Elizabeth Ndudi gold caps off memorable European U20 Championships for Irish

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August 10th 2023 will be a day that Elizabeth Ndudi will never forget.

The 18-year-old who grew up in Dundrum went to a place no Irish athlete had ever gone before, top of a field event podium at a European U20 Championships.

In taking Long Jump gold in Jerusalem, Ndudi leaped to a massive Irish U20 record of 6.56m, adding 12cm to the previous record she had achieved already this summer.

There were emotional scenes as the scale of what the teenager had achieved began to dawn on her, shedding tears of joy as she embraced Athletics Ireland Performance Development Manager Jacqui Freyne, herself an acclaimed long jumper in her day.

With the tricolour draped around her shoulders, beaming with delight, Ndudi was able to savour every second of her success.

Elizabeth Ndudi wins magical Long Jump gold

“I’m still in shock,” she said when interviewed shortly afterwards.

“I was so hungry to win. Since I qualified my goal was to win this. I’ve been repeating it to myself every day; ‘I will be U20 Long Jump champion’ and now I’ve done it.”

Ndudi then had the honour of becoming the sixth Irish athlete to hear the national anthem at the European U20 Championships as Amhrán na bhFiann blasted around the Givat Ram Stadium.

The Irish field event star will now travel to the University of Illinois to begin her collegiate career before the end of the month as she eyes a spot at the Paris Olympics next summer.

Another athlete who has the Paris dream firmly on his mind is Nick Griggs who had to settle for silver over 3000m at these championships on Wednesday evening.

Visibly disappointed after a tactical battle, the young Tyrone man was outkicked in the closing metres by Sweden’s Jonathan Grahn.

Griggs still departs Israel with a piece of history, becoming the first Irish athlete to win medals at two different editions of the European U20 Championships.

The 18-year-old will return to action at the World Athletics Championships in just over a week in the Men’s 1500m.

There were several other standout performances for Ireland across the four-day event.

Mayo’s Oisin Joyce threw over 70m to finish sixth in the Men’s Javelin, an athlete to watch in the coming years.

Cork athletes Lucy-May Sleeman and Maeve O’Neill advanced to the finals of their respective events.

Sleeman set a personal best of 11.54 in the semi-final of the Women’s 100m to move inside the top twenty on the Irish All-Time list, while O’Neill who had been ranked outside the top twenty on season’s bests in the Women’s 800m field delivered a gutsy run to make the final.

High jumper Ava Rochford finished inside the top ten in her competition, equalling her 1.80m personal best.

Ireland’s relay teams continue on their upward trajectory where all three that travelled to making finals.

The Men’s 4x400m team of David Bosch, Joe Doody, and brothers Stephen and David Mannion, stormed home to a seventh place finish in their final, breaking the national U20 record in doing so.

Their time of 3.09.75 betters the previous mark of 3.10.17 set by Curtis Wood, Billy Ryan, Jason Harvey, and Brian Gregan set in 2008.

As the Irish team prepare to depart the ‘Holy City’ one particular statistic catches the eye.

Between 1970 and 2015 Ireland won a total of twelve medals at European U20 level including six gold.

In the four editions since, Irish athletes have won a remarkable twelve, amongst them also six golds, with Gina Akpe-Moses (100m – 2017), Rhasidat Adeleke (100m and 200m – 2021), Cian McPhilips (1500m – 2021), Nick Griggs (3000m – 2021) and now Elizabeth Ndudi winning the ultimate prize.

A bright future lies ahead for the next generation of Irish athletics stars.

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