McColgan gets British team going with superb European Silver

Eilish McColgan podium

Eilish McColgan added the women’s 10,000m European Championships silver to her growing list of honours this year as the British team enjoyed a fine first night in Munich.

McColgan (running handicap -4.2) – eight days after completing a stunning 10,000m gold and 5,000m silver double at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – got the British team up and running in Munich with a superb performance over 25 laps.

She was left battling for silver following a kick from Turkey’s Yasemin Can with seven laps to go but secured it impressively well from Israel’s defending champion Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, eventually clocking 30:41.05 minutes to finish second. Teammates Samantha Harrison (handicap -2.7) and Jess Judd (handicap -3.7) battled valiantly to sixth and tenth respectively.

This all came after a fine start to the night in Munich that saw six British athletes advance their own chances including a clean sweep in the men’s 1500m heats led by Neil Gourley (handicap -6.7) with Matthew Stonier (handicap -6.4) and Jake Heyward (handicap -6.5) non-automatic qualifiers.

 McColgan is down to appear again in Munich in the women’s 5000m final on Thursday night and she said: “I would have loved to have become European champ but tired, tired legs. It has probably been one of the craziest weeks of my life.

“Such a big high [after the Commonwealth Games], emotions, not a lot of sleep so it was tough to get myself up again but I can’t complain. I did a lot of the work and came away with a silver medal.

“She [Can] put in a 67 at that point and it was just tough with my legs like that. I have had a lot of races, she didn’t do Commonwealth Games or worlds either, and I felt that was in my legs. She is an incredible athlete, one of the best in the world. I did my best but she was far too strong.”

McColgan, Judd and Harrison were all at the front very early on in the women’s 10,000m final and, with four gone, the field was largely single file with the former in the lead. McColgan would form part of a group of four to break away involving Can and Salpeter with the battle for medals firmly now here with ten laps to go.

Then with seven laps to go the Turkish athlete chose to kick – and it was a kick that McColgan and Salpeter would never reel in. The pair were neck and neck for the remainder of the race and on the final back straight McColgan made her own move to secure an impressive silver.

Teammate Harrison ran her own race to finish sixth in a personal best 31:46.87 while Judd ensured she was a top-ten finisher with a valiant effort of 32:23.98 – both also having run at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Harrison said: “Obviously it’s nice to go slightly better than I did before but it was very consistent for me. [It’s] Sixth again so it mirrored the Commonwealth Games the other week so overall I’m pretty happy.”

Gourley silently went about his business in the second of the men’s 1500m heats, keeping his place in the pack before an excellent kick saw him comfortably secure an automatic qualifying spot.

He muscled his way a lane before the final bend and, once on the home straight, he powered through, picking off the field to finish fourth in 3:38.07 and secure his place in the final.

Gourley said: “I’m pleased to come through it but it was a bit of a messy race. I made some mistakes in the middle of the race and I was a bit hesitant to make a move but I still had enough in the last 150m to reduce the gap and make the top four.

“I need to run tactically better in the final. A good sprint finish will only get you so far, so I don’t want to have to rely on that. I’ll need to be sharper and much closer to the lead.”

Stonier meanwhile made his move at the bell and was well placed in second coming into the home straight. He didn’t quite have the finish of Gourley but still booked his own place in the final after clocking 3:38.37 for fifth in that heat.

He said: “I thought it might be quick because the first heat was slow but I just tried to position myself so the last lap I was in a position where I could go through.

“I died a bit in the last hundred. I think that’s a bit of Commonwealth Games legs but happy to get through and just need to rest up now before finals.”

Heyward meanwhile ran a near perfect 1400 metres in the first of the men’s 1500m heats, going wide to take the lead early on and completely controlling the race all the way up to the final bend.

Even when Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen came past, Heyward still looked set for an automatic qualifying place however he couldn’t hold on as the line drew closer, dropping down to fifth.

A dive at the line saw him clock 3:39.30 to secure fifth, which would prove to be just enough for a non-automatic qualifying spot and a successful night for the British men in the 1500m heats.

He said: “It’s relief to be honest. I got lucky – that’s not exactly how I planned it to go. It wasn’t really a good enough run, but I scraped through, I’m in the final. It doesn’t matter how you get there.”