Holly Bleasdale and Lawrence Okoye claimed their first international titles yesterday as Great Britain finished with a golden flourish, and a healthy medal haul, on the final day of the European Under- 23 Championships at Ostrava in the Czech Republic.
The two 19-year-olds have shot to the upper reaches of the senior world rankings with British record- breaking performances over the past fortnight – Bleasdale to equal fourth in the pole vault, Okoye to third in the discus – and both backed up those stunning displays by delivering gold in Ostrava.
A fortnight on from Bleasdale's 4.70m vault at Mannheim, Germany, the Blackburn Harrier emerged victorious with a first-time clearance at 4.55m. She had three failed attempts at 4.66m, which would have been a centremetre improvement on the Championship record held by Yelena Isinbayeva.
Bleasdale will still be eligible for the next European Under -23 Championships, in 2013, and she is also likely to get a crack at Isinbayeva at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in five weeks' time.
Okoye won the discus with a third-round throw of 60.70m, while the men's 4 x 400m relay team – Nigel Levine, Thomas Phillips, Jamie Bowie and Luke Lennon-Ford – prevailed in 3min 03.53sec. There were also victories from Levine in the individual 400m (46.10sec) and Jack Green in the 400m hurdles (49.13sec), following James Alaka's triumph in the 100m.
That made it six British golds in all for the Championships. There were also silvers yesterday from James Shane in the 1500m and the men's 4 x 100m relay quartet plus a 5,000m bronze from Stevie Stockton. All of which left the British team with a tally of 19 medals.
Teddy Tamgho, Phillips Idowu's young triple-jump rival, suffered an ankle injury in the warm-up for the qualifying round on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the former 200m world champion Frank Fredericks has criticised the decision by UK Athletics head coach, Charles van Commenee, to bar British athletes from the opening ceremony at the London Olympics. Fredericks, head of the International Olympic Committee's athletes' commission said: "I think it's important for the athletes to make sure they go to the opening ceremony if they wish."
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