Jo Pavey’s hopes of becoming the first British female track athlete to compete in five Olympic Games were given a dramatic kiss of life on Wednesday night as she cut through the field with a late charge to finish fifth in the 10,000 metres European Championships final in the Olympic Stadium here.
The 42-year-old mother always knew it would be a tough ask to defend the title she won two years ago in Zurich after missing several weeks of training with a chest infection. But her goal of trying to secure the final 10,000m place in the British team for Rio also looked to be going up in smoke when she slipped down the field after leading early in the race.
She was hanging on to 10th place with 10 laps remaining but, as others started to flail, Pavey gritted her teeth and began to push, finishing in 31min 34.61sec – a season’s best by nearly two minutes – and inside the Olympic qualifying standard by more than 40 seconds. Crucially that time is also seven seconds quicker than Kate Avery, her main rival for the final British 10,000m place in Rio, has ever run.
Although Avery is only 24 and represents the future, it seems impossible now for British selectors not to pick Pavey when they meet early next week. However, Pavey is not taking anything for granted. “It would have been nice to challenge for a medal, but when the girls took off I found it tough,” she said. “So I just gave it my all. I felt I just gave it everything. It was a massive step forward for me.,It was only a few weeks ago I ran in the Birmingham Diamond League and only ran half of it at that pace. I’m making progress each week but I just have to see what the selectors say.
“I don’t want to get involved in the selection because we have so many talented girls and they all deserve to be at the Olympics.”
While the Kenyan-born Turkish athlete Yasemin Can ran away to victory in 31:12.86, Jess Andrews tried to stay with Portugal’s Dulce Felix, who took silver, and Karoline Grovdal of Norway, who took third, but paid the price as she slipped back to seventh. But she was not too disappointed after running a personal best of 31.38.02.
Dina Asher-Smith produced a season’s best performance to storm through to Thursday’s 200m final in 22.57. The 20-year-old made a blistering start and was five metres up on the field at halfway, before coasting home. “I am very happy with that. I didn’t expect to run so quickly in the semi-final,” she said. “It was a nice track and a really good run for me, so I’m excited for the final.”
The reigning champion, Jodie Williams, who has suffered a disastrous two years with injuries and poor form, squeezed into the final as a fastest loser in 23.14sec.
Earlier in the day Britain’s reigning Olympic, world and European long jump champion, Greg Rutherford, looked short of his best as he qualified for Friday’s final. The 29-year-old, who has not competed in a month since sustaining whiplash in the Birmingham Diamond League, admitted he was rusty after qualifying eighth with a leap of 7.93m but said he felt he could easily turn it round for the final.
“It was very rusty but I felt by my last jump I was getting things together,” he said. “I knew 7.93m would be safe but I needed that last jump to get me going. The body feels so much better for taking three jumps. When you haven’t been in competition for a month, you have to just try and get it out of the way.”
Rutherford, who revealed on Tuesday that he has been suffering from a severe inner ear condition that could lead to permanent hearing loss in his left ear by continuing to compete, said his performance was not helped by high winds in the stadium.
“It was ridiculous – for some jumps it was getting up to +3 and +4 metres per second but you have to be able to handle that,” he said. “I’ve been in windy stadiums before and they are very difficult but you have to adapt. It might be like that in Rio. You never know.”
Another reigning champion, Martyn Rooney, laid down a marker by easing down to win his 400m heat in 46.57. “I got out nicely and probably relaxed a bit too much,” he said. “I wanted to be running 45 low so I am a bit disappointed but I’ll have to do that in the semi-finals. I want to win every race, that’s the target.” He will be joined in the semi-finals by Jarryd Dunn, who won his heat in 46.05.
The 2008 Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu also had few problems as she qualified for the 400m semi-finals alongside her fellow Briton, Anyika Onuora, who received a bye.
In the 100m Richard Kilty and Ojie Edoburun both qualified for the semi-finals in the same time – 10.24sec – and afterwards Kilty, the former world indoor champion, promised more was to come. “It felt really easy – even from the gun I didn’t really put my foot down. My aim is to get to the final and win a medal.”
Jade Lally and Sophie Hitchon qualified for the final of the discus and hammer throw respectively. However, there was disappointment for Serita Solomon and Lucy Hatton, who failed to progress through the 110m hurdles heats. Isobel Pooley also missed out of the high jump final, crashing out in qualifying after three failures at 1.89m.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010