The meet in Gateshead was not only the opening of the 2021 Diamond League season, but the first time athletes had the support of live fans in a British athletics meeting in fifteen months, I believe. The cold, wind, rain and did I saw cold (yes, I did) challenged many athletes in the opening of the global elite one day meetings.
Stuart Weir did amazing storytelling, as this is his sixth piece on this fine meet!
Naomi Ogbeta takes the TJ, Gateshead DL, May 23, 2021, photo by Diamond League AG
Men’s steeplechase, Gateshead DL, May 23, 2021, photo by Diamond League AG
British performances in Gateshead
One of the advantages of hosting a Diamond league is the opportunity for home athletes to run in front of a home crowd, albeit a small socially distanced one. Some of the top performances in Gateshead were by British athletes. At the same time, the event gave an opportunity to athletes just below world-class to experience lining up with the best in the world – and in better weather the chance to achieve an Olympic qualifying standard. I remember Jake Wightman telling me that as a teenager he finished last in the Anniversary Games but was incredibly excited to have been given a lane. Excluding the Para races – which will be the subject of a separate article – there were over 30 British athletes on the track and in the field at Gateshead. In assessing their performances, it needs to be understood that it is May and that some are still in full training – taking a competition but not adjusting early-season work to taper for it.
Dina Asher-Smith was a British winner in 11.35, a time which reflects the challenges of rain, cold, and a -3.1 wind. Imani Lansiquot (11.92) and Desiree Henry (11.95) were ninth and tenth in the prelims with eight to the final.
Hannah Williams, 23rd-year-old sister of Jodie, was a late call-up taking fifth place in 53.35. Laviai Nielsen (53.96) was eighth, running her first individual 400m of the year.
Laura Muir’s victory in the 1500m is reported elsewhere. Behind her, Katie Snowden (4:08.92) was third and Eilish McColgan (4:10.48) sixth. Adelle Tracey was eight in 4:10.93. Snowden commented: “I’m actually really pleased with it considering the conditions. In terms of position, to come away with the third is brilliant. Distance running in Great Britain is really exciting, to have all of us Brits in this race was so cool and I’m now looking forward to the trials and preparing for races in the future where I don’t have to worry too much about the time”.
A win for Cindy Sember (13.28) and fourth place for Tiffany Porter (13.50) into the wind – see separate article.
Jessie Knight’s sensible decision to pull out of the event was a disappointment to many. Having won in Ostrava and then been selected for the European team championships this coming weekend, she decided that Gateshead was a race too far. Jessica Turner was second in 56.56 with Hayley McLean fifth (58.02) and Nicole Kendall seventh (59.34).
Turner commented: “I’m tired. I’m happy with the second. It’s been a slow start to the season and this is my third race and happy to get a season’s best. It was so windy! I would’ve liked to get closer to 55 though. The last time I was here was for English Schools which is weird. I’m aiming to get into the Olympic qualifying now and we’ll see what happens”.
In atrocious conditions Emily Borthwick jumped 1.91m, a PR, to take second place on count-back, beating Lasitskene. “It’s just an incredible feeling”, she said, to come to a meet like the Diamond League, competing against these world-class girls and just being in the mix of it was amazing. I can’t ask for more. I had done 1.91m indoors and So I knew there was no reason why I couldn’t do that outdoors. I’ve been training alongside (Morgan Lake) and it’s really pushing me to new heights. Literally!”
Morgan Lake (1.88m) was third and Nikki Manson (1.84m) sixth. Bethan Partridge (1.80m) was tenth.
Naomi Ogbeta jumped further than she had ever done before with 14.29m but sadly the wind was over the limit. She said afterward: “I’m so happy with a “personal best”. I really didn’t expect to come third. I knew it would be wet and windy but I’ve been training in this weather in Manchester in preparation coming into this meet. I’m a northern girl and I am really used to training bad weather but a lot of people come from warmer climates so it gives me the confidence going forward now”.
Sophie McKinna was fourth in the shot with 18.36, just missing out on the final round shoot-out. Amelia Strickler was seventh with 17.90, a PR.
Adam Gemili, running his first outdoor race of the season was sixth in 21.18, running into a 3 meter wind.
Archie Davis finished sixth in 3:41.66 and George Mills seventh in 3:42.70. Nineteen-year-old Thomas Keen was tenth in 3:45.97 but what an opportunity for him to line up with Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
Andrew Butchart was the sixth in13:23.73. Jack Rowe (13th in 13:35.77) and Jake Smith (14th in 13:38.01) both ran PRs. Jonathan Davies was 16th in 14:17.75
Butchart said: “The best thing about that was the crowd. It was so nice to have the crowd back, to interact with them at the start line, and to hear them through the race was great. It makes all the difference. It makes it so much more fun, even if it is a bad race for me”.
Jake Smith said; “It was so tough. I knew the wind would be bad but didn’t expect it to be so bad. It was such a great experience but it was just so windy. My time wasn’t fast but it was such a great opportunity”.
There were three British runners in the steeplechase. The slowest on paper and least experienced, Mark Pearce, was fourth in 8:32.65, ahead of Phil Norman (8:35.31) and Zak Seddon (8:38.39).
Harry Coppell was third with 5.45, beaten only by Kendricks and Duplantis. Sadly,
Charlie Myers, from the area, had an NM.
Reynold Banigo seventh in 7.72, 9 Alex Farquharson ninth in 7.61
Harry Hughes seventh with 71.23
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