The British Olympic Trials were held June 24-26, 2016. Here is Alex Mills’ highlights of some of the top performances and qualifiers from this past weekend!
Brits secure their places on the plane as breakthrough stories dominate Olympic trials.
Given that many of the athletes competing at today’s British Championships have been waiting for four maybe even eight years for this day to come, it’s no surprise at the delight and desperation stretched across their faces after the finals of their respective events. Whilst a finish outside the top two equalled a return to the chalkboard, for those who punched their tickets to Rio it was arguably the best moment of their careers as they realised their Olympic dreams. For six of the 11 athletes qualifying today, Rio will be their first trip to the famous event. It’s sure to be exciting six weeks ahead for all as they now concentrate on being in prime fitness for Brazil. Here’s how each athlete secured their place on the plane.
British Champion: Sophie Hitchon – 69.99m
Last year Hitchon burst onto the global scene by finishing 4th at Beijing world championships whilst continually smashing the British record. Her place in Rio was never really in doubt once she had registered a throw in the first round, yet she still managed to throw a decent 69.99m to finish over …. cm ahead of her rivals. As she has shown over the last two years, Hitchon will produce better performances when she needs to.
Post event quote: “It’s always a proud moment to become a British champion. There were a few technical issues which I’m not happy about but it was about getting the win today. I’ll look forward to the European Championships in a couple of weeks then we will be focusing on Rio. There are a lot of small steps to make over the next few weeks to make those improvements ahead of the Olympic Games.”
British Champion: James Dasaolu – 9.93 (wind assisted)
It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for Dasaolu since he become European champion two years ago. After going out in the heats in Beijing and failing to break 10.10 since 2014, expectations had begin to lower. Yet when it mattered most Britain’s second fastest ever sprinter rose to the pressure in Birmingham. After powering out of the blocks, the 2012 Olympian pulled away from his rivals by 60 metres and just kept going, pushing himself to a windy 9.93 seconds holding off James Ellington and fellow sub-10 second man CJ Ujah to take his first British title.
Post race quote: “I am so pleased, this is what I wanted to do at the Olympic Trials – finish in that top two and book my spot on the road to Rio. It is a bonus to go sub-10 (albeit with an illegal wind), I haven’t done that since 2013 funnily enough I did that in the exact same lane here in Birmingham.
I knew it was going tough, across the whole field there were quick times. It was a packed field so I knew it was going to be a challenge. The start was going to be crucial for me and I nailed it so I knew from there it was going to be easier.”
Second place: James Ellington – 9.96 (wind assisted)
Coming into 2016 no-one would have expected that James Ellington would have even been a contender to make the men’s 100m, let alone the favourite as he was seen by many today. Yet after arguably his most consistent season to date, Ellington got his just reward. Despite making a dreadful start, the sprinter recovered magnificently to claw his way into contention at 70m before reeling in CJ Ujah to steal second. Having already set a PB of 10.11 this season, despite the wind assistance, when converted this run was arguably quicker. Already an Olympian in the 200m, he will be hoping for a double celebration when tries to qualify in his main event tomorrow.
Post-race quote: “It wasn’t a surprised – the only person who needs to believe in me, is myself. Every year I’ve focused more on the 200m – this year the timetable worked out so I could try both. I knew I was in good shape for the 100m and I’ve been running quick all year so why not? I’ve always known what I was capable of but people don’t see the behind the scenes. I’ve had a couple of up and down years but I feel like I have finally settled and I have no injuries.”
British Champion: Asha Philip – 11.17 SB 1st time
One of the most unlucky athletes in British sprinting, twice before Phillip had agonisingly missed out become an Olympian. Firstly after a dramatic trampolining injury in 2007 and then as she finished a devastating 4th in 2012. Yet this weekend she wasn’t to be denied. Despite an up and down season, Philip knew had a great chance of achieving her goal today and when he chance came she took it. While others looked faster in the opening rounds, Phillip powered through the field when it really mattered optimising an excellent start to power away from the heavily favoured Desiree Henry and youngster Daryl Neita to finally achieve her dream. As her SB shows, more is still to come!
Post-race quote: “It feels like a whole weight has been lifted off my shoulders. All I came out to do was qualify for the Olympics and that’s what I’ve gone and done. I believe in myself and my coach so it good to know I can execute it when the time is right. I am so happy to be on that plane to Rio!
No one can understand what it means, it hurts so much bad. I know what these athletes go through – the pain, the sacrifices but there is a light at the end of that tunnel and you have to believe that it is there and keep chasing that dream. These girls are phenomenal athletes and I’m so proud of them all – it all looks good for the relay come Rio time as well.”
Second place: Daryll Neita – 11.24 (had earlier run PB of 11.23 in her semi-final) 1st time
In 2015 Daryl Neita’s was left devastated by finishing fourth in the European Junior Championships, less than a year later and she’s now heading to the Olympics as a 19 year-old. She was competing in first senior championships here, but you wouldn’t have known it. Showing true championship potential, Neita opened up by equally her PB before throwing down a new lifetime best in the semi-final. Then in the most important race of her life, the teenager stayed strong as she battled with Henry for second, holding off her rival by just a few seconds.
Welcome to the British team yet another incredibly talented youngster
Post-race quote: “I am so thrilled and delighted with that result. I have shown people what I am capable of doing. I’ve always know it was there but it has been hard for me to mentally mature, however I feel as though I am in the best place I have ever been. It’s been a crazy day and I am just lost for words.
