Daryll Neita displays her growing sprinting strength by breaking championships record as she wins UK 200m gold again
On an eventful weekend for British sprinting, Daryll Neita underlined why she is increasingly now a force to be reckoned with, breaking the championships record on the way to retaining her UK 200m title.
The 26-year-old, who won the sprint double in Manchester last year, opted just to contest the half-lap event this time around. That there was no domestic dust-up between her and British record-holder Dina Asher-Smith mattered not – this was a performance which will have attracted wider attention.
Since moving to work with coach Marco Airale in Italy, Neita’s progress has been clear and the curve continues to moves upwards. Her winning time of 22.25 and the manner of her victory impressed, while there was great cause for celebration for runner-up Bianca Williams, who also booked a World Championships place with her run of 22.59.
Neita wants more than the Commonwealth and European bronze medals she gathered last year. There are loftier aims, as well as a desire to be judged on her own merits, rather than in comparison to her illustrious compatriot Asher-Smith.
“I decided with my coach that we would just focus on the one event this year,” said Neita. “When I did the double last year it was really, really tough. I think the 200m is wide open and I am still learning it, I am still figuring it out as it is new to me.
“I really feel like there are no limits to what I can do. I really believe I can do a lot more. I understand the rivalry that people like to create [with Dina] but I like to be compared against myself. I’m doing amazing things and my confidence is growing.
“This is a great stepping stone in the right direction towards Budapest. My aim is to go there and come away knowing I did all I could. I think I am in amazing shape and fine form so I hope I can come away with a medal.”
For an emotional Williams, who is not on funding and has been trying to work her way back to the top level since the birth of her son, this was vindication that all of her efforts have been worth it.
“It is one of the best moments since I started this journey,” she said after coming home ahead of Finette Agyapong, who produced a PB of 22.69. “It was so hard coming back from pregnancy. I’m so thankful for everyone that has helped me over the last three years. I work on my own with my coach Linford Christie and my partner. I am so happy I have finally done it and to do it in England. I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight.”
Another athlete to retain their title and book a Budapest spot was Victoria Ohuruogu in the 400m. The 30-year-old Commonwealth silver medallist dominated completely as she stormed home in 50.89 ahead of Ama Pipi (51.52) and world junior champion Yemi Mary John (51.61).
Jessie Knight can also turn her focus to Hungary now after winning her third British 400m hurdles title thanks to her run of 54.99. The 29-year-old admitted she did not have a year to remember in 2022 but can feel her confidence and strength returning as the summer progresses.
“Last year was really tough and, going into winter, I was really down,” said the world 4x400m relay bronze medallist after coming home ahead of Lina Nielsen’s 55.62 and the 57.13 personal best of Emily Newnham. “I still made all the major championships but for me it was just hell. I was crying after 90 per cent of races and didn’t feel myself. I had no strength down the home straight. Now, I just feel like me again and I’m more competitive.
“I think it had been emotional exhaustion but I’m enjoying it again and I think it will be nice to go into a World Championships with that mindset.”
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