Melissa Courtney and Charlotte Arter (in blue). Pic; Owen Morgan

Welsh Athletics Stellar Year Continues As Eight Get Euro Call

By Owen Morgan

Eight Welsh athletes have been named in the Great Britain team heading for the European Athletics Championships next month.

The Welsh contingent is the highest since the 1986 Europeans in Stuttgart and double the number selected for the last championships held in Holland two years ago.

Chris Jones, Interim Head of Performance and Coaching for Welsh Athletics said: “It’s great to see so many of our senior athletes earning selection for Berlin.

“The systems we’re building here in Wales to identify and support our athletes and coaches are really starting to bear fruit, and I’d hope that this is just the start of things to come.”

There is only one survivor from the 2016 GB team in Amsterdam – Melissa Courtney, who this time will be competing in the 5000m after bowing out in the first round of the 1500m last time.

The Poole AC athlete sealed her place in the GB team by winning a silver medal at the British Championships in Birmingham earlier this month having already gained the qualifying mark.

Another who guaranteed his place at the Alexander Stadium is Swansea Harrier Dai Greene, who won gold in the 110m hurdles.

The former European and World champion’s return to the global stage after five seasons of injury woe will continue in Berlin following his bronze medal winning performance at the recent Athletics World Cup.

Steeplechaser Ieuan Thomas’ silver medal in Birmingham earned his place in the team having already achieved the qualifying standards.

The Cardiff AAC man is preparing for his third major championship in the space of 12 months having competed at last year’s World Championships and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

Thomas said: “It’s been an amazing year and I’ve just got to get to Europeans in one piece now, compete hard and use that as another stepping stone again.

“I’m in personal best shape and especially when it comes to championships you never know how a race is going to go.”

Like Thomas, race-walker Bethan Davies is preparing for her third major championship in the past year.

Having set a new personal best early in the year at the Lugano Trophy in Switzerland over 20k – the distance she will be competing at in Berlin – Davies won bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

The Cardiff AAC athlete is looking forward to pulling on the GB vest again having finished 29th at the World Championships last year.

This time Davies is aiming to finish even higher: “Hopefully the top 20, maybe a little higher, but we’ll see how training goes closer to the time.

“I’m just looking forward to gaining experience in a European type field. I really enjoyed the world champs last year so I just want to get in the mix as high up the field as possible.”

The British Champion will be joined on the start line by Heather Lewis, who also competed at the Commonwealth Games, where she finished seventh.

The Pembrokeshire athlete is having an excellent season having also set a new PB over 20k in Lugano and finished second to Davies at the British Grand Prix of Race Walking at Leeds’ Roundhay Park in June.

Wales will be well represented by endurance athletes in Berlin with Charlotte Arter competing in the 10,000m and Caryl Jones taking part in the marathon.

Swansea Harrier Jones finished eighth in searing temperatures at the Commonwealth marathon on the Gold Coast and won the Llanelli Half Marathon earlier in the year.

Arter booked her place in Berlin by setting a new PB at the Night of 10,000 PBs at London’s Parliament Hill.

The Cardiff AAC athlete has enjoyed a prolific season competing at the IAAF World Half Marathon in Valencia and being invited to run at the prestigious New York Mini 10k where she finished ninth in a world class field. She also finished fourth in the British Championships 5000m.

Fellow Cardiff AAC athlete Owen Smith will technically be pulling on the GB vest for the third time this year when he lines up in the 4x400m relay in Germany.

Smith competed for Britain at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in March and was due to run the relay at the Athletics World Cup earlier this month.

But the GB squad was forced to pull out at the last minute due to an injury to a team-mate.

The Welsh 400m champion has also run at two Diamond League meetings this season and come within 0.01 of a second from matching his PB.

The 102-strong GB team is the largest selected since the 1908 London Olympics.

British Athletics Performance Director Neil Black said: “The standard of performances from British athletes since the Commonwealth Games in April has been extremely high and therefore competition for places to Berlin has been more competitive than ever.

“This is a huge opportunity for athletes to demonstrate form ahead of two global championship summers.

“It is fantastic that for the first time ever more women than men have been selected and this underlines further that athletics is a truly equal sport.“

The European Athletics Championships run from August 6 to 12. This year’s event marks the first time that seven sports have joined their respective European Championships into one multi-sport event.

The athletics programme taking place in Berlin, and the sports of swimming, cycling, rowing, triathlon, golf and gymnastics are hosted in Glasgow. The overall event begins on August 2.

The Welsh Athletes selected are:

3000m Steeplechase: Ieuan Thomas (Cardiff; James Thie)
400m Hurdles: Dai Greene (Swansea; Benke Blomkvist)
4x400m Relay: Owen Smith (Cardiff; Matt Elias)
5000m: Melissa Courtney (Poole; Rob Denmark)
10,000m: Charlotte Arter (Cardiff; Chris Jones)
20km Race Walk: Bethan Davies (Cardiff; Andi Drake), Heather Lewis (Pembrokeshire; Martin Bell)
Marathon: Caryl Jones (Swansea; Alan Storey)

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