The 2016 Olympic Games are now only 36 days away and all the competition nations are quickly finalising their teams to take with athletics having many athletes who became Team GB Qualifiers at Olympic Trials. Each individual sport is different with its selection process, with British Athletics incorporating the Olympic Trials into the annual National Championships held at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.
This coming weekend is the much anticipated US Olympic Trials for their athletics squad, an event which is widely believed to be the most competitive of all nations Olympic Trials, where many, many world class athletes potentially will miss out.
Last weekend however, Britain held their trials where 38 athletes were successful in gaining automatic selection for the games across a range of events, now being eligible to pick up their kit. Some disciplines were certainly more contestable than others such as the men’s 800m where no athlete is yet to run the standard of 1:46.00.
How to Qualify
To qualify, athletes must: Run, jump or throw the British Athletics Olympic qualifying standard on two occasions between the time period. This time period stretches back into last year from 1st May 2015 to 11th July 2016. Having achieved this standard, the athlete must then place in the top two at the Olympic Trial to gain automatic selection. A final third athlete may also be selected by a panel on 12th July 2016.
The full selection criteria can be viewed here.
The men’s 100m being one of the highlights where seven athletes had the standard of 10.16 going into the trial. Despite this potentially indicating the standard to be a fairly easy one in comparison to the men’s 1500m A standard of 3:36.20, it still led to a great race with great performances.
The result of this race was one very hard to call beforehand, but the main protagonists definitely showed with a tight battle on the line won by James Dasaolu in 9.93. However, the wind read +3.0 m/s not making this run a legal one, but it still brought home three Brits in under 10 seconds, a great testament to the quality of British sprinting currently. James Ellington also showed great form running 9.96 for second and also confirming his place on the plane to Rio.
Only countries to have had three guys go sub-10 in the same 100m race (all conditions):
Trinidad & Tobago
Great Britain & NI
— Jon Mulkeen (@Statman_Jon) June 25, 2016
Other sprint results were encouraging in the 200m , Adam Gemili showed himself to be getting back into shape by winning in 20.44 and confirm himself on his second Olympic team at only the age of 22. In the women’s sprints Dina Asher-Smith was a strong winner closely followed by Desiree Henry. In the 100m however, a brilliant run by Asha Philip in 11.17 saw her run away with the title and an Olympic place.
400m running is another one of Britain’s strong events where both the men’s and women’s sides. However, many of the men have struggled to achieve the time of 45.40 this year with only Matthew Hudson-Smith running faster. This showed on the day where he eased his way to a win in 44.88 way ahead of the rest, making selection for this final places if the times are achieved to be a tough one. On the women’s side, it was slightly more contested with one of the breakthrough athletes of the year Emily Diamond winning to back up her UK lead of 51.23.
I personally believe that there has been a steady rise in recent years in the level of British middle distance running. There was a period of time where there looked to be little talent coming through the youth ranks and any which looked promising would fade out when transitioning to senior level. However, in since the last Olympics the standard really looks to be improving with a string future being held in the 800m, 1500m and the 5000m.
Despite the lack of qualifying standard runs of under 1:46.00 in 2016 in the men’s 800m, I view this event to be in a ‘transition period’ similar to the one which England’s football team is apparently still in. But I think this stage will bring some great results in the coming years, if not being at its best stage right now. Although Michael Rimmer failed to qualify by finishing in the top two in Birmingham, he is still showing great form with some great runs still left in him.
Rimmer is quickly being outnumbered by the wave of young junior talent coming through. This was seen at the trials where the two 22 year olds Elliot Giles and Jamie Webb finished first and second. Although Rimmer still remains the best British hopeful at making the Rio team, the likes of Kyle Langford added to the new talent coming through could bring great success next year at the London 2017 World Championships. On the women’s side, the level of competition was arguably one of the greatest for any event at the trials. This year alone, 7 athletes have run under the standard of 2:01.50 and this level of competition for the places available was shown by the fact that young star Adelle Tracey failed to even reach the final. In the final, it could possibly be described as an upset with dominant UK leader Lynsey Sharp – who ran 1:57.71 last year – coming second behind Shelayna Oskan-Clarke who won in 2:01.99, both of whom guaranteeing their place in Rio.
The 1500m is in a similar position to the 800m but maybe a few years ahead with the men’s side ready to break through into a similar age as to the one we saw with Cram, Coe and Ovett. As previously said, the standard of 3:36.20 is a very tough one indeed with the likes of Tim Hutchins questioning it against other events such as the women’s 5000m which in many comparison tables is viewed to be possibly easier to achieve. Saying this, Charlie Grice and Chris O’Hare both have the standard (Grice from last year) and both showed this class in the final finishing 1-2 respectively in the final.
For me, I believe Jake Wightman to still be a serious contender in making the final place to Rio. This year he has run just 0.44 seconds outside the standard but is coming into great form, running a very hard 39 second last 300m to be in great contention with Grice and O’Hare as well as having the time to still run the standard in the European Championships next week.
The women’s 1500m went almost entirely to script. Laura Muir is without doubt the standout athlete in this event having come off running a Scottish record for 1 Mile in the Diamond League, she easily won off a very slow pace with Laura Wightman just holding off challenges from behind to finish second.
Finally, the 5000m were also fairly predictable affairs. As with the men’s 1500m, the 5000m is an event coming back to a very strong position with Mo Farah obviously dominating on the world stage but also younger runners like Tom Farrell making the World Championship final in 2015. But this year it has been Andrew Butchart who has been the standout British runner aside of Farah. He has been running great times across a range of distances whilst showing strength to run a fast last lap at the trials to win over Farrell, both qualifying for Rio. In the women’s events again it was the favourites who came out on top with the top three ranked women all having the standard of 15:24, and all coming in the top three at the trials. Laura Whittle missed out to Eilish McColgan and Steph Twell who came out on top on the day.
In the longer distance events of the 10,000m and the marathon, the trials for these were held separately not at the British Championships this June. Instead, there was a separate British 10km Championships held at Parliament Hill whereas the marathon trials were held at the London Marathon where both Hawkins brothers made the team.
In the 10,000m it was Ross Millington who won on the day, but finishing his debut 10,000m on track without the qualifying time of 28 minutes. Having until 11th July to get this standard he recently went in pursuit and succeeded by running 27:55 to gain selection. On the women’s side, it was Jess Andrews who lives and trains in Spain who was a surprise winner in 31:58.00 and followed by Beth Potter in 2nd, both of whom having the standard therefore qualifying by right.
It is hard to say what standard tis team is in comparison to other nations. On the whole, other than Mo Farah Britain don’t have many world beaters in the running events. The US trials are likely to be of a higher standard across the board in each event, however that doesn’t take anything away from the British standard where the athletes continue to show at Diamond Leagues and World Championships that they can be competitive. Possibly, this team so far may be slightly behind the standard of the 2012 in most events but Olympic year always brings out great performances from everyone.
For a few athletes, they will be competing at both the European Championships and the Olympics, whereas others such as Jake Wightman who are still chasing the Olympic standard will be competing at the Europeans in pursuit of the the time.