Britain endured a long wait that ran deep into the final day before they could finally open their medal account at the World Student Games as Andy Vernon turned in a decisive victory in the men’s 5000m to guide a late medal mini-rush.
Without a doubt, standards were considerably higher than any other recent version of the championships to make medals much harder to come by but a succession of fourth places, such as James Alaka in the 200m or Stevie Stockton in the women’s 5000m, and a further blow in the form of Gianni Frankis‘s disqualification in the semifinals of the 110m hurdles on the penultimate day weighed on the efforts of British athletes as the curtain was drawing on.
And it possibly wasn’t of any lift that the 4x100m relay girls led the team out into the arena on the last day to come a mere place shy of the medals again in 44.01 secs not far off the main action having shifted to a formation with long-jumper Amy Harris on the lead-off and Ashleigh Nelson on the anchor. The new European power of the women’s sprints Ukraine edged victory in 43.33 secs from USA in 43.48 and Jamaica in 43.57 secs.
The men’s short relay hadn’t made the last eight the previous day with an odd involvement of Richard Davenport against Frankis in the line-up, where Joe Thomas also fell well short of qualifying spots in the 800m semifinals, so next one out was talented Stacey Smith who apparently opted for Shenzhen rather than Daegu but her judgement wasn’t vindicated, nor her current poor championships record improved, to end up well off the pace in eighth in 4:10.34.The Mick Woods-trainee needs to knuckle down to some serious work on her speed as well as her tactics once the season is out.
The Turks won one more gold through Asi Altpekin in a relatively fast 4:05.56 to extend their domination over the women’s distances in China where more fancied Anna Mishchenko (UKR) came second in 4:05.91 and Ekaterina Gorbunova (RUS) was third in 4:06.16.
Yet, right when all started looking gloomy salvation came from a rather unexpected source as a makeshift quartet of Kelly Massey, Charlotte Best, Meghan Beesley and Emily Diamond struck a surprise bronze in the women’s long relay in 3:33.09 to provide the necessary tonic and turning-point in the fortunes of the squad, a consolation for Beesley in particular who suffered a poor 400m hurdles final due to a cold.
On that cue, Vernon took up the initiative as virtual last-standing gold medal hope and did not disappoint as he came away a convincing winner in 14:00.06 from Russian Yevgeniy Rybakov (14:00.60) in a slow tactical 5000m to give Brits more cause to cheer about, applying some gloss to the overall performance in the process. But besides that, a sound confidence boost and platform to step up his game into Olympic qualification and maybe even more.
And that wasn’t the last of it. About the same time on the infield, Julian Reid was landing at a last-gasp 7.96m (0.2m/sec) to steal bronze out of the hands of Nigerian Stanley Gbagbeke on countback to take the counting up to three, his first medal in his new colours and didn’t take long! Last impressions last longer as they say and that late spate can go a long way to sustaining the good image of British teams performances in international championships.