Melissa Courtney-Bryant winning at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland. Pic: Getty Images.

Melissa Courtney-Bryant Absolutely Flies In Finland . . . And Wins In Close To PB

By Owen Morgan

Melissa Courtney-Bryant came within a whisker of setting a new 1500m personal best on her first outdoor outing of 2020 on Tuesday night.

The Welsh 3,000 and 5,000m record holder was in imperious form as she overcame a high quality field at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland.

Courtney-Bryant produced a masterclass in front running before breaking the tape in a new meeting and stadium record of 4:03.69.

The time was just outside the Poole AC athlete’s PB of 4:03.44, which she set in winning a bronze medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

After a relatively slow first 800m of 2:11, Courtney-Bryant took the race by the scruff on the neck and showed a brilliant turn of pace in the last lap to take her five seconds clear of second-placed Elisa Vanderelst, of Belgium.

The 26-year-old had been excellent form on the indoor boards, winning the British 3,000m title in Glasgow before lockdown, and looked like she had never been away from the track in front of a crowd of 6,000 in Turku.

The great man Nurmi himself would no doubt have approved of the effortless way that Courtney-Bryant cruised to victory in a stadium and meeting record with a final lap of 62.9 sec as she ran away from her rivals to win by 20 metres or more.

Not only was it her second fastest time over 1500 metres, it was the fourth fastest in the world this year and a British lead time.

Nurmi helped himself to nine Olympic gold medals and three silvers during one of the greatest of all athletic careers. Now Courtney-Bryant will be turning her attentions to the re-scheduled Olympic Games in 2021 and the next edition of the Commonwealth Games, in Birmingham in 2022.

But the recently married 26-year-old should now also be setting her sights on adding the Welsh record at the metric mile to her current 3,000 and 5,000 metre marks. That would also gain her entry into a rather exclusive British ‘Sub-4’ club over the distance.

She is certainly edging towards both marks, but there is still a near four seconds to find in her quest. The Welsh record stands to Hayley Tullett, who clocked 3.59.95 to take the bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.

 

That time enabled her to take Zola Budd’s 19-year British record and become only the second British athlete to break four minutes. There are now five in that group, with Courtney-Bryant looking to make up enough time and ground to join them.

Courtney-Bryant wasn’t the only Welsh competitor at the games, which saw some of Europe’s finest athletes in action.

Steeplechaser Johnny Hopkins was acting as pacemaker in the 3,000m steeplechase and did an excellent job setting up fellow British athlete Phil Norman for a new personal best time of 8:23.60 – the 15th fastest time ever by a UK athlete.

The Swansea Harrier, who won the Welsh Indoor 1500m title back in January, finished eighth in a time of 8:42.28 to open up his outdoor season.

Tuesday night’s action followed up an excellent weekend of performances by Welsh track and field athletes.

 

Long jumper Rebecca Chapman produced her best performance in three years when she measured 6.51m as part of a hugely impressive series of jumps to win a horizontal jumps pilot event in Bournemouth.

Finishing second with a leap of 6.31m was fellow Welsh athlete Sarah Abrams, who won the Welsh Indoor Championships back in January.

Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon, Cardiff youngster Jake Heyward finished sixth at the Big Friendly 4 meet, clocking 1:50.43 in a high quality field led home by Oregon Track Club Elite team mate and Olympic silver medallist, Nijel Amos.

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