Woman on a track
Credit: British Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith (coach: Edrick Floréal, club: Blackheath & Bromley) was once again crowned the queen of Europe as she regained her 100m title on a rainy night in Rome where Georgia Bell (Trevor Painter, Belgrave) and Lizzie Bird (Pat McCurry, Shaftesbury Barnet) both claimed 1500m silver and 3000m steeplechase bronze respectively.

Asher-Smith, the European Championship gold medallist in the 100m and 200m in 2018, well and truly set the wet track alight in the women’s 100m on the third evening in Italy. She was the only athlete to duck under 11 seconds, clocking 10.99 (0.7), to roar back to the top. Teammate Amy Hunt (Marco Airale, Charnwood) was seventh in her maiden senior final.

Just before Asher-Smith’s re-coronation, Bell claimed her first career major senior medal with silver in the women’s 1500m. She did much of the work in the final alongside Jemma Reekie (Jon Bigg, Kilbarchan) and had the finish to take silver in 4:05.33 minutes while her teammate was fifth and fellow Brit Katie Snowden (Stephen Haas, Herne Hill) ninth.

Bird had got the British team up and running less than an hour before as she battled to bronze in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final, a repeat of her efforts two years ago.

There were six finals with British involvement on the third evening with Morgan Lake (Robbie Grabarz, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) placing sixth in the women’s high jump, Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg, Birchfield) finishing seventh in the men’s 800m and debutant Jake Norris (Paul Dickenson, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) ending tenth in the men’s hammer.

Meanwhile on a night where there was also qualifying action Laviai Nielsen (Tony Lester, Enfield & Haringey) and Charlie Dobson (Leon Baptiste, Colchester) laid down huge markers in the women’s and men’s 400m respectively. Nielsen set a personal best of 50.73 for fourth overall while Dobson absolutely cruised home in 44.65 to qualify quickest.

Three medals on the third evening in Rome, combined with two in the morning, gave the British team five on the day and pushed the overall tally to seven. After women’s half-marathon team gold in the morning, Asher-Smith’s performance in the women’s 100m was GB&NI’s first individual crown in Rome.

She said: “I’ve had two sub-11 performances, one slowing down and one speeding up, so ultimately I am happy. I am happy to win any championships. I know there is such a high calibre of sprinters in Europe, they have phenomenal PBs, so I was just focusing on executing my race. It’s a step towards Paris, in a great direction.”

Asher-Smith may not have been on a European podium since the balmy Berlin nights in 2018 but she underlined her talent in the semi-finals as she scorched to a European lead of 10.96 (0.3) – again no one else ducking under 11 seconds.

She had to wait in the final as Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji false started but was only given a yellow card and a warning. When the gun did finally go uninterrupted Asher-Smith was not the quickest of the blocks and had work to do.

Her class shone through however as she surged through the field and with the finish line approaching was clear ahead of everyone else and back on the top of the podium. She won gold in 10.99 while teammate Hunt finished her first major senior final in seventh in 11.15.

Asher-Smith added: “We’ve worked really hard on my technique, mechanics, and my top end speed, which I am very grateful for. That is not normally my style of race, but I was able to run another sub-11 performance in a different way.”

Meanwhile Hunt, who had to navigate all three rounds of the women’s 100m, said: “I stood on that start line with the biggest smile on my face. It has been a long journey for me, so to reach this point on the mountain is amazing, I can stop and be grateful, and be proud of myself for how far I have come. This is a huge learning curve for me.”

Reekie and Bell went to the front from the very start of the women’s 1500m final, with Snowden settling in behind, and they controlled much of the race thereafter.

Reekie looked very comfortable, running on the outside of lane one, allowing Agathe Guillemot of France to have the inside behind her. Bell was still sitting on Reekie’s shoulder and Snowden still just behind them both.

With 600m to go Reekie and Bell were literally side by side and starting to push away. At the bell they did exactly that with Ireland’s Ciara Mageean joining them. Reekie kicked with 200m to go before drama ensued after the final bend.

It looked as if Reekie and Bell would block Mageean from charging through however the Irish athlete squeezed past to take gold. Bell held onto her coattails to win a superb silver in 4:05.33 while Reekie placed fifth in 4:06.17. Snowden was ninth in 4:06.83.

Bell said: “It sounds incredible to be a European silver medallist, I cannot stop smiling. I knew it was going to be a tough race up against a really good field. I just couldn’t stop smiling on the start line, this is just so fun to be here.

“I should be at work tomorrow morning, but I’m here competing at a European Championships, so I am very happy. Even six months ago I would have thought you were crazy if you told me I’d win a European silver. I was unranked, unsponsored, PB in the 1500m was 4:06. To see where I am now, I am very proud of myself, and I am excited for the future.”

Meanwhile Reekie, who had only raced once over 1500m this season prior to Rome, said: “I don’t know what I’ll take from this. We’ll go back and look at it and see what we can take onwards.

“It’s disappointing – I truly felt I could get a medal but I’ll talk to my coach about it. I was getting clipped all the way round but that’s 1500m running for you. I’m always learning from these events, going through the rounds. There’s a lot we got right, and a few things we got wrong. I’ll definitely keep in touch with the 1500m.”

Bird earned the British team’s first medal of the night in superb style after a brilliant run in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final. A bronze medallist two years ago, Bird was to be feared in the final in Rome – and so it proved.

She settled in behind the leaders through the first half of the race and then started really making a move towards the very front thereafter – sitting on the shoulder of eventual winner Finot of France and Romania’s Stella Rutto.

