Braga, Portugal, 20th-27th Feb. 2022
Three Preston Harriers attended these championships: Sharon Wilkinson (W50), Carol Holt (W40) and Alan Appleby (M70). Sharon was competing in the 200m and 400m, Carol the 200m and Alan in the cross country and 3000m.
The competitions started on the 20th with the cross country races held at the Cavalry Regiment 6 headquarters on the outskirts of the town. Unfortunately Alan had to pull out of the race with an achilles problem and consequently didn’t take part in the 3000m.
Sharon was next to compete. Her 400m heats were on the Monday and she won her heat in a relatively slow time of 64.08seconds. She didn’t find the track to her liking and the other heat winners were also quite slow with 64.77 for Solsona and 66.56 for Colas, her main rivals from Spain. On the Tuesday Sharon was back for the 400m final, her Spanish rivals getting lots of support from a large Spanish contingent by the start corner. Before going to Braga, Sharon had set a new British W50 indoor record at Sheffield and then three weeks later broke it again, once more at Sheffield and taking it to 60.33 so she was in great form. Her goal was gold, she had several silver and bronze medals from previous championships but the gold had been elusive. Colas had run 60.20 and Solsona a slightly slower time so it looked like a close race in store. Sharon had a good start and along with the two Spanish ladies pulled away from the rest of the field.
At the break point, Sharon had Solsona on her shoulder with Colas a few metres behind. Sharon ran a straight line while Solsona cut in to the inside lane and at the bend Sharon was in control and looked strong. The rest of the race, the Spanish ladies were trying to catch her but Sharon maintained a 2-3m gap to win the race. A European Masters Champion at last and when the time came up on the screen she had also broken the World Indoor W50 record that had stood since 2008, the year Sharon began competing at Masters events. Sharon’s time was 60.11, the previous record 60.17. Colas 60.52 and Solsona 60.58.
Friday saw both Carol and Sharon competing in the 200m heats in the morning, both got through to the semi finals later that afternoon. In the semis Carol set a new pb indoors of 27.59sec but competition in the W40s was stiff. The first, second and third places were within 0.15 seconds at just over 26 seconds. Sharon ran a controlled semi and had third fastest time going into the final on Saturday. The final saw Sharon lining up against Colas again and another Brit. Michelle Thomas, these were the main contenders. Going into the bend there was very little in it however Colas edged in front with Thomas just pipping Sharon at the line. Their times 26.71, 27.06 and 27.34. Gold and bronze medals, a European Masters Indoor Champion and World W50 Indoor record to boot; determination, perseverance and a good squad to train with paid off.