CANVEY running star Jessica Judd’s dream season looks like it will end at the World Championships in Moscow after the teenager won arguably the most high-profile race of her life.
The 18-year-old, who become a household name after winning the 800m at the European Team Championships eight days earlier, surpassed that by winning the Diamond League meeting in Birmingham over the same distance yesterday.
The Diamond League is the biggest stage in athletics after major championships, attracting the best athletes in the world.
And crucially Judd’s winning time was inside the magical two-minute barrier for women’s 800m running and inside the qualifying time for the World Championships in Moscow in August.
“I’m so happy,” said Judd afterwards. “I have been saying I need to do it, I need to do it (go inside two minutes) and then it suddenly occurred to me that I actually have to go and do it.”
Judd ran a tactically perfect race as she reeled in fellow Brit Marilyn Okoro in the final 100m, finishing in 1m 59.85s — a time that was just one-tenth of a second outside the all-time British under-20 record for 800m.
The Chelmsford AC athlete, who confirmed her status as number one in the country, is not guaranteed selection for the World Championships just yet and will still have to prove herself at the trials in two weeks’ time.
But the groundswell of opinion from experts indicate she will almost certainly be picked.
Paula Radcliffe, one of Judd’s heroes, tweeted: “Outstanding run from Jess Judd. Getting better with each race. A-standard qualifier out of the way, roll on the rest!”
Judd admitted she was a “bit emotional” after the reception she received from the fans in Birmingham ahead of her race, as it seems the British athletics fans have taken her to their hearts.
“Last year I don’t think many people knew who I was and now I’m getting a cheer like that on the start line. It’s amazing,” she added.
Judd was not the only south Essex athlete racing in Birmingham.
After running a personal best of 13.54s last week, Pitsea’s Gianni Frankis ran 13.64s in the heats of the men’s 110m hurdles but it was not good enough to make it to the final.
And it was bad news for Basildon’s James Shane who had to pull out of the men’s 1,500m with just 600m run.
Elsewhere yesterday, Stanford-le-Hope’s Hayley McLean, 18, ran a European-leading under-20 400m hurdles time of 57.38s while competing for Great Britain at the prestigious Mannheim International in Germany.
McLean won the race, which attracts the best juniors from around the world, as she prepares, like Judd, for a medal shot at the European Under-20 Championships in just over two weeks’ time.