At the bell Finot blasted away with Germany’s Gesa Felicitas Krause as well as Bird going with her – a very smart move from the Brit as it set her up for bronze. After the last hurdle around the final bend, Bird had built such a lead that bronze was guaranteed.

In only her third steeplechase of the season, she powered through to the very end to clock a season’s best 9:18.39 – inside the Olympic qualifying standard – for a second successive European medal.

Bird said: “I’m so happy with that. I really wanted to get with them over that last 100m but I’m really pleased to get that standard and be able to go train now and prep for it. I have trials in a couple of weeks and hopefully I can get to the [Olympic] Games. It would be great to experience it with some crowds and my family there.”

Lake, competing in her third successive European Championship final in the women’s high jump, enjoyed a great start to her competition as she went clear at 1.86m and 1.90m at the first time of asking after passing at 1.82m.

The bar being raised to 1.93m proved trickier though for Lake, as the rain started to fall in the Stadio Olimpico, and, despite coming close with each attempt, she couldn’t clear with her three chances. That would place her sixth overall – the best European finish of her career.

Lake said: “I do think my third attempt was my best attempt but there’s still some things I need to work on. I did get it right in qualifying and I was happy with my first two clearances of 86 and 90. It was a season’s best but obviously not at my best.

“So going into Paris and the next few comps I need to raise that best again so that when I get to a champs I’m not having to find something I haven’t done yet. I just needed to attack more, I’ve got a lot of speed and power and I need to make use of it.”

In the men’s 800m final, Giles did not mess about at the start surging straight into second place as Italian Catalin Tecuceanu took the race out. Giles let Gabriel Tual of France past but kept with both before Spainard Alvaro De Arriba went for the lead at the bell.

It was those four for the next 200m with Giles then going wide to get past Tecuceanu – however the Italian shut him out. Giles stuck to the inside lane but unfortunately would just miss out on a medal as he finished seventh in 1:47.06.

In contrast to Lake, Norris was competing in his first senior European Championship final in the men’s hammer after a 75.73m in qualifying. He opened up with a 71.52m effort and then, after a foul, pushed out to 73.66m.

Unfortunately, that was just shy of the top-eight placing needed to secure another three throws in the final with Norris placing tenth. He said: “There is definitely a lot to learn from that competition.

“The first throw, I just felt a little off balance, but I wasn’t worrying about it as such. The second round I was trying to get some distance in but then it started raining and unfortunately that second and third round I just couldn’t keep the connection.

“It sounds like an excuse, and it probably is, but it was enough to throw me off my rhythm. I didn’t handle it too well but for a first Europeans and first final, I’m happy enough with how I did.”

After back-to-back double medal sessions took the British team’s tally to four, Nielsen started the third evening in Rome with an absolute bang in the women’s 400m semi-finals. Drawn in the same heat as Ireland’s Rhasidat Adeleke, Nielsen matched her all the way.

Nielsen’s run – after she was given a bye through the heats – was so strong it lowered her personal best by 0.10 to 50.73, just 0.19 shy of Adeleke, who won that semi-final, and good enough for fourth overall.

“I approached that race like a final,” said Nielsen, who unfortunately will not be joined in the women’s 400m final by teammate Victoria Ohuruogu (Newham & Essex Beagles), who finished sixth in the third semi-final in 52.07, ranking 15th overall.

“My coach [Tony Lester] prides himself on getting his athletes ready for championships. I had a frustrating May but he told me it is all about the championships, so he was right – I need to just trust my coach.

“I feel really good. I know this season is a big season, and all eyes are on Paris, but this is a good stepping stone. The 400m in Europe is crazy, the quality is insane, so tomorrow I am going to be a part of it.”

It wasn’t a personal best like Nielsen’s but Dobson performance in the men’s 400m semi-finals was a huge statement. Powering out of the blocks, he led from gun to tape and when it looked like German Jean Paul Bredau might catch him, Dobson shut it down.

Dobson looked extremely fresh coming out of the bend onto the home straight, so much so that he put distance between himself and Bredau in second. He clocked 44.65, easing down well before the line, to go into the final comfortably ranked first overall.

He said: “I don’t think you can ever call a 400m easy, but it obviously wasn’t the hardest 400m I can run. I executed my race plan as I wanted, to get to 300-350m, see where I am at and if I need to push a bit harder, I’ve got the reserve to do that, and I did.”

Dobson was joined in the men’s 400m semi-finals by Alex Haydock-Wilson (Earl Herbert, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow), who was an injury replacement as the 15th ranked athlete from the heats. He finished seventh in the third of three semi-finals in 46.05.

Meanwhile in the men’s 200m semi-finals neither Jona Efoloko (Ryan Freckleton, Sale Harriers Manchester) nor Jeriel Quainoo (Freckleton, Blackheath & Bromley) could advance to the final.

Efoloko went in the first semi-final, clocking 20.73 for third and a spot in the hot seat to see if it was enough. Unfortunately, he was pushed out of the top eight overall by 0.21 while Quainoo posted a time of 20.81 for seventh in the second semi-final.

Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally:

GOLD: [2]: Women’s Half Marathon Team, Dina Asher-Smith – Women’s 100m

SILVER [2]: George Mills – Men’s 5000m, Georgia Bell – Women’s 1500m

BRONZE [3]: Lizzie Bird – Women’s 3000m steeplechase, Romell Glave – Men’s 100m, Calli Hauger-Thackery – Women’s Half Marathon