge for the medals. We did such a good job and we’re delighted to win a silver.”
In the men’s equivalent, the previously untried quartet of Cameron Chalmers (Guernsey; James Hillier) Joe Brier (Swansea; Matt Elias), Thomas Somers (Newham & Essex Beagles; Benke Blomkvist), Alex Haydock-Wilson (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow; Michael Baker) left it all on the track before settling for a fifth-place finish.
Kicked off by Chalmers, the British indoor champion over 400m showed well for the quartet as he tucked into bronze, with Brier recovering from a near tumble post-handover to keep the team in the mix over the course of his two lap contribution.
Handing over to 200m specialist Somers, swift legs runners from France and Poland saw Britain pushed into fifth come anchor leg Haydock-Wilson receiving the baton. Determined to get back into contention, Haydock-Wilson ran a blistering first 200m to move onto the shoulders of the aforementioned nations, with fatigue setting in at 50m go seeing the team come home in fifth with 3:08.48 overall.
Having battled back from injury with the ambition of retaining the European Indoor title he first claimed two years ago, there was to be no podium place for Andrew Pozzi (Santiago Antunez, Stratford-upon-Avon) as he was urged on by the home crowd.
The joint-quickest to react to the gun, Pozzi’s dip for the line and his time of 7.68 was only good for sixth, with Milan Trajkovic of Cyprus something of a surprise winner in 7.60.
A final which saw medal-winning marks worthy of a global competition and 6.83m only good for fouth, Abigail Irozuru (Tom Cullen, Sale Harriers) enjoyed a fine seventh-place finish courtesy of a best of 6.50m on her first return to a major championship setting for some seven years.
Starting out with 6.41m, Irozuru’s best of 6.50m came in round three and was sandwiched between fouls on the board, with a next-best of 6.37m following in round five before she closed her series of jumps with 6.35m.
With much of the attention on Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR), Robbie Fitzgibbon (Bigg, Brighton) tucked into towards the back of the pack with the intention of moving through as the race progressed in the 1500m final.
Keeping in touching distance of the field as they went through 2:06.37 courtesy of the young Norwegian, Fitzgibbon’s attempts to motor through over the closing stages were to no avail as he came home in eighth in a time of 3:47.08.
Having suffered with illness overnight, unfortunately Neil Gourley (Mark Rowland, Giffnock North) was unable to line up for the final having done so well to navigate his way to the event’s conclusion.
Some 12 years on from winning a medal at the last European Indoor Championships to be held in the UK, Nathan Douglas (Aston Moore, City of Oxford) was clear in stating he wanted to replicate his silver-medal winning feat from Birmingham 2007.
Opening with 16.33m, the jumper’s series was somewhat hampered by fouls, combined with no improvement thereafter, he had to settle for seventh.
After leaving it late and battling her way into the final courtesy of clutch jump at 1.93m on Friday, Morgan Lake (Fuzz Caan, Winsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) once again found herself needing to produce when the heat turned up come the final.
Needing third attempts at both 1.87m and 1.91m, there was no such luck at 1.94m as the British No.1 exited the competition and finished ninth overall.
British Athletics medal tally (12) – second in the medal table overall:
Katarina Johnson-Thompson – Pentathlon
Laura Muir – 1500m
Laura Muir – 3000m
Shelayna Oskan-Clarke – 800m
Holly Bradshaw – Pole Vault
Tim Duckworth – Heptathlon
Niamh Emerson – Pentathlon
Chris O’Hare – 3000m
Jamie Webb – 800m
4x400m – Women
Melissa Courtney – 3000m
Asha Philip – 60m
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images