Gordon rounds off Indoor Championships in style

Reporter: Owen Morgan

Cardiff sprinter Sam Gordon saved the best until last as he rounded off a thrilling afternoon's action at the National Indoor Athletics Centre in Cardiff with a record-breaking win in the men's 60ms sprint. The final event of the Welsh Indoor Athletics Championships on Saturday saw Gordon lining up against England's World, European and Commonwealth medallist Harry Aikines Aryeetey.

Gordon was hugely impressive in his heat qualifying fastest for the final with a personal best of 6.70 seconds. And he carried that sparkling form into the final, where he held off the challenge of Aikines Aryeetey, with a winning time of 6.71 - four hundredths of a second ahead of the Englishman in second and fellow Cardiff AAC member Jeremiah Azu, who finished third in 6.85 seconds.

Gordon said: "I was confident coming in to today, the times are not what I wanted  but I'm just happy to get a win. It was good to race against some of the boys again because  I haven't raced the championships since 2015 because of injuries. So it was nice to come out and just have a first indoor race for quite a while."

On a day when Wales' Commonwealth Games bound athletes were paraded before the packed NIAC crowd, a number of the team headed for the Gold Coast in April took the opportunity to show they are in excellent form ahead of the games.

Pole vaulter Sally Peake defended her Welsh indoor title and smashed her own championship record of 4.15m in the process. The Birchfield Harrier narrowly failed to break her Welsh indoor record as she eventually bowed out at a height of 4.27m. Peake, who is heading for her third Commonwealth Games, said:

"It was quite a good day for me today, I was experimenting with a few different things and it went really well. I would have liked to get the next height, but I think it's there, so hopefully next time."

Winner of the silver medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Peake said her preparations for Australia are going well.

"I've had a good winter without any injury problems which is the main thing. I feel like I've been able to prepare quite well, so I'm just looking forward to hopefully continuing to be injury free and progressing as I go through the comps now. In two weeks time I have a competition in France, where I'm hoping to build on from today and then after that it will be the British Championships."

Another athlete heading for a third Commonwealth Games was Decathlete Ben Gregory, who also competed in the shot put, was crowned men's Pole Vault Welsh Champion with a height of 5.01m. 

Afterwards Gregory said he was pleased with his performance: "I'm a little under prepared in the pole vault, I've prioritised a few other things this winter so I've been working hard in the gym and on the running and that's going really well, but some of the technical work we've left to a little bit later. I'm really, really happy. It wasn't a full approach, so to jump over five metres from what I'd call a short approach so early in the season bodes well for the Gold Coast."

Tom Marshall, who is preparing for his first Commonwealths, having missed out on qualifying for the 2014 games, won the men's 800m from second placed Michael Parry, of Colwyn Bay, in a time of 1.55.19. The Cardiff AAC athlete, who will be competing in the 1500m in Australia, said he was delighted to win but also relieved:

"The race plan went out of the window. I was going to time-trial it and have a really hard run out, but it was one of those days when you wake up and you're not feeling that great. So I turned it into a tactical race to try and win it, so great prep for the 1500m in the Commonwealths."

The men's 1500m final saw another two of Wales' Commonwealth Games squad going head to head over an unfamiliar distance; Ieuan Thomas, of Cardiff AAC, and Jonathan Hopkins, of Swansea Harriers, will be challenging for honours in the 3000m steeplechase on the Gold Coast, but were taking the opportunity to sharpen up their speed ahead of the games. And it was Thomas who took the honours in a time of 3.53.89, ahead of Swansea Harrier Jonathan Tobin and Hopkins, who took the bronze.

There was another impressive performance from a Commonwealth Games athlete in the 60m hurdles, where England's World Championship athlete David King won the open race in a time of 7.80 seconds, while Swansea Harrier Michael Wilson took the Welsh title.

In the men's shot put there was an appearance by Wales' multiple Paralympic, World and European champion Aled Davies, who was hoping to retain his Welsh title. However, he was edged out of the gold medal by Patrick Swan, of Cornwall AC, who registered a winning distance of 14.07m.

In the women's 1500m, Brighton Phoenix's Bethan Kidger produced an impressive finish to take gold in a personal best time of 4.29.27 ahead of Julia Cooke, of Birchfield Harriers and Heddwen Daniel, of Cardiff AAC, who also posted PBs.

There was another PB performance from the Welsh title winner in the women's 60m hurdles where Swansea Harriers' Mia Evans clocked a time of 8.86s.

And Melissa Roberts of Birchfield Harriers also registered a lifetime best time of 7.62 on the way to winning the Welsh title in the final of the women's 60m.

As well as the senior championships, the large crowd were treated to some hugely promising performances in the junior events, along with some thrilling heats of the Junior Club Relay Championships, the finals of which will take place at the Welsh Athletics international on March 4.

Welsh Athletics Head of Coaching and Performance Scott Simpson was delighted with the all round success of Saturday's championships and the high standards achieved, and said:

"I was shocked at one point when I looked around and saw how many people were in the crowd. We were definitely at capacity in terms of spectators, which is absolutely lovely.

"And it was nice to have a blend of young kids and family type activity going on alongside some really elite performances. We had some of our Commonwealth Games team here and several visitors from across the UK coming down to Cardiff to compete here today. There's some really good athletics stuff happening in Wales right now, there's some momentum for us, for sure. I think we're doing our very best to attract people in by providing good quality competition and using our contacts to attract people and showcase the sport.

"The men's 60m final was pretty special, Sally Peake's championship record in the pole vault was great, and it was lovely to see some of our endurance athletes taking to the track in different events, stepping down in distance for some speed play. Beyond that, there was some real depth in performances, especially from some of the youngsters."

The full list of results from Saturday's Welsh Championships can be found of the Welsh Athletics website.

Photo's from the event are available from Glenn Sports 

Sam Gordon

Photo: Owen Morgan

Welsh Athletics Ltd.
Cardiff International Sports Stadium
Leckwith Road
Cardiff. CF11 8AZ.

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