Jodie Williams takes the UK indoor 60m title in Sheffield (Getty Images) © Copyright
Chambers takes 60m showdown
Chambers’ storming display brought victory with space to spare in a race predicted to be too close to call. The World and European indoor champion suffered a rare defeat at the Birmingham Indoor Games last week but he powered away from his rivals in the second half of the final here to take the line in 6.57, just five hundredths outside Nesta Carter and Kim Collins’ world lead and five hundredths quicker than any other European in 2011.
“It’s a great opportunity to be competing again, it’s great,” said Chambers after booking his place at the European Indoor Championships in Paris in three weeks’ time. “I’ve got a few more weeks to go until the Euros so I’m keen just to stay injury free for that. I’m keen to get out there and do really well.”
A battle between Chambers and Mark Lewis Francis seemed on the cards after the early rounds, but Lewis Francis was sluggish in the blocks leaving Harry Aikines Areetey and Craig Pickering to challenge the defending champion. Chambers was too good for them all, but Aikines Areetey’s blistering start carried him to second in 6.64 and a place on the GB team, with Pickering third in 6.67.
Lewis Francis started badly in the final and finished fourth in 6.68. He had been fastest in round one with 6.63 and made the final with 6.65. Chambers opened with an easy 6.68 in the heats, then upped tempo in the semis, leaving the field for dead in 6.61. But the 32-year-old clearly had more to give and will go to Paris as favourite to retain his European crown.
Williams, in senior debut, impresses
If it was business as usual for the 32-year-old Chambers, it was all new for Williams who, at 17, was making her first appearance at a senior championships. The IAAF World youth and junior 100m champion appeared utterly unfazed by her more seasoned opponents as she took the women’s 60m title ahead of athletes aged between eight and 20 years older.
Trailing from the gun, the slender Williams showed great maturity with a late surge to claim victory in a photo-finish from Bernice Wilson. Williams stopped the clock at 7.24, slicing 0.04s from her PB to enter the world’s top 20.
After a smooth 7.38 in her heat, Williams had already equalled her PB with 7.28 in the semi-final when three crossed the line together. Wilson was second in the same time with 2008 World indoor silver medallist Jeannette Kwakye third, 0.02s slower.
It was Wilson who looked most likely for the first 50m of the final, but Williams is a young woman who’s used to winning and she wouldn’t let it go, dipping on the line to take her first senior title in a time that will put her in the frame for a European medal.
“I couldn’t ask for more in my first senior race, I’m just so happy with how it turned out, especially with such a strong field today,” said Williams. “To come here against such a good field, I’m lost for words really. I’ve been working a lot on my starts and it’s paid off.
“I definitely think I can do something at the Europeans. It’s only in Paris as well, so it’s not too far away. I’m really excited.”
Wilson also claimed her place on the Paris start line, finishing second in 7.25, a PB by 0.03s, while Kwakye was third.
Third High Jump title for Ennis
While it was a dream start to senior life for the rising star, it was a less comfortable weekend for Britain’s established golden girl.
Jessica Ennis was aiming to be the first athlete for more than 40 years to win three titles at a UK indoors. But after winning the High Jump on Saturday with 1.88 and throwing 13.86 in the shot, she pulled out of the hurdles and Long Jump on Sunday because of “a little bit of tightness” in her left ankle.
“I have had an annoying niggle on the side of my left foot over the past week,” she explained. “A scan revealed there is no damage and it is a bit of inflammation. My coach and I decided that rest today would be best as it is still stiff and focus on the bigger picture.
“I was really happy with my high jump yesterday,” she added. “It was comfortable and gave me a good insight into how things are shaping up with the European Indoors just a few weeks away.”
Ennis won her third High Jump title easily but made only two attempts at 1.91, opting for safety instead of pushing on towards her British record of 1.94. She took six throws in the Shot Put but was some way short of the 14.61 PB she set last month.
“I’m happy with the way everything is going,” she said. “I wanted to throw a little bit further but it’s OK, I know I’m in good shape and I threw well the other week. You can’t throw well every competition so I’m hoping I’ve got my best throw in me in Paris.
“I’ve covered all the events going into the Europeans and I just want to stay injury free. Really I’m just trying to do as many events as I can before the Europeans. I’m in great shape and I’ve had a great start to the year, so I’m really looking forward to competing in Paris.”
Comfortable 60m Hurdles victory for Turner
While the Sheffield fans were denied a chance to see their homegrown girl in her favourite hurdles event, they did see Briton’s number one win the men’s event.
Andy Turner described 2010 as his ‘fairytale’ year after winning European and Commonwealth titles outdoors. Yet he came to Sheffield with ‘unfinished business’ after being disqualified from the final here a year ago and getting injured in the 200m in 2008.
The Sheffield bogey was laid to rest this weekend as he won the hurdles with ease 24 hours before beating all but one of the sprint specialists over one lap on Sunday.
Turner opened with 7.62 in the hurdles heats, the quickest by any Briton this year, and took victory in the final, a fraction quicker at 7.61 for third on the European year lists.
It was Turner’s third UK indoor title, although he wasn’t happy with the time. He’d been targeting his indoor PB of 7.55 but had to recover from a sluggish start before pulling away over the barriers to win with room to spare over Gianni Frankis.
“I expected to run a lot quicker than that today,” said Turner. “Training suggests I should be running a lot quicker but I’m just not executing correctly in the race. I fully expected to break my personal best today, but it’s nice to win I suppose.”
