By Will Downing, Berlin
After his spell in international athletics limbo, Leon Reid is through to the 200m final at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin, clocking the second-fastest time ever by an Irish athlete – and it looks like there’s more to come.
Reid sauntered through to Thursday evening’s final via second place in his semi-final, recording an interesting time of 20.38 seconds, as world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey took the win in 20.33.
It’s the new Ireland international’s third-best time of all-time – his previous two were in British colours - and surpasses the impressive 20.40 laid down by Marcus Lawler at last month’s Cork City Sports.
Only Paul Hession is now ahead of Reid on the all-time Irish rankings thanks to his 20.30 at the 2007 National Championships in Santry, and this after Reid’s first ever race in Irish colours.
The Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist for Northern Ireland started well and overtook Jan Volko of Slovakia and Germany’s Steven Muller to take second-place by a very comfortable margin, especially as it was only the top two guaranteed to progress to tomorrow night’s final.
Reid’s lifetime best of 20.27 seconds will need to come under threat if he is to have a chance of adding to his Gold Coast prize.
Leon Reid finally where he wants to be out on the track running for Ireland pic.twitter.com/UCYgr7x8m2— Athletics Ireland (@irishathletics) August 8, 2018
“Everyone is going on about times but I said I would go out and execute, and times will come, records will fall, PBs will be ran but I just have to execute and these things will come.
“Behind Guliyev is good – he’s world champion!
“That’s a name I don’t mind being sat behind. Hopefully we go again tomorrow and we’ll see who’s got the biggest fight in the end.
Drawn in lane eight in the final, Reid declared: “I will give it my all. It doesn’t matter if someone runs 19.1 or 20.1, I’ll still be going for it no matter what so if there’s a medal there, I’ll be going in to dip for it.”
Both in Bath to a Belfast mother, Reid’s transfer from Britain to Ireland was held up due to the IAAF’s investigation into the movement of athletes between countries without any direct link to their new nation – particularly in the case of Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes moving to Turkey, Qatar and Bahrain.
Look back as Leon Reid went through to the final of the men's 200m at the European Championships. The Menapians athlete automatically qualified, finishing second in his semi-final in 20.38secs. pic.twitter.com/sTjZWxejF7— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 8, 2018
But for Reid, it has all been worth it: “We always planned if I wasn’t going to be here (competing), I would be here with my friends who are flying out tomorrow for a lads holiday, so they will be here tomorrow night cheering me on.
Has he been well supported? “Oh definitely. I’ve been speaking with Paul (McNamara, the high performance chief) and everyone else has made me feel so welcome. It’s nice to be part of a family again!”
Lonah Chemtai Salpeter claimed Israel’s first ever track gold and first-ever female gold at a European Athletics Championships, by resoundingly winning the women’s 10,000 metres.
Born in Kenya as a member of the Kalenjin tribe, the 29-year-old moved to Israel ten years ago to work as a nanny for the Kenyan Ambassador to Israel, and successfully transferred ahead of the Rio Olympics.
Salpeter clocked 31:43.29 to come home ahead of the Netherlands’ Susan Krumins, who staggered through the final 50 metres to take silver.
Swede Meraf Bahta was third, with Ireland’s Emma Mitchell in 19th position, recording 34:08.61.
Emma Mitchell gave it everything she had in the women’s 10,000m pic.twitter.com/w5fHfQi6zc— Athletics Ireland (@irishathletics) August 8, 2018
Despite a short thunderstorm before the session, the temperature remained in the thirties, and six of the 26 starters failed to finish.
There was drama in the women’s shot as home favourite and three-in-a-row chasing Christina Schwanitz of Germany was turned over right at the end by Poland’s Paulina Guba with a scintillating throw of 19.33, relegating Schwanitz by 14 centimetres.
The same thing happened in the men’s discus as Lithuania’s Andrius Gudzius overtook Sweden’s World Championship silver-medallist at the death – sending out a resounding 68.46 to claim the crown by 18 centimetres.
There was no fairytale in the same Olympic Stadium where the retiring Robert Harting won his 2009 world title, as the German finished sixth.
Harting departs having been twice European champion, three times world champion, and 2012 Olympic champion.
Miltiadis Tentóglu of Greece won the men’s long jump, going out to 8.25 metres - it is his first ever major Championship medal.