Eriksson content GB future is rich in promise

Departing head coach Peter Eriksson claimed the future of British athletics is in safe hands after his faith in youth was repaid handsomely at the European Team Championships in Gateshead.

Great Britain's Richard Buck celebrates his team winning the men's 4x400metre relay

The Swede signed off from his brief stint in the role with a third-placed finish at a rain-soaked Gateshead International Stadium.

His target of a top-two place proved just out of reach as Russia won from Germany, but a points total of 338 was the hosts’ best in the four editions of the new format of the competition.

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Most pleasing off all, though, was the emergence of possible future stars as the likes of 19-year-old Emelia Gorecka finished second in the 5,000m, following 18-year-old Jessica Judd’s 800m victory on Saturday.

“Emelia (yesterday) and Jessica Judd (on Saturday) were great,” said Eriksson, who was appointed as successor to Charles van Commenee after London 2012 and is returning to be with his family in Canada.

“All of the youngsters stepped up and did outstanding performances. This event here is about the youngsters taking their chance and fulfilling their dreams.

“That’s the highlight, not the big stars taking the medal they expected.”

Mo Farah did just that on Saturday, delighting the home crowd with his scorching final lap of the 5,000m.

In the women’s event, a brand new face was making her senior track debut for Britain and Gorecka, a world junior bronze medallist over 3,000m, produced a gutsy run to finish second to Russia’s Olga Golovkina in 15mins 40.52secs.

She said: “Sometimes you don’t realise you have an extra gear until you have to use it and the crowd really helped me, I just legged it.”

Her cross-country background would have helped in dealing with the conditions, which verged on the monsoon-like at times.

Torrential rain disrupted the TV coverage and forced the men’s pole vault and women’s high jump competitions to be held indoors.

Among the other youngsters to shine were Sophie Hitchon, a 21-year-old former ballet dancer, who broke her British record in the hammer for the ninth time, while the opening day saw second-place finishes for 19-year-old Charlie Grice in the 1,500m and Leeds Met student Laura Weightman, 21, in the 3,000m.

Hitchon threw 72.97m, adding 99 centimetres to her previous best, to achieve the ‘A’ qualifying standard for the World Championships. “I’ve been chasing that 72m barrier for such a long time so I’m pleased to have finally got it,” she said.

Eriksson’s departure ends his near five-year association with UK Athletics, having taken over as head coach of the Paralympic team after the 2008 Games in Beijing and leading them into London 2012.

“It’s hard man, it’s really hard,” he added. “It’s been a great team to work with and a great nation to work with and I’m going to miss it dearly.

“The spectators here understand the sport and it’s hard to leave. I think it’s in good health. The programme’s in good health and then the youngsters are coming and that’s promising.”

There were three British victories on the final day – Tiffany Porter in the 100m hurdles and the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay quartets – to take the total for the weekend to eight.

Porter claimed the hosts’ first victory on day two, winning, as expected, in a windy 12.62secs.

The women’s 4x400m team of Eilidh Child, Shana Cox, Meghan Beasley and Christine Ohuruogu and the men’s four of Michael Bingham, Conrad Williams, Rhys Williams and York’s Richard Buck both won handsomely too, suggesting they are in rude health ahead of the tougher challenges to come in August.

Ohuruogu paid tribute to her young team-mates, saying: “The youth have really shone through. It’s really encouraging for all of us as a team that we have this under-crop of really good talent coming through.”

As with Dai Greene and Greg Rutherford on Saturday, there were disappointments for some of Britain’s more established names.

World championship silver medallist Hannah England was only fifth in the 1,500m in 4:11.02 and Olympic finalist Andrew Osagie third in the 800m in 1:47.41.

England said: “I’m not sure what happened, I got really nervous and hoped to do better than that.

“It’s really frustrating– I was in a bad position with 600m to go and then I wasted so much energy trying to get into a good position.”

Shara Proctor was third in the long jump with 6.43m, Nathan Douglas, selected ahead of Phillips Idowu, third in the triple jump with 16.45m and Anyika Onuora third in the 200m in 23.12.

British sprinter Marlon Devonish announced his retirement from athletics at the weekend.

The 37-year-old, who won 4x100m relay gold at the Athens Olympics, is Britain’s most decorated athlete with 18 major international medals.

Devonish said: “I have enjoyed the most incredible career and have had the privilege of competing and winning medals for my country for 16 years.

“Being injury free and staying fit and healthy is crucial to any success and I’ve managed to 
do that, but I’m getting older now and there are quicker athletes 
out there so I have taken this tough decision to stop at the right time.

“I’m going to focus my energies on coaching and public speaking.

“I want to coach within athletics and recently did a stint working with the GB relay team, but I will also work outside of the sport delivering sprint coaching in football, cricket and rugby.”

Six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt has pulled out of next week’s Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava.

The 26-year-old, who coasted to 100m victory at the Jamaican trials in 9.94 seconds on Friday night, will instead stay in his homeland to gain extra preparation time before heading to Europe for a series of meetings culminating in August’s World Championships in Moscow.

He yesterday apologised to organisers of the event in the Czech Republic, part of the IAAF World Challenge, and vowed to do his best to return to take part next year.

“I want to apologise to my fans in Ostrava but this year I will not be coming to the Golden Spike meeting,” he said.

“Instead, I will stay in Jamaica with my coach for an extra week to focus on training before coming to Europe.

“I can assure you I will try my best to be back in 2014 on June 17 in an individual event. Thank you for your usual great support.”

Bolt, who first competed at the Ostrava meet in 2006 and has participated every year since 2008, had been scheduled to anchor the sprint relay on Thursday.