Alex Bell keeps her Olympic dream alive at European Championships in Rome

Alex Bell kept alive her hopes of being selected for the Olympics by qualifying for the 800m semi-finals at the European Championships in Rome.

The 31-year-old from Leeds, who was the 365th and last member of the team Great Britain took to Tokyo to be selected before racing all the way through to the final, faces another battle to repeat the feat in a cluttered 800m field.

She needs a good showing in Rome and at the trials in Manchester at the end of the month but has done her chances no harm by finishing third in her heat on Monday morning in a time of 2:00.98 to qualify for Tuesday’s semi-finals.

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Bell ran a steady first lap and kept herself out of trouble. As the leaders came off the final bend a gap opened up and she took advantage to move through into the top three.

Alex Bell of Team Great Britain competes in the Women's 800m Round 1 Heat on day four of the 26th European Athletics Championships - Rome 2024 (Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images)Alex Bell of Team Great Britain competes in the Women's 800m Round 1 Heat on day four of the 26th European Athletics Championships - Rome 2024 (Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images)
Alex Bell of Team Great Britain competes in the Women's 800m Round 1 Heat on day four of the 26th European Athletics Championships - Rome 2024 (Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images)

“The smile is more of a relief than anything,” she said. “Going in the first heat is difficult as you don’t know how fast the next heats are going to be, so I just fought to get in the top three.

"I usually get through championships as the fastest loser, so I was quite nervous going into the first heat today, but I’ve got it done and in essence I can have a longer recovery now.”

One certainty to go to Paris is Tokyo silvermedallist Keely Hodgkinson who is also through after making light work of qualification. Controlling the race from the front, the 22-year-old took the win in 2:02.46.

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“Heats are always a bit of a reality check to be honest because you never really feel that great, but I am just really happy to get through, so it’s all good,” said the British record holder and former Leeds Beckett University student. “It’s just hard because some people are trying to run their best race ever and you are trying to conserve energy.”

Dina Asher-Smith laid down a marker for Paris by reclaiming her European 100m title. The British sprinter set a continental leading time this year of 10.96 seconds in the semi-finals and just dipped inside the 11-second mark to claim gold.