ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – AUGUST 13: (Editors note: A digital filter has been applied to this image) Mo Farah of Great Britain celebrates winning the Mens 10,000m Final during day two of the 22nd European Athletics Championship at Stadium Letzigrund on August 13, 2014 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for European Athletics)
Wednesday night, the 13th of August 2014, has been one of the finest nights that British Athletics has ever seen at the European Championships, and nearly as exciting as that excellent Saturday night called Super Saturday from the London 2012 Olympics.
Since the glorious night that was Super Saturday, at London 2012, there have been few if any nights quite so special and mesmeric in the world of sport. That evening Mo Farah elevated himself from a star within his sport to a world icon as he took his first gold of those historic games. While it’s unlikely that those events will ever be eclipsed, it was only fitting that Farah should lead the way on what was to become a wonderful Wednesday for British athletics at the 2014 European Championships.
Winning three gold’s and six medals in total, GB eclipsed their performances of previous championships almost before the event had even begun. Lead by 3 athletes seeking their own slices of redemption, each of the six medal winners went a long way towards proving the points that they had set out to make, ahead of the evening’s competition in Zurich.
Whether it was showing the selector’s their previous mistakes, demonstrating their top class abilities, or making amends for a poor performance in Glasgow, these runners made it quite clear that they meant business.
First up was the men’s 10,000m and with it Mo Farah’s chance to silence his critics. For Mo Farah, it was also a chance to move on from the disappointment of missing out on a home Commonwealth Games, through injury. While his performance was not a vintage one, the World and Olympic champion still had enough to ease through the first 9600m before producing his trademark killer last lap to ensure that no one was going to catch him in Switzerland. For Mo Farah, the winning time may not have been electric, but his run was an example of how a top class athlete never forgets how to win, even when he is not fully fit.
Following him home with a sprint finish almost as impressive was Andy Vernon, taking his first senior medal on the track, as his silver created an unexpected British 1-2, and in turn reversed recent negative press surrounding him into something quite the opposite. Having recently been involved in a twitter spat with team-mate Lynsey Sharp over her desire to celebrate her recent Commonwealth silver over the social media, Vernon will hope that he we still be able to celebrate without the cynicisms, or hypocrisy being pointed towards him.
While his rant earlier this week may have done him no favours, his medal is thoroughly deserved after a season filled with varying fortunes. After a brilliant winter, where he was able to pick up European Cross country bronze, Vernon swept off to America, making an early season impact on the track, before the Highgate night of 10k’s.
And, before disaster struck.
Out through injury for six weeks, the Aldershot and Farnham athlete, lost a lot of his sharpness, but that didn’t matter! While he was content, if not frustrated, with a 6th place finish at the Commonwealth Games, Vernon this evening showed a snippet of the running that had made him do so well this Christmas. Vernon let his opponents do the hard work before pouncing on his ‘prey’.
Both athletes will now go into the 5,000m realistically hoping to secure a medal double with Farah on the verge of becoming the greatest ever European athlete.
Next up in the evening’s proceedings was the women’s 100m, where Dafne Schippers showed just how competitive multi-eventers can still be when they focus on just one discipline. Schippers won in 11.12, despite the poor weather conditions.
Streaking home in 3rd was Ashleigh Nelson with a brilliant final 30 metres ensured that she too would claim her first senior medal on the track, having shown so much promise as a junior. Tears streamed down her face. The elation were clear to see from Nelson. Not only had she added to the recent brilliant results by Britain’s women in the sprints, but she had proven to English selectors their mistake for leaving her out of the individual events in Glasgow.
Another athlete left wanting more from her time in Scotland was Tiffany Porter, who despite her 2nd place to Sally Pearson, came away knowing she could have done better. Pearson’s form had been questionable before the championships, offering the Rainer Rider-coached athlete with the perfect opportunity to take advantage and win her first international title. Yet it wasn’t to be. In Glasgow, once again, Tiffany Porter had found herself placing among the silver and bronze medals.
But that was not to be, on Wednesday night, August 13, 2014, in Zurich.
Taking on the mantle of favourite, here in Switzerland, Offili-Porter made the transition from Bridesmaid to number one in Zurich. Just like Jo Pavey had done the night before, Tiffany Offili-Porter showed her class to blow away her rivals in the first 40 metres before holding on for victory.
Inspired by what they had seen earlier in the evening, the British men’s 100m showed that they too are among the best on their continent. Two athletes who both had Commonwealth issues, made these games their own. After being rather surprisingly ‘snubbed’ by team England for the CWG despite becomi
ng the 2nd fastest Briton ever in 2013, James Dasaoulu proved his point in emphatic style as he proved to be a cut above his rivals, even the great Christophe Lemaitre, and win in 10.07, as a British battle ensued behind him for that final spot on the podium.
It was a contest between the unproven and the experienced. It was Harry Aikenes-Aryeetey, who picked himself up from a disappointing run at the Commonwealths, where he could only reach the semi-finals. At the European Championships, Harry Aikenes-Aryeetey finally came of age in a similar way to Nelson, as he too produced an excellent last burst, to take bronze in 10.22.
His fast finish took him past Dwain ‘the train’ Chambers on the line and helped to really announce the brilliance of Britain’s sprint scene right now.
Even after 8 medals in 2 weeks (British sprint corps), it could be suggested that the best is still to come, as the country’s top 200m runners take to the Swiss stage tomorrow, before the excitement of the final weekend relays.
This may not have been anywhere near as memorable an evening as Super Saturday for most. But, it could be that the lasting effect of tonight’s result has an even greater effect on the athletes than they had two years ago.
For the barriers have now been broken for these six, this is likely to only be a tip of the iceberg in the British athletic history books.
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