Ireland women secure stunning 100m relay silver in Finland
Quartet run national record but are pipped to gold in World Under-20 Championships
Patience Jumbo Gula chases home Germany’s Denise Uphoff in the final of the Women’s relay in Finland. Photograph: Ben Hoskins/Getty
The future of Irish athletics is here and it’s now, the women’s sprint relay team winning a brilliant silver medal at the World Under-20 Championships in sun-kissed Tampere, Finland on Saturday afternoon.
In truth they weren’t far off gold either - the quartet of Molly Scott, Gina Akpe-Moses, Ciara Neville and Patience Jumbo-Gula running an Irish junior record of 43.90 seconds, losing only to the top-ranked Germans, who took gold in 43.82 having also come through as the fastest qualifiers.
It was a naturally tense and exciting race, the final changeover between Neville and Jumbo-Gula possibly not as smooth as they would have liked, but the Dundalk schoolgirl still charged home to secure silver, with the British quartet settling for bronze in 44.05, a season best.
Only twice before have Irish athletes won medals in the 32-year history of the World Under-20 Championships - which aren’t so much a stepping stone to the senior stage as an early taste of it: Antoine Burke won silver in the high jump back in 1994, and Ciara Mageean also won silver over 1,500m in 2010.
It brings to five the number of medals Irish athletes have won in the youth and junior championships over the past week - adding to the three European Under-18 gold medals won last weekend in Hungary thanks to Sarah Healy’s distance running double, Rhasidat Adeleke’s gold in the 200m, and Sophie O’Sullivan’s silver in the 800m.
These championships come loaded in quality and quantity. Jamaica may have won women’s individual 100m gold, but failed to make to the relay final, as did the defending relay Americans, who ended up disqualified in their semi-final after dropping the baton.
Adeleke sat out the final with a tight hamstring, having run the third leg when the Irish quartet won their semi-final on Friday evening, but Neville stepped up to the mark perfectly, having run 11.54 earlier in the week when making the semi-finals of the 100m.
Akpe-Moses had also made the 100m final, and just two hours earlier, Scott ran in her semi-final of the 100m hurdles, finishing eighth.
But all four were clearly and justifiably delighted by the performance, the national record a nice bonus prize for their silver medals. All four represent the future of Irish athletes in every sense: Scott running with the St Laurence O’Toole club in Carlow, Apke-Moses now based in Birmingham but still running with her Dundalk club Blackrock-Louth, Neville running with Emerald club in Limerick, and Jumbo-Gula representing St Gerard’s Dundalk.
Adeleke, still only 15, had already won 200m gold at the European Under-18 championships in Gyor, Hungary last weekend, while Jumbo Gula finished fifth in the 100m, after a self-confessed poor start, and both those athletes are still young enough for this grade in two years time.
Ireland still have one more medal hope, yet is 17 year-old high jump Sommer Lecky from the Finn Valley club in Donegal, who produced the perfect first-time clearances at every height, up to and including 1.84m, to make Sunday’s final.