Jeremiah Azu

Jeremiah Azu, European Athletics Indoor Championships 2023. Pic: Getty Images.

Jeremiah Azu And Joe Brier Miss Out On Medals As Melissa Courtney-Bryant Looks To Build On European Success

By Owen Morgan

Welsh athletes experienced mixed fortunes at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul.

Melissa Courtney-Bryant led the way by winning Great Britain’s first medal of the championships on Friday evening when she claimed bronze in the 3,000m.

However, sprinters Jeremiah Azu and Joe Brier, had to content themselves with sixth and fifth-placed finishes in the 60m and 4x400m events respectively.

It was a medal-winning return to form and fitness for Courtney-Bryant, who also won bronze over 3,000m at these championships in 2019.

In between, the Poole AC, runner suffered a serious foot injury, which meant she missed the 2021 Olympics and struggled to rekindle her top form.

Having returned to international competition last season, the Welsh 3,000m and 5,000m record holder now appears to be approaching the kind of form she enjoyed prior to the injury.

An emotional Courtney-Bryant was delighted to have matched her 2019 medal-winning performance from Glasgow.

“I just did what my coach said, he told me to be bold,” said Courtney-Bryant,” who is coached by former GB international Rob Denmark.

“I got myself into a bit of a rubbish position at the start, but I was just like ‘stay patient, be calm’ and just work my way up and go with it.

“I know I’m in really good shape and I just have to push on. This was so much sweeter than Glasgow.

“I’m really emotional, but in a good way. After everything with the injury, just to be back here, it took a lot of belief and support from my coach Rob, my family, my husband Ash and everyone.”

Courtney-Bryant Claims Bronze in Women’s 3000m Final, while Azu Finishes Sixth in Men’s 60m Final at Indoor Championships

During Friday night’s final, despite a crowded start on the tight indoor track, the 29-year-old was always in contention for a medal once she broke away from the main field along with German duo Hanna Klein and Konstanze Klosterhalfen around the half-way mark.

The trio opened up a commanding lead over the rest of the field, before the two German athletes pulled away from Courtney-Bryant to contest the gold, which was eventually claimed by Klein in 8:35.87.

Courtney-Bryant, who crossed the line in 8:41.19, was pleased to have survived the congested start in order to get onto the podium with fellow Brit Hannah Nuttall finishing fifth.

There was disappointment, however, for Azu in the men’s 60m on Saturday as the 100m bronze medallist at last summer’s European Athletics Championships finished sixth in the final.

The Cardiff athlete was aiming for another place on the podium in Turkey, but his campaign had started with a relatively sluggish performance in the heats where he described himself as being “sleepy in the blocks”.

A third place finish in a time of 6.66 saw him progress to the semi-finals, where he clocked 6.59 to cross the line in second place and qualify for the final.

Azu ran a fraction faster in the final, crossing the line in 6.58 for a sixth-placed finish, ahead of Great Britain team-mate and training partner Reece Prescod, who was eighth in 6.64.

Asked about the race afterwards, Azu said: “I can’t really remember it. It’s a bit of a blur. I need to watch it back.

“I think I got out OK, but I am not too sure where it went wrong. I need to see it again. We’ll go back to training and fix all the things we did wrong. Our group is insane, so we’ve got to be ready for the fire outdoors.”

Prescod, who trains under coach Marco Airale alongside Azu in Italy, added: “Ultimately this year Jeremiah and I have performed well, it’s probably the first time we’ve let him down. It’s a long season and it’s part of athletics.

“You can’t get too upset, you’ve got to stay neutral. We know our ability; we know we’re talented and we’ll get it back.”

23-Year-Old Brier Leads Inexperienced GB Squad in 4x400m Race at European Athletics Indoor Championships

In the 4x400m, at just 23, Brier was the oldest member of an inexperienced Great Britain squad.

Running the second leg on Sunday afternoon, the Swansea Harrier was forced to take the baton in an outside lane at the end of Ben Higgins’ fine opening leg.

Brier was running well and looked to put the team into a good position by moving up the field in the inside lane.

Unfortunately his path was blocked off which hampered his progress and forced him wide again. Despite this, Brier handed over the baton with GB relatively well-placed in fifth position.

However, in what was a physical race with plenty of bumping and barging, Sam Reardon was also baulked on the third leg which meant there was too much to do as
far as medal contention was concerned going into the final leg.

Lewis Davey brought the team home in fifth place, clocking a time of 3:08.61, behind an impressive and experienced Belgian team which took the title in 3:05.83. France took silver and the Netherlands bronze.

Commenting on the physical nature of the race afterwards, Brier said: “It’s indoor four by fours, it’s always going to be a bit scrappy at some points but it was difficult to get the inside line for myself.

“You saw on the back straight it was a bit scrappy, four or five of us going into the back of each other, cutting each other up, but that’s indoor 400m running.

“What can I say? We are a very young team, I think I am the oldest here at 23, we gave it our best shot but there were some tactical things we got wrong and it’s definitely something we’ll look to put right in the future.”

The Great Britain team finished the championships in third place on the medal table behind Norway and the Netherlands having accumulated three gold, one silver and a two bronze medals.

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