By Owen Morgan
Welsh sprint sensation Jeremiah Azu has set his sights on gold at next month’s European Under-20 Championships despite suffering an injury scare as he clinched automatic qualification.
Azu appeared to be in pain as he crossed the line to take 100m gold at the England Athletics Under-20/U-23 Championships and European trials in Bedford on Saturday.
The Cardiff Athlete slowed in the last few metres of the race with what appeared to be a hamstring problem and almost hobbled over the line.
However, he was far enough ahead of the field to claim the win and automatic selection for the championships in Sweden starting on July 18.
Already ranked the fastest teenager in Europe, his winning time of 10.76 was irrelevant having already comfortably clocked the qualifying time earlier in a sparkling season which has seen him lower his PB to a blistering 10.27.
Despite appearing to be in some distress as he slumped to the track beyond the finishing line, when interviewed later he dispelled fears over his fitness by announcing he is aiming for gold in the Swedish city of Boras.
Looking happy and relaxed, Welsh indoor champion Azu said: “It was good to get out and race. Bedford’s always quick, so any time I can come here, especially to be champion of England, it’s always an honour.
Asked about the forthcoming Euros, Azu said: “Right now, I’m ranked one going into it, so hopefully I can keep that and come out with the gold.
“We’ve got everything planned, we’ve just got to follow that plan, keep going with it and hopefully do the job at the Europeans.”
Azu’s Cardiff clubmate Sarah Omoregie also secured an automatic place at the Under-20 Championships by claiming gold in the shot put.
Omoregie had already surpassed the qualifying distance of 15m while representing Great Britain at the prestigious Halle Throws International in Germany at the start of the month.
And the former Commonwealth Youth Games competitor did so again on Saturday, claiming the English title with an effort of 15.41m, just four millimetres short of the PB she set in Germany.
Omoregie’s dominant performance meant she retained the title she won last season.
Another athlete who represented Wales at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas in 2017, Neath Harrier Bethany Moule, struck gold in the under-20 javelin at Bedford. However her winning distance of 45.72m was short of the European qualifying mark.
There was also a fine gold medal winning performance in the 3000m steeplechase for Cardiff’s Ciaran Lewis, although his winning time was outside the under-23 qualifying standard.
The winners in each event this weekend are guaranteed a place at the under-20 championships and Under-23 Championships, starting in Gavle, Swede, on July 11, as long as they have also achieved the qualifying standards.
However, Under-20 athletes who haven’t yet gained the qualifying mark for the Under-20 championships have until July 7 to do so.
A maximum of three athletes will be selected in each event, with up to eight athletes being chosen for each relay event. The selectors will meet next week to discuss the remaining places on the under-20 and under-23 teams.
There were a number of other excellent Welsh performances during the first day of the championships in Bedford including a silver medal for Andover’s Tom Hewson in the under-20 javelin and a bronze for Carmarthen Harrier Ben Thomas in the under-20 steeplechase.
There will be more opportunities for Welsh athletes to secure medals and European qualification on the second day of the championships, including former European Youth and Junior European Champion Jake Heyward’s bid for gold in the under-23 1500m.
In the field, Pembrokeshire’s James Tomlinson will be hoping to earn a place at the Under-20 Europeans in the discus having already achieved the qualification standard.
You can follow the action at Bedford from 12.50pm on Sunday on the BBC Sport website and Vinco Sports website.