Olympic finalist lands her first British title, while Ohuruogu steps out of her sister’s shadow and Muir cruises to victory
It had been coming.
For so long Dina Asher-Smith has been out on her own in British women’s sprinting but Daryll Neita has been inching ever closer over the past year.
In Manchester on Saturday (June 25), the in-form 100m Olympic finalist blasted her way clear of the reigning world 200m champion to claim not only a first British title but also her spot on the GB team for next month’s World Championships in Oregon.
The tailwind of +3.8 meant Neita’s winning run of 10.80 won’t replace 10.93 as her PB, but it was still fantastically fast and the manner of her competition at these Müller UK Athletics Championships was mightily impressive.
It wasn’t as if Asher-Smith was slow, either, coming home in 10.87 to also ensure her 100m spot for Eugene, while bronze went to Imani Lara Lansiquot in 11.03.
The expectations for this highly anticipated showdown had risen during the semi-finals when wind-assisted sparks had flown as Neita qualified fastest in winning heat one in 10.92 (3.0), while Asher-Smith won her heat in 10.96 (3.8).
When it came to the final, the pair matched each other virtually stride for stride until around the 30m mark when Neita began to establish a gap which couldn’t be bridged. After three silver medals and two bronzes, finally she was on the top spot of a British Championships podium.
“I always knew I could do it and it is a great time, even though it is with wind, and to be British champion is wonderful,” she beamed.
It is worth nothing that all has not been straightforward for Neita. She has moved to Italy to be coached by Marco Airale after leaving the US-based group led by Rana Reider, who had multiple allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.
“It is not just about what you go through but more about how you deal with it and this is another stepping stone for me,” she added. “I do really believe there is no limit to me.
“Making the Olympic final last year was a major achievement for me. Once there I realised I still had more in me and I wasn’t so happy with the result because I knew I could do more. It is going great with my new coach and I am just super excited for the rest of the season. The British team now is so strong and it is great that we can challenge each other at these champs.”
Asher-Smith, who will contest the 100m, 200m and spearhead what looks like being a formidable 4x100m relay team at the World Championships, added: “Of course I don’t like losing but I am so happy for Daryll. She has been working so hard and really deserves it. Domestically we really have such talent and so this pushes us all.
“The times are impressive even though there was wind. I am in good shape and things will come together at the right time.”
Ohuruogu steps out of the shadows
Another athlete who has had to wait a long time for their first British gold medal is Victoria Ohuruogu, who produced one of the most emotional victories of these championships so far in winning the 400m.
18 years after her sister Christine, the former world and Olympic champion, won her first national title on the same Manchester track, the younger sibling controlled her race from start to finish, coming home in 51.45 to hold off the challenge of Nicole Yeargin, whose second place in 51.69 also takes her to the World Championships. Laviai Nielsen was third in 51.97.
The initial celebration for Ohuruogu was followed by tears, however, as she thought of her late coach Lloyd Cowan, who passed away last year. Christine is now at the head of her coaching set-up.
“It feels surreal, it hasn’t quite sunk in. As soon as I crossed the line I thought of Lloyd because I think he would have loved to have seen me as the British champion.
“Now I’m in the spotlight it feels strange! I’m happy that all the training is really paying off.
“My sister is so knowledgeable and is so talkative, she really helps as she always knows what to say when I’m competing. She’s a great person to have in the corner. I have changed and adapted my individual programme that I think has benefitted my overall performances.”
With her 800m World Championships place already booked thanks to being Diamond League champion, Olympic silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson used the 400m as a means of strengthening her speed and the 20-year-old duly produced a PB performance, coming fifth in 52.41.
Muir in complete control
Like Hodgkinson, Laura Muir secured silver in Tokyo last year in the 1500m, and was a class apart in Manchester.
While the men’s 1500m final came down to the final strides, in truth the destination of the women’s gold was just about as much of a foregone conclusion as there could possibly be. The evening before, Muir had used the qualifying heat as the chance to drop in a 600m time trial – refusing to take anything easy as she aims to stay in peak condition ahead of her assault on the three major championships this summer.
For the final, she saved her speed for the closing 500m, having lurked at the back while Hannah Nuttall led the pack through 400m in 73.02 and 800m in 2:26.60 before Muir worked her way to the front and dismissed her opponents with an injection of pace which none of them could live with.
The Scot hit the line in 4:12.91 to become British 1500m champion for the first time since 2016, while Melissa Courtney-Bryant also made sure of her Oregon place with second in 4:17.72. Cambridge Harrier Sabrina Sinha produced a fine run to land the first senior medal of her career with bronze in 4:19.76.
“I am really happy with that today and to become British champion at 1500m again,” said Muir. “I cannot afford to ease up and am trying to get something out of every time I run. I was feeling a bit race rusty a couple of weeks ago so it is nice to get some good races under my belt. Now the training is translating into the races.
“I am very excited for Oregon now and am really determined to get a medal.”
Markovc eases the pain
In May, Amy-Eloise Markovc came agonisingly close to qualifying for the 10,000m at the World Championships. At the Night of the 10,000m PBs last month, she fell fractionally short of the standard but, in truth, the 5000m is her preferred option and a first British outdoor championships ended with a gold medal in Manchester.
Sam Harrison made the early running but European Indoor 3000m champion Markovc stuck to her race plan to surge into the lead in the closing stages as she won in 15:37.23 to hold off British 10,000m champion Jess Judd (15:38.39) and Sarah Inglis (15:39.55).
“It was so nice being able to book my ticket automatically to the Worlds,” said the US-based winner. “It means I don’t have to worry about anything in the next few days and can make plans with regards to the summer. I’m really excited for Worlds and Commonwealths.
“I am just trying to be patient. Slow races can be testing to me especially with my patience but I followed my race plan which wasn’t to take it until the last 100m. I’m really happy that I kept my nerve throughout the race.
Hahn out in front
Paralympic champion Sophie Hahn continued her preparations for the Commonwealth Games by winning the women’s ambulant 100m title with the minimum of fuss, though admitted the windy conditions did pose a particularly stiff challenge for her.
“I was happy with the start, but the wind was so strong and as I’m a little person I thought it was going to blow me about a little more,” she said, after winning in 12.82 (2.5) from Alison Smith (13.09) and Hetty Bartlett. “But I just put my head down and focused on my technique.
“I’m very excited to have the Commonwealths in Birmingham it is going to be incredible in front of a home crowd it is going to be something special.”