Ireland’s Nick Griggs takes silver at European U20 Championships in Jerusalem

Tyrone athlete outkicked on the homestretch and has to settle for silver after winning gold in 2021

In the end it came down not to a true run distance race but a flat-out sprint, and with that Nick Griggs was outkicked for another gold medal in the homestretch of the 3,000 metres at the European Under-20 Championships, taking place inside the Givat Ram Stadium in Jerusalem.

Two years on from winning this title as a 16-year-old, the Tyrone athlete started as outright favourite, and despite a proverbial crawl for the best part of the seven and a half laps, looked primed for another gold medal when he first kicked for home with serious intent down the backstretch.

Around the final bend, however, Jonathan Grahn from Sweden was still giving chase, and kicked again past Griggs with 50m to go, taking the win in 8:44.67 – clearly delighted with himself as he raised his arms aloft in classic premature celebration.

Then came Griggs in 8:45.69, his disappointment at missing out on gold clear to see, with Britain’s Bradley Giblin also finishing strongly to nail down the bronze medal in 8:47.26.


Two years ago Griggs won this title in 8:17.18, after running the last 1,000m in 2:31, yet the 18-year-old was content to wait until the last lap on this occasion, despite being the fastest man in the 16-man field, with his 7:53.24.

“I honestly don’t know what happened, I felt good and then my legs just went with about 150m to go,” said Griggs. “I could see him [Grahn] come past me, I tried to fight and fight.

“But I need to work on that last 100m stretch, that’s two races in a row now where I’ve just been out-kicked in a similar way. But the Irish fans and support at home is unbelievable, second to none, so sorry to everyone I couldn’t get it done.”

Grahn was always going to fancy his chances in that flat-out sprint, however, having recent Swedish under-20 records of 3:37.06 for 1,500m and 7:54.66 for 3,000m. He finished with a 52-second lap.

“I knew it was going to be tough, our age group is just extraordinary this year, we have a lot of great runners in the field,” said Grahn. “Griggs is a phenomenal runner so I was just hoping to win, but I knew it was going to be very tough.”

Beginning with John Treacy’s silver in the 5,000m back in 1975, Irish athletes have now won 17 medals in all in this grade, including a sprint double for Rhasidat Adeleke two years ago, also in Tallinn. Griggs becomes the first Irish athlete to win medals across two difference championships at Under-20 level.

All 16 runners were still bunched with three laps to go, Griggs only moving towards the front approaching the bell, after the pace eventually picked up with 600m to go, the field passing the 1,800m mark in a near-walk of 5:43.

Next up for Griggs will be the World Championships in Budapest over 1,500m, having qualified through the ranking quota system, while the Irish medal hopes in Jerusalem will continue on Thursday with Elizabeth Ndudi, who easily qualified for the long jump final, fifth in her group with a best of 6.37m

The men’s Ireland 4x400m men also qualified for the final, finishing in second, as did the women 400m quartet, with a third-place finish.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics