Yemi Mary John and Jeremiah Azu triumph in Espoo

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Brits win gold at European Under-23 Champs on Friday as Keely Hodgkinson drops down in distance to make the podium in the 400m

The European Under-23 Championships was created in 1997 to act as a stepping stone for athletes who want to bridge the gap between the junior and senior ranks. So far the transition is going to plan for Yemi Mary John, too, as the British 400m runner added to the world under-20 title she won last year in Colombia with a European under-23 crown in Espoo, Finland, on Friday (July 14).

It was a hard-fought victory, though, as the 20-year-old battled her way past Henriette Jæger of Norway to win a thrilling race in 51.04 as Jæger was runner-up in 51.06.

In third, the 800m specialist Keely Hodgkinson smashed her one-lap PB of 52.24 with 51.76.

Yemi Mary John battles with Henriette Jæger (Getty)

The event was delayed due to wet weather on Friday but when it got underway on the rain-sodden track, John kept her composure to run down the fast-starting Jæger.

“My strength is my strength,” said the winner. “I’m a fighter and I fought and I came out on top. I was ready for anyone who came my way. If you’ve got a lane, you’ve got a chance.”

Hodgkinson said: “I think I could have executed the race better, but I got the PB that I have been chasing for years. I’m happy to win another medal for Great Britain and I really enjoyed the experience.”

Jeremiah Azu has been in great form lately as he broke Christian Malcolm’s long-standing Welsh 100m record at the UK Championships with 10.08 a few days earlier. He improved that mark to 10.04 (1.0) in his semi-final in Espoo before storming to victory in the final in 10.05 (2.1).

Given that Azu won this same title in Tallinn in 2021, it means he has become the first British athlete to successfully defend a European under-23 title.

Silver in 10.17 went to Raphael Bouju, an English Schools 100m winner in 2018 for Bedfordshire who now represents the Netherlands.

Jeremiah Azu (Getty)

Azu said: “This was my goal coming into this championship, to win. Looking at the numbers before the competition, I was hoping to go sub-10, but it feels amazing to win the under-23 championship title.”

In the women’s hammer Charlotte Payne of Britain took silver with 69.22m but Silja Kosonen of Finland was a class apart on this occasion as she threw a championship record of 73.71m to win in front of her home crowd.

Payne said: “I took this competition as my last chance to win a big medal at these championships, so I am glad I am coming home with the silver. The competition went a bit chaotic I must say. I am just glad I managed to bring it at the right time.

“The girl from Finland is just absolutely incredible so coming out with a silver is very valuable. It was a very good competition. The conditions were a bit harder today, but my coach told me just to control what I can control and focus on these things. I wanted to perform the best I can. And I think I did that and I am proud of that.”

READ MORE: 5000m double for Britain

The day began with Charles Hicks enjoying a runaway victory in the men’s 5000m less than 24 hours after GB team-mate Megan Keith had won the women’s 5000m.

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