Athletics

Griggs grabs gold on memorable weekend for Irish athletes at European U20 Championships

17 July 2021; Team Ireland Gold medalists, from left, Nicholas Griggs, Cian McPhillips and Rhasidat Adeleke of Ireland with their team-mates during day three of the European Athletics U20 Championships at the Kadriorg Stadium in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo by Marko Mumm/Sportsfile
BY MALCOLM McCAUSLAND

BRACKAVILLE Owen Roes GAA club’s loss was Ireland’s gain when Nick Griggs decided to take up athletics.

The 16-year-old New Mills youth turned in one of the performances of the meeting when he claimed the gold medal in the 3000m at the European U20 Championships in Estonia on Saturday afternoon. Ireland had only won three titles in the 51-year history of these championships prior to Tallinn but it was a third gold for the Irish in an unforgettable three hours at the Kadriorg Stadium and followed Rhasidat Adeleke’s gold in the 100m on Friday.

Griggs was the youngest competitor in the race by over a year, but he ran with the poise and tactical nous of a seasoned senior. The Mid-Ulster athlete was never far from the front, stalking a series of leaders before putting the pedal to the metal on the last lap to draw away from his rivals on the last lap. He crossed the finish line in eight minutes 17.18 seconds after covering the final kilometre in a whirlwind 2:31.

“Of course, when I saw the other guys winning, I wanted to show something similar,” said Griggs.

“But in the end, I just did my job and focused on my race. We are a very small country, and these results are just exciting.”

Griggs, who is eligible to defend his 3000m title in two years’ time in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, added: “I did not feel a big responsibility or any pressure because we are prepared to race like this. Our coaches were yelling all the way down and supporting us. In the last 50-60 metres, I knew I had enough power to win a gold.”

After an emphatic victory in the 100m on Friday, Rhasidat Adeleke was equally dominant in the 200m as she became the first sprinter since Britain’s Jodie Williams to win a sprint double at the European U20 Championships. Showing no sign of fatigue in her sixth race in three days, the Tallaght AC athlete was a clear winner in 22.90 seconds, a new Irish senior record.

On the incredible campaign for the Irish contingent in Tallinn, Adeleke is adamant this is the start of something for athletics in Ireland. "Now Ireland is definitely starting to rise so watch out for us in Paris 2024!" she said.

Cian McPhillips was hampered in his training for the championships, first by a dose of Covid and then by doing his Leaving Certificate. McPhillips positioned himself brilliantly on the last lap of the 1500m final before kicking clear in the last 250 metres to win the title in 3:46.55 after a 54.06 last lap.

Going into yesterday’s final day of competition, the Irish team sat atop the medal table with those four gold medals ahead of Germany, Great Britain and Finland with three titles apiece.

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Athletics