October 19, 2018

Lack of British Athletics Strength and Depth

The last weekend has brought a large array of high quality athletic performances worldwide, notably the Paris Diamond League along with the Senior British Championships (inc. World Championship trials). The British trials of course are the biggest event for most athletes in the UK aside the world championships themselves; wholly due to the fact that the athletes looking for qualification must finish in the top two for automatic qualification. However, as we have previously seen in the age groups, the selection process is far from that simple. Along with this, the athletes must also have of achieved the qualification time twice before the end of the selection period for certain qualification.

Some of the top performances of the British Championships would come across all ranges of events. From Isobel Pooley equalling the UK Record in the High Jump at 1.97m; Laura Muir dominating the women’s 1500m to Dina Asher-Smith easing to the 100m victory in an impressive 11.08 seconds.

Dina Asher-Smith streaks away to the British Title in 11.08 seconds
Dina Asher-Smith streaks away to the British Title in 11.08 seconds

The key thing which I would – along with many others – take note of was the overall quality, pace and standard of British Athletics currently. There have been many events such as the and Women’s 1500m and 400m Hurdles which Britain could certainly push for a medal in, however it is the depth within such events which is certainly lacking. Here, Eilidh Child and Megan Beesley are the only two athletes who have met the standard for the hurdles, but in reality it will only come down to Child who could maybe push for a medal. This is a classic example, similar to that of Mo Farah’s situation, where we have an outstanding performer, but not the depth to back it up.

More than ever, this strength is in strong contrast to that of the USA, especially in the sprint events. In the men’s 100m, the USA would have 10 people in the heat alone to run under the 10.00 second barrier, yet at the British Champs, the final would only be won in a time of 10.10 seconds, which would not have even be fat enough to make it out of the heats in the American trials. This is worrying in terms of an international competitiveness level where it looks seemingly impossible currently for the British sprinters, albeit great relay runners, to contend individually over 100m. This too was seen in the 200m where much debate surrounded the champion of Zharnel Hughes, the new British citizen. He would end up running 20.42, again, a time far from adequate to be competing intentionally.

Charlie Grice would come back to defend his 1500m title
Charlie Grice would come back to defend his 1500m title

Maybe I am being too harsh, the conditions were not the best suited for fast times and, nevertheless, the athletes became national champions which is no mean feat. Saying this, there still is a certain lack in athletes who are making the qualification marks for these events, none more than those distance events. Only Lee Emmanuel has hit the 3:36.20 mark for the 1500m and that was back in the indoors and hasn’t been able to emulate such form since an event where the Americans have stacks of talent, where even a 3:51 miler in Ben Blankenship isn’t making the team over there. Again, it may be argued that they have a much greater pool to choose from, however Britain have always been traditionally strong in the athletic department, with Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Steve Ovett all dominating the middle distance scene throughout the ‘80s.

I am by no means saying that Britain have a less of a chance of medalling in many events, only remember back to London 2012 and Super Saturday where we would win three gold medals! This is something which once more may be replicated with still many runners at the top of their game. Along with this comes the championship style of racing where anything can happen, take Charlie Grice for example (assuming he makes the qualifying time) he has demonstrated excellent last lap speed which he demonstrated by running a 39.3 second last 300m at the champs this weekend. This could make him a serious threat to even sneak a medal if he times his kick right.

The only problem which I am attempting to highlight comes in the lack of depth. We have many single brilliant performers who we are relying on to be at their best ability. If they happen not to perform to this level, it leaves Britain quite stuck and in a relatively poor position when looking to the future, especially with the Olympic Games once more coming around next year! On a final note though, this is not in all events, looking at the men’s 800m, the future may be bright with young 19 year old Kyle Langford becoming the first junior to win the senior 800m since Steve Ovett, putting himself in a great position for the future and the U20 European Championships.

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