European Indoor Championships 2015: Team GB's 'superheroes' set for sprint final

Chijindu Ujah had been branded Spider-Man while his rival Richard Kilty, similarly attired in an all-in-one outfit, likened himself to Superman

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The Independent Online

One is Superman, the other Spider-Man and, between them, the “superheroes” of British track sprinting will battle it out to be sprint king here on Sunday.

On a night when the British team could not follow the previous day’s gold-medal heroics of Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the pentathlon with a silver from Lee Emanuel in the 3,000 metres and bronze from Seren Bundy-Davies in the 400m, it was the sprinters that set the platform earlier in the day.

In the build-up to these European Indoors, Chijindu Ujah had been branded Spider-Man by his training group for his all-in-one outfit while rival Richard Kilty, similarly attired, likened himself to another superhero.

“It’s Superman this look,” he said after clocking the quickest time in qualifying for the 60m, 6.57sec, equalled by Ujah. “I told my little niece I would dress up for her as Superman in the heats.”

Of the potential battle of the “superheroes” world champion in the event Kilty, wearing new spikes in Prague, added: “I’ve got a Spider-Man-like web on my spikes. But Superman can beat Spider-Man anyway so it’ll be a great battle and I’m looking forward to it.”

It could be a sprint double for the British team on Sunday with Dina Asher-Smith second quickest in qualifying with a personal best of 7.10sec just behind Holland’s Dafne Schippers.

Emanuel had been tipped as a contender in the 3000m but never got close to Turkey’s Ali Kaya, who ran a solo race to gold, while Emanuel clocked a personal best to take silver.

Asher-Smith prepared by finishing a dissertation on The Return of Martin Guerre for her history degree while Schippers was resting up in her team hotel.

Schippers has been the form athlete in Europe but Asher-Smith said: “Everybody is definitely beatable – everybody has their flaws and weaknesses.” A former footballer, offered a trial by Manchester City as a 10-year-old, Bundy-Davies came to Prague ranked No 1 in Europe but struggled in her semi-final. In the final, however, she produced a more assured run to take the bronze behind Nataliya Pyhyda and Indira Terrero.

Clocking nearly a second off her personal best 51.72sec set last month, the biomedical science student, said: “It’s a massive achievement but I came in wanting to win. It’s a disappointment and I know that sounds strange. I don’t want to whinge but I know how hard I’ve worked and maybe I should have got to the bell first.”

Bearing in mind Bundy-Davies had begun the season with no ambitions to compete in Prague and with a previous best of 54sec indoors last year, it was still a positive outcome going into the outdoor season.

There had been expectations that fellow student Laura Muir, studying for a degree in veterinary science, would pick up a medal in the 3,000m. But it proved yet more heartache for the Scottish athlete, who missed the 800m at last year’s World Indoors and struggled at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, as she finished fourth, the gold going to Russia’s Yelena Korobkina.

Heartache turned to happiness for Jenny Meadows, who missed out on the final only to be reinstated when Russian rival Anastasiya Bazdyreva was disqualified for stepping off the track.

Meadows’ career has been curtailed by injury and denied of what she estimates are seven medals and £100,000 in lost funding, sponsorship and prize money having lost on track to doping cheats.

She had declared this championship her time only to fall foul with a cold that nearly saw her withdraw.

Looking ahead to the final, she admitted: “I don’t know if I do can myself justice. I just got sick in the wrong week. I just wonder when I am going to get, not even luck, but just not any more bad luck.”