Team GB are set global challenge after Euros joy

Great Britain’s athletes have conquered Europe but now they have to “go global”, with the team’s performance director Neil Black expecting the next three years to be the most crucial ever.

Lynsey Sharp celebrates her silver medal in the European 800 metres final, one of four Scottish successes in Zurich. Picture: Getty

After a successful Commonwealth Games for the home nations, the British team enjoyed a record-breaking European Championships in Zurich.

The team returned home yesterday after topping the medal table for just the third time ever, having secured more podium finishes and more gold medals than ever before. Scots contributed four medals, with Eilidh Child winning gold in the 400 metres hurdles and bronze in the 4x400m relay, while Lynsey Sharp took silver in the 800m and Chris O’Hare delivered 1,500m bronze.

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It was a wonderful six days of athletics at the Stadion Letzigrund and an experience British Athletics performance director Black knows can only be seen as a stepping stone.

“The phrase is: ‘From here on, we go global’,” he said. “That’s the way to look at it.

“We have three global championships coming up – we are going to go through to Rio 2016 and London 2017 not kidding ourselves, but the confidence comes from how the whole team is working together, from Jo Pavey to Dina Asher-Smith, Goldie Sayers leading as team captain.

“We don’t kid ourselves that we’re on top of the world. We’re on top of Europe at the moment and we are going to enjoy that for a few days.

“But then we are going to knuckle down and look to the next three years, which are probably the most important three years for British athletics there have ever been – and I think 
of that in terms of London 2012 as well.

“It is massive, what we have now got to do.”

Black believes the current strength in depth of the British team is thanks in no small part to the London 2012 legacy.

Desiree Henry, for example, was one the torchbearers who lit the cauldron at the Olympic Games opening ceremony two years ago.

On Sunday, the teenager anchored the 4x100m relay team to glory in Zurich – success which underlined an exciting new era of British women’s sprinting, with Jodie and Bianca Williams, Ashleigh Nelson and Dina Asher-Smith potential stars.

Then there is Adam Gemili, James Dasaolu and Chijindu Ujah, among others, ushering in a new era for men’s sprinting, with the target now to challenge the American and Jamaican dominance. “I hope they’re looking and at least asking questions,” Black said.

“To have girls under 23 seconds historically was kind of a bit unique; we all thought ‘wow isn’t it great to have one’. Now there’s a clutch of them.

“To have Adam and James and others not a million miles away from them, now producing world level performances and coming back and actually performing at this level on this stage, with an understanding that it’s just the beginning.

“They’ve got to progress further and become even more consistent.

“But I hope that the rest of the world, in fact I’m sure that the rest of the world are going ‘bloody hell, perhaps these guys are going to give us a fright and are going to give us a shock’.”