By Owen Morgan
Five Welsh athletes have been named in Great Britain’s team for next month’s European Under-23 Championships in Sweden.
Middle distance star Jake Heyward will renew his rivalry with Europe’s best young 1500m runners, while brother and sister Joe and Hannah Brier, will join Shannon Malone and Melissa Roberts in the sprint relays.
The Welsh Fab Five will be part of a 57-strong GB team selected to contest the championships in Galve between July 11 and 14.
Wales national coach Chris Jones is delighted at the size of the Welsh contingent in the GB team – particularly the number of sprinters involved.
Jones said: “This is huge for us, to have this many of our U23s selected is wonderful.
“And having had so much success with our endurance athletes in recent years, it’s great to see our sprinters and their coaches being rewarded for all the hard work they’ve been putting in.”
The news comes the day after the Welsh trio of Jeremiah Azu, James Tomlinson and Sarah Omoregie were named in the first round of GB selections for the European Under-20 Championships being held later next month in Sweden.
The selection of Cardiff Athletics’ Heyward in the under-23 team is much deserved recognition of his impressive pedigree in European and World age group championships.
The 20-year-old won 1500m gold at the European Youth Games in Georgia in 2016 and followed it up with gold over the same distance at the 2017 European Under-20 Championships in Italy where he beat Norwegian teen sensation Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
Last year Heyward just missed out on a medal at the World Under-20 Championships in Finland, where he finished fourth.
Injury has limited him to just one outdoor track meeting this season, but he clocked 3:42.84 indoors at the Birmingham Muller Grand Prix in February and indicated he is on his way back to fitness by finishing second at the European trials in Bedford at the weekend.
Swansea Harrier Joe Brier also competed at last year’s World Under-20 Championships where he came away with a 4×400 metre relay bronze medal.
Brier will once again contest the 4×400 in Galve following a spectacular start to this season which has seen him lower his personal best three times, slashing the mark from 47.31 to 46.66.
Big sister and Swansea club-mate Hannah has an even greater depth of experience on the international stage having represented Wales in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow at the tender age of 16.
The reigning Welsh 100m champion also competed at the 2015 World Youth Championships in Colombia and the 2016 World Junior Championships in Poland. Last weekend she picked up a bronze medal at the European trials in Bedford.
Joining Brier in the women’s 4×100 metre team will be Deeside AC sprinter Malone who started 2019 in spectacular fashion by winning the Welsh indoor 60m title in January thanks to a new PB of 7.45. In May she won the British Universities 100m title in another PB of 11.62
The Welsh contingent is completed by Birchfield Harrier Roberts, who will be contesting both the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
Like Malone, Roberts enjoyed a successful Welsh Indoor Championships in January where she won the 200m in a PB of 24.37 which also broke her own championship record.
At the British Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Roberts smashed her PB again when she clocked 24.28 on her way to a bronze medal.
There is further Welsh interest in the team with the selection of Cardiff Met student Jake Smith, of Cardiff Athletics, in the 10,000m.
Commenting on the Great Britain team travelling to Sweden, team leader Michael Afilaka said: “We have several medal contenders who will push the best in Europe over the four days of competition.
“There is great variety on the team, from those who have medalled at previous age-group championships, to those who have made excellent progress in recent years to earn selection again or their first call-ups for the British team.
“For others, it will be a key marker for the World Championships later this year. I’m excited to see how they all perform in Gavle next month.”
The full team can be found on the British Athletics website.