Rio 2016Olympic & Paralympic Games


15 Aug 2016

Samuels on form in the Olympic marathon as Grabarz makes the high jump final

The first Loughborough athlete in action on day nine of the Olympic Games was alumna Sonia Samuels, contesting the women’s marathon.

Having graduated over a decade ago, Samuels still lives and trains in Loughborough alongside husband Nick, also an alumni. On a hot and humid day, Samuels ran a smart race, judging her effort to move through the field over the 26.2 miles.

Starting out in the 70s, Samuels was up to 50th by the halfway mark, but was only really getting started, as she continued to move through and finish in 30th place in 2.34.36. Naturally, she was delighted with her achievement:

“I’ve got to say, it was amazing – just to be part of this, is so worth all that hard work. I think only one person came past me in the whole race and that gives you such confidence to keep pushing, so it was really good to work together in a group.

“It was just amazing - you can’t help but look around as it was a beautiful course; they did a really good job and the support out there was amazing.

“If you think about 20 years of going out in the cold and dark and just believing that one day you are going to make it here – that’s how much it means to me now. My main goal was to be part of the Olympics and I made that – but you always want to come out and perform and I think I did myself proud today.”

Robbie Grabarz cleared 2.29m at the first time of asking to advance to the men’s high jump final. After a bronze medal at London 2012, Grabarz has suffered a number of injury problems, but has produced his best form since 2012 this year. Coming in at 2.22m, Grabarz had one failure at 2.26m, but otherwise a clean slate as progressed to Tuesday’s final.

In the other pool, another former Loughborough student Chris Baker (Sharon Heveran) cleared 2.26m with his first attempt but 2.29m proved too much on the night, meaning he just misses out on a place in the final at his first Olympic Games.

Alumna Emily Diamond was in action in the second of three 400m semi-finals, but was drawn in lane one, which is notoriously difficult. Running the second fastest race of her career, the 25 year old pushed hard round the final bend to put herself in the mix, but she couldn’t quite challenge for the top two automatic qualifying spots.           

Of her sixth place finish in 51.49, the sport science graduate commented:

“I’m really happy - I didn’t expect to run sub 52 this week after all I’ve been through [food poisoning], but to run sub 51.50 from lane one, I have to be happy.

“Yesterday I felt pretty horrendous, I was in tears in warm up not knowing if I was going to make it out onto the track.  Today I’m better but I’m still not perfect.  I’ve been eating more but still not as much as I would have liked to, but I managed to run and I’ve reached an Olympic semi-final.

“It’s kind of bitter sweet. I'm in sub 51 shape. The training out in Belo was showing that. But I have run in an Olympic semi-final now and not everyone can say that.”

James Dasaolu was in action in the men’s 100m semi-final, the Loughborough based athlete finishing sixth in 10.16, not enough to progress to the final. Despite a good start, Dasaolu couldn’t produce the sub 10 second time needed to advance, but he’ll be back for the 4x100m relay later this week.

“I thought I got a good start and I got up full of running and as an athlete at The Games you want to give it all you’ve got and leave nothing on the track. 

“I’d have loved to go sub-10 again but it wasn’t to be. I’ve now got the relay to look forward to at the end of the champs and that’s where my individual aspirations about being at the Olympics now go.”

After a 2-0 victory in his opening group match, Henri Hurskainen knew he needed a second victory to progress to the round of 16. Facing Srikanth Kidambi of India, Loughborough Lightning star Hurskainen was out-classed in the first game, losing 21-6. However the Swede fought back in the second game, never more than three points separating the pair, as Henri led 12-11. Despite fighting hard all the way, Hurskainen couldn’t stop Kidambi, who took the second game 21-18 to progress.

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Pete Matthews
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Loughborough University