Still only at the age of 19, Shaftesbury Barnet athlete Kyle Langford has risen to considerable fame over the last few weeks in what has been a certain breakthrough year. So far, Langford has been very wise with his racing, not over racing and burning out over the course of the track season. For me, this has been the key to his success so far, only starting his season properly at the British Senior Championships, winning gold ahead of Michael Rimmer. However, you my be surprised to know that Langford has only been running since 2011, where he started out running at Watford Open meetings.
Still only a bottom age U17 athlete, he would be able to produce 2:02.90 in his first 800m race off no real training. The year after, training under the wing of experienced George Harrison at Shaftesbury Barnet, Langford would come on huge amounts, bringing his 800m PB down to 1:51.31 after only a years racing. Alongside this, his raw speed was too evident, running a 50.14 flat 400m, making him an evident talent at such a young age. To add to this first proper year of competition, he would come away with the English Schools title over 800m in his first attempt.
To me, the cross country racing which was maintained throughout the winter was one of the key ingredients to his now well known strength towards the end of races. From this early age, the temptation of just running multiple indoor races was overcome to gain key endurance and strength, shown at the start of the 2013 season by running a time of 4:06 at the Westminster Mile, a great performance from an 800m/ 400m runner, whilst also being able to run under 50 seconds for 400m and 1:50 for 800m.
This 2013 season would be Langford’s first real breakthrough onto the international stage by getting selection for the Great Britain Youth team for the World Youth Championships in Donetsk. This selection came after being runner up in the men’s A Watford BMC Grand Prix, running 1:49.02. At these championships, Langford really announced his championship racing ability – which he has demonstrated now on a senior level too.
Each race at these championships got quicker and quicker, running a PB of 1:48.85 in the semi finals, coming in third. Despite this, he would still manage an even quicker time two days later of 1:48.32 in the final where he would also gain a bronze medal, just missing out on silver by 0.03 of a second – incidentally, Langford would come back to beat the Russian silver medalist at the U20 European Championships this year.
Despite saying that he is not a time trial runner, preferring the championship environment, there is no doubt that Kyle Langford can produce fast times when needed. This was again shown in 2014 where he would run a UK U20 leading time of 1:47.41, along with improving his 400m PB to 48.17. Championships would again take a key focus of this year, winning the British U20 championships, guaranteeing a spot on the Junior team for the world junior championships in Oregon. Again, Langford showed at these championships his ability to race tactically, making the final after running 1:48.76 in the semis. Although he came a distant eighth in the final, it gave the opportunity to regroup and face the world record holder, David Rudisha over 600m in the Birmingham Diamond League, running 1:16.30, setting a national junior record.
In this more conservative 2015 season, the senior title would only be the start of what would come to be a brilliant track season. Even before this, Langford confidently took gold in the junior championships, winning all three races, the final in 1:50.84. As for the senior championships, this was the first real test, running 1:49.xx on consecutive days, winning both the heat and final. As previously mentioned, this once more set him up for more winning ways at the European Junior Championships, again winning all three races, edging out the Russian in the final with 1:48.99.
Langford wins gold by the slightest of margins in the Men’s 800m Final, with Tolokonnikov & Borkowski just behind. http://t.co/KxH5s9Cn73
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) July 19, 2015
After being so successful in the three main championships he has run so far this year (winning 8/8 races), all Langford needed was the qualification time of 1:46.00 to make him available for the senior world championship team. The opportunity to do this was presented at the Anniversary Games last week, running against a top field in the Olympic stadium. As with the rest of his season, he performed to the highest level again, running the third fastest time by a junior athletes in Britain of 1:45.78. This would subsequently be enough to be selected in the British Athletics team for Beijing.
As I’ve just shown, the transition from running 2:02 at Watford Open meetings to running 1:45 in the Olympic stadium over the space of four years is fairly remarkable. This progression very much mirrors that of Steve Ovett who went on to win Olympic Gold at the Moscow Olympics over 800m. This is a feat not too far out of reach for Langford who, – if he continues to improve in the same positive fashion – could well be in for a chance to progress through the rounds at the coming world championships. Along with this, it makes him our big hopeful (alongside Michael Rimmer) to perform to the highest level at the Rio Olympics next year, so it will be great to see what else is still to come!