Future bright for British athletics after third place in European Team Championship at Gateshead

BEST BY SMILES: Perri Shakes-Drayton celebrates as she wins the 400m event at the European Athletics Team Championships in Gateshead. Photograph by FRANK REID
BEST BY SMILES: Perri Shakes-Drayton celebrates as she wins the 400m event at the European Athletics Team Championships in Gateshead. Photograph by FRANK REID

WHAT a way to bow out – two brilliant days of athletics at Gateshead.

Departing UK Athletics head coach Peter Eriksson believes he is leaving the sport in good health after taking charge of a Great Britain team for the final time.

The Swede departs with a heavy heart after seeing several rising stars shine on the senior stage at the European Team Championships at Gateshead International Stadium at the weekend.

“It’s hard man, it’s really hard,” he said. “It’s been a great team to work with and a great nation to work with and I’m going to miss it dearly.

“The spectators here understand the sport and it’s hard to leave. The programme’s in good health and then the youngsters are coming and that’s promising.”

The first major athletics championships on home soil since London 2012 resulted in a third-placed finish, with a record 338 points, and strong indications of a bright future.

Nineteen-year-old Emelia Gorecka finished second in the 5,000 metres yesterday, following 18-year-old Jessica Judd’s 800m triumph the day before.

Added to a ninth British hammer record of 72.97m for Sophie Hitchon, the 21-year-old former ballet dancer, and second places on day one for 19-year-old Charlie Grice in the 1500m and Laura Weightman, 21, in the 3000m, it painted a rosy picture of things to come.

“All of the youngsters stepped up and did outstanding performances,” Eriksson added. “This event here is about the youngsters taking their chance and fulfilling their dreams.

“That’s the highlight, not the big stars taking the medal they expected.”

Russia won the competition with 354.5 points, with Germany in second place.

On Saturday, Mo Farah delighted the home crowd with his scorching final lap of the 5,000m while Perri Shakes-Drayton was superb in the 400 m.

There were victories too for Eilidh Child in the 400m hurdles and the men’s 4x100m team but disappointment for Dai Greene, Greg Rutherford and Holly Bleasdale.