Bronze medals for Lorraine Ugen and Marc Scott spared Britain’s blushes on the final day of the world indoor championships – but they still endured their worst result in the competition since 2006.
On a day when Mondo Duplantis broke his own pole vault world record by flying over 6.20m, and the Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas did the same in the triple jump with an astonishing 15.74m leap, Britain’s celebrations were more muted as they left Belgrade with two medals.
Only twice in history – 1987 and 2006 – have Britain come away with fewer medals from a world indoors. But at least Ugen was smiling after her brilliant bronze, which was particularly noteworthy as the 30-year-old is an unsponsored athlete.
Ugen, who has set up her own company, Unsigned, and sported the logo on her shoes to earn extra money, jumped 6.82m to finish in third behind the gold medallist, Ivana Vuleta of Serbia, who delighted the home crowd with a leap of 7.06m to beat Nigeria’s Ese Brume into second.
“One of the reasons I started Unsigned was to make it less shameful when you don’t have a sponsor,” Ugen said. “I’m world class, I don’t have a sponsor and if anyone is out there, I’m here.”
Scott, meanwhile, showed plenty of poise – and when the situation called for it a lot of pace – to win his first global medal in the men’s 3,000m. In a bumpy race, Scott maintained his composure as the Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes duked it out in front of him before kicking hard on the final lap to sneak a bronze in a time of 7min 42.02sec.
“The race was choppy and bruising but that’s the way it goes,” Scott said after a race won by Selemon Barega. “I have blood on my shin, but I can’t feel that now. I’m sure I will later when all this sinks in. The pain is worth it to come away with a medal.”
Despite a better final day it was a disappointing championship for Britain. Some will blame the absence of some notable stars – Laura Muir has been injured and Dina Asher‑Smith skipped the indoor season – although that is usually the case.
Others will point to the bad luck the team had, and there is some truth to that, too. Keely Hodgkinson, a strong favourite for the gold in the women’s 800m, and Elliot Giles, who had his chances in the men’s event, pulled out minutes before they were due to compete.
But this performance – coming off the back of a disappointing Olympics, where Britain won only five medals in athletics – will sound further alarm bells about the lack of depth.
Elsewhere on the final day the American Grant Holloway won his 57th indoor 60m hurdles race in a row to take gold in 7.39sec, having earlier equalled his own world record.
Britain’s David King was sixth in the same race in 7.62, having qualified for the final in unique circumstances. He and the Japanese athlete Shusei Nomoto were tied for the final spot in the final, down to a thousandth of a second: 7.565 to 7.565. It meant that both names were put into a bag – with King’s name being drawn out.
“It’s been a crazy day and a rollercoaster of emotions but I’m super happy to come out with luck on my side,” King said. “I would have taken sixth in the world and a PB in the semis every day of the week.”
But there was no joy for Britain’s men’s 4x400m relay as they finished fifth in a race won by Belgium and the women’s team were also fifth, with Jamaica the victors, in their final.
In the women’s 800m, the American Ajee Wilson took full advantage of Hodgkinson’s absence to take a deserved gold. But there was a shock in the men’s 1500m as the Olympic champion, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, was downed by the Ethiopian Samuel Tefera.
In the men’s pole vault, Duplantis broke his own world record for the second time in a fortnight with a leap that suggested that even more is to come in the summer.
But the performance of the day surely came from Rojas. So impressive was her leap of 15.74m that it not only broke the world record but it was a full metre clear of the silver medallist, Maryna Bekh‑Romanchuk of Ukraine.