“I went into that race as a bit of an underdog so I didn’t feel I had that much pressure. This is my first senior British championships so I wasn’t really sure what to do so I was just asking everyone for some advice. It was all great experience and will be good for the future and looking ahead to Rio.”
Women’s Pole Vault Final
British Champion: Holly Bradshaw – 4.60m
Four years ago Holly Bradshaw burst onto the scene when she finished 6th in the Olympics aged just 20, now seen as one of the more seasoned pro, the Brit comfortably secured her place at a second games on Saturday. Like Hitchon it was a case of Bradshaw against the bar, rather than her rivals. Once she’d taken the win, the British record holder had some fun, attempting to break her own mark of 4.70 with three attempts at 4.72m. Though she didn’t quite make it, she is clearly quite confident going into Rio.
Post-event quote: “I’ve been struggling a little, I jump really well in training then I come to a competition and don’t jump as well due to the pressure I put on myself. Since the Birmingham Diamond League I’ve competed in a couple of competitions and they’ve gradually got better and better but today was better again so I’m hoping every time I compete I can keep building and finding my jumps so when it comes to Rio I’ll be there.
“Obviously now I’ve secured my place on the team I don’t have to worry about that, I can focus on my jumping and training. I showed in Beijing last year that I can deliver when it matters so I’m relying on that again. Every competition from now to Rio a training session, I just need to work on a few things and look forward to it really.”
British Champion: Andrew Butchart – 13:44.00 1st time
As noted a few weeks ago Butchart is in the form of his life and he illustrated that yet again here. With his confidence sky high, the scotsman elected to make a break for home with over 1,000m to go and he didn’t look back. Using what is now becoming a trademark high knees technique the runner pumped his arms and pulled away from rivals Andy Vernon and Tom Farrell to claim victory in style. With victory all but secured with 200m to go, Butchart began to wave his hands to the crowd inviting them to cheer yet another brilliant run.
Post-race quote: “I’m buzzing with that, it went exactly how I wanted it to go, so I cannot ask for a better day. To win the British title and confirm my place in Rio is a great feeling. I have been so nervous coming into this as I knew what I had to do. I’ve not really raced some of these guys before this year so you have no idea what shape they are in so it is good to get the win.”
Second place: Thomas Farrell – 13:47.60 1st time
In 2012, despite having run the qualifying standard Farrell was forced to miss out on a first Olympics through injury. This time round, the America-based athlete was not going to be denied. With Butchart now out of site, Farrell tracked with Vernon over the last four laps, before making his decisive move in the home straight as he illustrated some impressive top-end speed. Having made his major championship debut in Beijing last year, Farrell has continued to develop under the tutelage of Mark Rowland at Nike Oregon Track Club. He now harbours serious ambitions of making the final in Rio.
I’m delighted to get the job done but of course I would have loved to have got the win and become British champion. The worst case scenario today was to get second and we managed to do that. It was a good race between us all today – the conditions were a bit tricky. Andy (Butchart) ran a great race – I felt bad to be staying behind Andy Vernon but I needed to guarantee my top two so I just got the job done.
Women’s High Jump
British Champion: Morgan Lake – 1.90m 1st time
With her fame as junior heptathlete many have forgotten that Lake is also the world junior champion in the high jump. So having not quite secured her place in Rio in the multi-events, the teenager made sure that she will be in Brazil this summer by claiming her first British title. In absence of Isobel Pooley, Lake was in a class of her own here and she showed it. Having comfortably cleared 1.90m she took three attempts at 1.96m which would have been a new British record. Though she didn’t quite manage it here, the youngster came close enough to suggest that she will do very soon.
As for her heptathlon chances, she will give that one last crack in the coming weeks.
Post-race quote: I felt really good, a little annoyed to not get 1.95m but I’m happy to get the win and qualify. The last couple of weeks have gone quite well, I’ve jumped 1.90m and 1.91m so I know I’m in good shape, so I just wanted to emulate those jumps coming into the Championships. Obviously it’s a little different at champs – there’s more competition and the competition is higher, so I’m happy to have done well.
British Champion: Tiffany Porter – 12.91
Second place: Cindi Offili – 12.93s 1st time
It’s hard to talk about these two separately when they share so many characteristics and talent. Once again this sister-act proved just too strong for the rest of the Britain as they comfortably cruised to qualification in Rio. For big sister Tiff though, there was the ominous sight of Condy just a few inches behind her at the finish. In their closest race yet, Porter took the victory by just .02 of a second. Already holding the faster of the two season’s best times, Cindy is becoming increasingly closer to inflicting a first family defeat on her sister. One which the world bronze medallist famously said would make her consider retirement. Having admitted that she’d like to retract the comment, she might have to by the time their next battle at the Anniversary Games is over.
Whatever happens, the pair just keep on rolling towards becoming athletics most intense family battle. Watch out Borlees.
Post-race quote – Tiffany : “I knew it was close, I crossed the line thinking ‘oh no is today the day she actually beats me?’ but I’m just happy to come away victories.
First and foremost, the thing for me is to go into Rio fit and healthy. If I can do that’s half the battle, I’m very optimistic and hopefully I can race well when it matters.
Our family is so excited and proud and hopefully we can continue to make them proud. The plan is for the family to come out so we’ll see.
Post-race quote Cindy: “I’m really happy to have made my first Olympics and alongside my sister.
I would think we’ll race again, I don’t know when yet but maybe at the London Diamond League, so we’ll see.
I’ve very excited to now go pro and I hope I do better with that kind of competition.”