He was much happier after the 200m, where came within 0.05s of a unique double as Danny Talbot pipped him on the line. After clocking 20.90 in the heats – putting him among the world’s top ten and trailing only Sebastian Ernst in Europe this year – Turner led the final until the last stride when Talbot slipped past to win in 20.89.
“I’ve only run 20-point something two or three times in my life, so to run it twice in one day feels great,” said Turner. “He’s a 200m specialist so I’ll give him his dues, he ran well.”
Clitheroe leads the distance corps
The in-form Helen Clitheroe was the best of the distance runners. Clearly still benefiting from her two months’ altitude training in Kenya, she won the women’s 3000m with another impressive front-running performance.
Not quite as quick as her solo victory in Glasgow two weeks ago, Clitheroe led Gemma Turtle through the laps before out-battling her over the last 150m to clock 8:55.26. Turtle just missed the 8:55 European qualifying time with 8:57.24 in second.
“I’ve got Birmingham next week and it’s a real opportunity to run in a faster-paced race,” said Clitheroe. “I hope this winning streak continues.
“I’d be delighted if I could do well in Paris. I’ve been fourth twice in 1500s and I know it will be tough but if I carry on my form then who knows? Dreams can come true.”
Sotherton downs Meadows in the 400m
There was a dream start to 400m running for former multi-eventer Kelly Sotherton who took the two-lap title in 53.46 ahead of some more fancied rivals. Sporting a new cropped hairstyle to go with her new event, the 2004 Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist led from the front to leave Jenny Meadows in her wake.
“I’m a bit emotional because I had two and a half years out,” said the tearful Sotherton, whose aim is to make Britain’s 4x400m relay team after abandoning multi-events due to persistent injuries.
“I’m still learning my trade,” she added. “I keep knocking seconds off my time, so if I keep going like this, who knows what can happen? I’m very satisfied with how I ran, who I beat, and the first national title I’ve got in the bag. Not a bad one for me.”
It was a bad one for Meadows, though. Ironically the last time she won this title, in 2003, Sotherton was among those she beat. Since then Meadows has won six national 800m titles, as well world and European outdoor medals at that distance. She was comfortably the fastest qualifier on Saturday with 53.50 but had no answer in the final when the 34-year-old Sotherton came past her before the bell.
“I’m stunned, I’m absolutely gobsmacked,” said Meadows, who faded to fifth in 54.47. “I don’t know what went wrong. I really wanted to win the event so I’m disappointed with how it went. I know 800m is my main event but I was really going for this today. I still don’t know what happened.”
Nigel Levine took nearly three tenths of his PB to win the 400m in 46.76 while in Meadows’ absence it was Marilyn Okoro who took the field apart to win the women’s 800m. Okoro regained her title by a huge margin in 2:04.36.
Joice Maduaka added to her amazing haul of national titles with another 200m gold. The 37-year-old was no match for Williams in the 60m but she collected her third indoor 200m crown in 23.63 ahead of Commonwealth 100m medallist Katherine Endacott. It was her 34th national medal, her 18th title and the ninth she’s won indoors.
It was also her last, as Maduaka promptly announced this would be her last indoor championships.
Andy Baddeley won the men’s 3000m but just missed the European qualifying time of 7:54.00. Mike Skinner led the 1500m specialist through 2k in 5:18 before Baddeley forged on alone for the last third. He crossed the line in 7:54.60.
Joe Thomas booked his place in Paris by winning the men’s 800m in 1:47.87. Thomas, a Commonwealth Games finallist for Wales, also led Andrew Osagie under the 1:48 qualifier. Osagie was second in 1:47.96.
Nick McCormick won the men’s 1500m in 3:45.30, while Stacey Smith took the women’s title in 4:22.96.
Parsons improves to 2.31m, close at 2.35m
High jumper Tom Parsons provided the field event highlight, breaking the stadium record with a PB of 2.31m. Parsons won the title by matching his PB 2.28m, good enough to win a place on the Paris plane, before taking the record with a second attempt clearance at 2.31m. He also had three good efforts at 2.35m.
Another rising star, Holly Bleasdale, won the women’s pole vault. A World junior bronze medallist last year, the 19-year-old beat national record holder Kate Dennison by 10cm with a best clearance of 4.36m. Bleasdale was disappointed not to improve her recent PB of 4.50.
Commonwealth bronze medallist Max Eaves won the men’s pole vault, also beating the favourite, Steve Lewis, while improving his PB three times from 5.37m to 5.41m, 5.51m, and 5.61m. Lewis had to settle for third at the end of a three-hour competition as Luke Cutts beat him on countback after both cleared 5.51m. It was the first time three British men have been over 5.50m in one competition.
Kate Proper won her third consecutive women’s long jump title with 6.35m, while Ezekiel Ewulo leaped a PB of 7.60m to beat JJ Jegede by 8cm in the men’s event.
There was a PB for 19-year-old Laura Samuel too as she added the women’s indoor triple jump title to the outdoor crown she clinched last summer. Assured of victory with 13.19m from round one she leapt 13.24m to conclude the competition, 37cm beyond her previous indoor best.
Nineteen-year-old Ben Williams rounded off a good weekend for teenagers of that surname by winning the men’s triple jump. The 2009 World youth champion matched his season’s best of 15.88 in the first round and was never bettered.
After this weekend, ‘never bettered’ is a pretty good slogan for Jodie too.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF
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