European Indoor Championships medal update

neil gourley

In-form Neil Gourley claimed his first career major medal with silver at the European Indoor Championships and a bronze for Melissa Courtney-Bryant gave the British team their first endurance medals in Istanbul.

New British record holder Gourley (handicap -6.9) ran superbly in a drama-filled men’s 1500m final, that saw teammate George Mills (handicap -6.1) suffer the cruellest of fates as he fell early, battling favourite Jakob Ingebrigtsen every inch to claim silver inside Championship record pace in 3:34.23 minutes.

 Courtney-Bryant (handicap -2.0) repeated the same feat from her European Indoor Championships in 2019 with a fine run for bronze in 8:41.19 in the women’s 3000m final, a medal which looked secured well before the finish such was her race, which got the British team off the mark in Istanbul. Teammate Hannah Nuttall (handicap -1.6) ran a personal best 8:46.30 for a fine fifth in that women’s 3000m final.

There was a terribly cruel start to the men’s 1500m final as within the first 30 seconds George Mills suffered an awful fate as he fell. Mills got straight back up, but it was too much to come back from.

At the exact same time Ingebrigtsen had gone to the front and would lead the race at a quick pace. Gourley moved up to second with three laps to go, running very well. With a lap remaining it was a three-way fight for the medals. Gourley attacked the favourite Ingebrigtsen down the back straight and was right with him all the way over that final 300m however the Norwegian just managed to hold him off as silver had to be settled for at the line.

It was Gourley’s first career European indoor medal and a second for the British team at that point in the evening. He clocked 3:34.23 for silver – Ingebrigtsen setting a new Championship record 3:33.95, which Gourley also went inside – and he said: “I definitely believed it [he could pass Jakob]. He is who he is, he’s one of the best ever to do this, so it’s always going to be hard to come up against someone like that.

“I put myself in the right places but I just didn’t have it. I got beaten by someone who was just better and I’ve just got to take that on the chin and move forward for outdoors because we’ve built up some momentum going into it.

“I feel for George, I saw him go down just in my peripheral to my right, it’s a shame. Sometimes you make your own luck with these things but sometimes you’re just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“It was important to win a medal here, I hadn’t done that yet, I hadn’t won a major medal, so it was important to get that started. This is building blocks for the summer, we’re not there yet but we’re getting there.”

Mills meanwhile showed what a great professional he is to put his fall to one side and complete the race in 3:51.28. He said: “I’m raging – I was ready to go but it happens. I’d never drop out of a race no matter what happens, and I’ll try to get up and fight to the end but obviously after falling you’ve got no chance. I’ll get them [finals] back, I’ll get them back. I have more motivation now.”

Courtney-Bryant and Nuttall were the first athletes on the British team in finals action as the women’s 3000m presented a great opportunity for medal success. Latvia’s Agate Caune led the race out initially before Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen injected some pace just before halfway.

Klosterhalfen really stretched it out thereafter with compatriot Hanna Klein and Courtney-Bryant staying close behind the leader. It was on Nuttall to get to the back of that lead three, but they would extend even further, to the point where the medals were almost out of reach for the rest of the field.

The German pair kicked away from Bryant with 400m to go and Klein would surge past Klosterhalfen for gold while Courtney-Bryant battled valiantly on her own to claim European indoor bronze yet again after the same achievement in 2019, and also the honour of being the British team’s first medallist of these Championships.

“I just did what my coach said,” said Courtney-Bryant, who clocked 8:41.19 for bronze. “He told me to be bold but I got myself in a bit of a rubbish position at the start. I just kind of said ‘stay patient, be calm, work my way up and just go with it’.

“I know I am in really good shape, and I just had to push on and this feels so much sweeter than Glasgow [2019], it’s really emotional! There were a lot of good girls in there and I am really happy with that performance – and Hannah got a PB as well which is amazing, really good.”

Nuttall ran her own race as the medallists pushed away and, while outside of the podium positions in fifth, she surged to a personal best of 8:46.30. She said: “I’m really happy – I think I did everything that I wanted to.

“I said top six, and I would be happy and to come out with a PB as well after those heats, I am really happy about that. I did want to stick with them a bit more but I’m honestly really happy with how I did and couldn’t have done any more on the day. It’s so nice to be at my first major champs and I’m going to try enjoy this experience as much as I can and make the most of it as well.”

Coverage of the European Indoor Championships continues at 0545 on BBC Two on Saturday 4 March and runs until Sunday 5 March. Full details can be found here.

A timetable, start lists and results can be found on the European Athletics website here.

Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally:

Silver:             Neil Gourley – 1500m

Bronze:           Melissa Courtney-Bryant – 3000m

Bronze:           Daryll Neita – 60m