Adam Gemili described it as the “best feeling in the world” after straining to a narrow victory in the men’s 200m at the UK trials. There were smiles, too, for Danny Talbot, a hair’s breadth behind in second, who also secured his Olympic place. But at least one top British sprinter will shortly find his Rio ambitions shattered after a day of intrigue and drama in Birmingham.
It started when Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, who has run 19.95sec – the second fastest by a Briton in history – was pulled out by his coach because he was still suffering the after-effects of an injury picked up in the NCAA championships. Then came a second surprise as Zharnel Hughes, fifth in last year’s World Championships and tipped for great things by Usain Bolt, trudged home in fourth place in 20.84. He too, it transpired, has been struggling with injuries.
With selectors having only one pick left and the two most likely candidates far short of their best, the decision is not obvious. But Mitchell-Blake’s late withdrawal has not impressed some in British Athletics and there is also a fear that the 32 races he has run already in 2016 may have taken its toll.
Gemili was delighted to come away with victory, even though his time of 20.41sec was modest. Birmingham has not always been a happy hunting ground for him, given that he ripped his hamstring on this track last year and was last in the Diamond League meeting here earlier this month.
“It is a big relief,” he said. “I’m still not where I quite want to be in training, so hopefully have a lot more to show and get it right when it matters.”
Dina Asher-Smith also looked to be edging close to her best as she held off the fast-finishing Desiree Henry to win the women’s 200m in 23.11. Afterwards there were tears as she admitted: “I don’t normally get emotional. But this is really special because the Olympics is a lifelong dream that I’ve wanted since I was eight.”
Henry was also happy to bounce back after coming only a surprise third in the 100m on Saturday. “After that I felt I experienced an emotional meltdown,” she said, before declaring her wish to run the 100m and 200m in Rio. “I was completely disheartened but I’m really proud of myself now.”
In the men’s 110m hurdles Andrew Pozzi gave a illustration of his potential by running a personal best of 13.31 into a 1.3m/sec headwind to win from Lawrence Clarke. Another personal best was set in the women’s long jump by Jazmin Sawyers, who did a jig of delight after jumping 6.75m to win the trials and secure the Olympic qualifying standard for the first time.
The European 400m silver medallist Matthew Hudson-Smith was also impressive, winning in 44.88sec, his fastest time for nearly two years, to beat Rabah Yousif and Martyn Rooney into second and third. Hudson-Smith said: “Last year I was watching this at my nan’s, on the bed. I was in bits. I had a beard; I looked terrible. I’ve come leaps and bounds since last year. I’m so happy. It’s crazy.”
Laura Muir stormed away from the field to win the women’s 1500m, with Laura Weightman finishing second to make it as well to Rio, while Shelayna Oskan-Clarke produced the upset of the day to overtake Lynsey Sharp and win her first British 800m title in 2.01.80.
There were also expected victories for Eilidh Doyle in the women’s 400m hurdles and Charlie Grice in the men’s 1500m while Emily Diamond was an impressive winner of the women’s 400m.
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