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21 July 2009 | PR 09/94

Aikines-Aryeetey rewrites history with Euro 100m win

Harry Aikines-Aryeetey

Harry Aikines-Aryeetey on the right

Loughborough student Harry Aikines-Aryeetey has become Britain’s first ever athlete to win gold at major youth, junior and U23 championships with 100m victory at the European U23s in Lithuania over the week-end.

Aikines-Aryeetey was one of six Loughborough athletes to medal as four struck gold for Britain at the three-day event in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas. 

Hurdler Lloyd Gumbs, sprinter Elaine O’Neill and discus thrower Eden Francis all took the top spots whilst women’s team captain Sarah Holt and distance runner Emily Pidgeon also reached the podium with a bronze medal apiece.

University sports scholar Aikines-Aryeetey led a British clean sweep in the 100m. Having qualified fastest for the final, the 20-year-old produced a season’s best of 10.15 to finish ahead of team mates Leevan Yearwood and Rion Pierre.

“That was the toughest start of my life,” said Aikines-Aryeetey, who adds European U23 gold to his 100m medals won at the 2005 World Youth Championships and 2006 World Junior Championships. “I just ran as hard as I could; the start was so poor it was unreal. Lucky enough I came through.

“A one-two-three - that’s amazing. It shows the strength and depth we have in sprints at all levels. We’re all just happy to be in the mix and to win a medal. I’m so glad I was representing Great Britain.” 

College student Lloyd Gumbs, who admitted after his round one race that he was excited just to be in Kaunas, won an outstanding men’s 400m hurdle gold from lane eight in a lifetime best performance of 49.62s - his first sub-50s time.

“Wooah, no way, I ran another PB,” said a shocked Gumbs. “I don’t know what to say, I’m just glad to win it.”

Sports scholar Elaine O’Neill was part of a 4x100m team that overcame a two-and-a-half hour delay to seal gold in the final race of the competition. O’Neill completed the anchor leg as the quartet clocked 43.89s in a slick demonstration of perfect changeovers.

“I didn’t know where we’d finished,” she said. ”I thought we might be third.”

Earlier in the competition O’Neill finished fifth in the women’s 100m final clocking 11.61s -  just outside her best ever of 11.59s.

Top ranked European under-23 Eden Francis, who trains at Loughborough’s high performance centre, won gold in the discus, throwing 57.29m – almost three metres clear of runner-up Vera Karmishina of Russia (54.48m).

“I’m tired and I’m hungry,” said an ecstatic Francis who had finished sixth in the shot putt final earlier the same day with 16.23m. “I enjoyed it which is different for me. This is the first European Championships where I’ve come away not crying!”

Loughborough 2012 scholars Pidgeon (5000m) and Holt (hammer) both collected bronze with strong performances in their respective events.

20-year-old Pidgeon set a season’s best performance to clock her second fastest ever time of 16.04.71.

“I was instructed to make sure I stayed in the top six all the time,” she said. “When the Belarus girl started to tire I saw the chance to go, but my second to last lap was so hard and I knew I had another to go. I’m pleased I’ve justified my place to the selectors. I knew I could get the time easily in the right race. I’m really, really, happy.”

Aviva GB & NI women’s team captain Holt came back from a trio of no throws to post 62.55m in the hammer final and claim third spot.

“I didn’t know I’d even won bronze,” laughed the British U23 record holder. “I was a bit apprehensive as I’ve done three no-throws so many times. I’d rather have a medal than a massive PB.”

Fellow scholar Meghan Beesley just missed out on progression to the final, but clocked a season’s best of 57.32s to finish fifth in her semi and ninth fastest overall.

Loughborough’s athletes contributed six of the 18 medals won by the Aviva GB & NI team, helping to make it the country’s most successful European Under-23 Championships ever. The team finished second in the medal table and second equal (with Germany) in the points table (157).

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
Sport PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228686
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2008 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, with 22 out of 30 of its subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. It was named winner of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other institution.

It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research-intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

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