Frustration for Claxton and Persent

Athletics correspondent CARL MARSTON was in Birmingham to follow the fortunes of the region’s leading athletes at the UK Olympic Trials

THE cream of East Anglia’s athletes converged on a windswept Alexandra Stadium in Birmingham last weekend, to compete in the Aviva UK Trials & AAA Championships.

Most were in action on Saturday, in this three-day competition, although a cold breeze put pay to any realistic chances of achieving Olympic ‘A’ standard qualifying times or distances, ahead of next month’s London Games.

But the strong presence of Essex and Suffolk athletes was encouraging, and there were several medal-winning highlights on day two of the event, which was the one I attended on Saturday.

Former Colchester-based hurdler Sarah Claxton, who has had to juggle training with a job in a day-night shop in Covent Garden due to a lack of funding from UK Athletics, picked up a bronze medal in the women’s 100m hurdles. She was not helped by a sore Achilles tendon.

Four-times national outdoor sprint hurdles champion Claxton, who is struggling to achieve the ‘A’ Olympic qualifying time, finished third behind high-profile heptathlete Jessica Ennis and Jennifer Porter.

Having comfortably won her heat in 13.24secs, Claxton was well down on the impressive Ennis (12.92) in the final, although she was closing on her main rival Porter (13.21) during the last few yards.

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Time is now running out for 32-year-old Claxton to clock the ‘A’ Olympic qualifying standard of 12.95. Her best this season remains the 13.16 recorded in Germany. Porter has already achieved that time.

“I’m frustrated because I got the sort of start to have won that race,” revealed Claxton.

“However, I have been having problems with my Achilles all year, and it felt very sore after the heat. I got a massage, but it still affected me badly in the final.”

Louis Persent, of Colchester Harriers, was desperately unlucky not to reach the final of the 400m. In fact, he felt “devastated” after the race.

The promising Persent, who has been nursing hopes of earning selection for the six-strong 4x400m relay squad in London, was an exciting second in his heat in Birmingham.

Persent finished strongly to take second in 46.39, behind Kent’s Conrad Williams. He literally threw himself across the line, but just missed out on qualifying for yesterday’s final as one of the fastest losers.

The 21-year-old was ninth fastest, with eight qualifying for the final. He was a mere four-hundreths of a second slower than eighth fastest Luke Ford.

“I was too slow through the first half of the race. I just feel devastated,” admitted former Ipswich School pupil Persent.

“It was a silly mistake to make, and by the time that I had realised there was a big gap ahead of me, and that I had started off too slowly, it was too late.

“I just gave myself too much to do,” added Persent.

Elsewhere, there was a brave effort from fellow Essex athlete Jessica Judd. The highly-rated Chelmsford 17-year-old scooped a bronze medal in the women’s 800m.

Judd was in contention for gold down the home straight, eventually taking third in 2:02.30 with Newquay’s Jemma Simpson (2:02.29) holding on for the silver. The fast-finishing Lynsey Sharp snatched gold, but this was still a very impressive performance

from Judd.

Matti Mortimore, of Ipswich Harriers, was fifth in the men’s javelin, thanks to a best of 68.13m in the third round. Sheffield’s Lee Doran won with 79.72m.

Mortimore, who has a PB of 70.60m from two years ago, had thrown 70.54m at Bedford in the Under-20/Under-23 World Trials the previous weekend.

Fellow Ipswich athlete John Bird was fifth in his heat of the 800m in 2:00.36, while Chelmsford’s Hayley McLean won her heat of the 400m hurdles (59.58) to qualify for the final.

Former West Suffolk AC stalwart Samantha Milner, who now competes for Blackheath, was sixth in the women’s discus with an effort of 45.41m on her final throw. Milner set a PB of 45.70m earlier in the season.

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