2018 Berlin Diary: Considering Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake, silver medalist, 200 meters: a great performance by an excellent athlete and a fine human being

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Mitchell_NethaneelSF1-London17.jpgNathaneel Mitchell-Blake, 200 meters, London 2017, photo by PhotoRun.net

Mitchell-Bolt-Coleman4x1m1b-WC17.jpgEpic 4x100 meters, London 2017, Mitchell-Blake, Bolt, Coleman, photo by PhotoRun.net

Ujah-Gemeli-Talbot-MitchellA-WC17.jpgGBR's gold medal 4x100m: Ujah, Gemili, Talbot, Mitchell-Blake, London 2017, photo by PhotoRun.net

Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake is a good bloke. I met him at Global Athletics and Marketing's press day last year in Vegas. We had a fun time, and fun interview. I appreciate his articulateness and his sense of humor. His silver medal today, in European Champs 200 meters is from lots of blood, sweat and tears as a famous Briton noted five decades ago.

Stuart Weir speaks to these athletes, as I have, over the years that are key to their athletic development. With some of the athletes, you develop a special bond. Stuart Weir closes with the highest praise we can given athlete, or a human being in the current Zeitgeist.

Good on you, Nathaneel! You did it the old fashioned way, you earned it.

Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake

Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake, is probably best known for being part of the GB gold-medal winning relay team in London 2017 but his ambitions go far beyond relay running. He was also was fourth in the 200m at London 2017 in 20.24. Speaking earlier this year, he told me he looks back on it as a special moment: "It's the biggest moment of my career to date - I say to date because I want to achieve more. 2018 is a new year so we have to move on and I want to set new goals and achieve new defining moments".

Britain's Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake presides over the press conference.jpgNathaneel Mitchell-Blake, Emcee at Doha DL Presser, photo by Stuart Weir, May 2018

Having graduated at Louisiana State University last summer, he has decided to stay with his college coach, Dennis Shaver, saying simply. "If it's not broken, no need to fix it. The weather's great and I have a great coach. I love training and I love getting better. I love putting in the work. When you're dying in training, I hate it but then you go home and think 'I'm getting better as an athlete'. Now I'm based in Louisiana but will be in UK later in the summer - I have the luxury of having two homes right now".

2018 began as a frustrating year. He had planned to run a full indoor season and then go to the Commonwealth Games ,but pulled his hamstring.

(R-L) Jenny Simpson, Mutaz Barshim, Katerina Stefanidi, Thomas Rohler, Hellen Obiri, Christian Taylor and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake.jpgJenny Simpson, Mutaz Barshim, Katerina Stefanidi, Thomas Rohler, Hellen Obiri, Christian Taylor and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Doha DL Presser, May 2018, photo by Stuart Weir

At his first Diamond League in Doha this year he was not only running on the track but running the press conference as joint MC - an innovation in Doha. He said: "When my agent first told me what I'd be doing, I didn't fully grasp my role. Then when I came down here and I had a script, it was 'Whao I am actually the MC of the press conference!' I was a bit nervous about the pronunciation of names - not wanting to get them wrong. It was pretty cool".

I saw him run in Stockholm and after the race he said to me: "Terrible. Terrible time. No excuses, nothing really" and walked away. When we next met, before I could speak, he said, "I want to apologize to you. I was quite short with you in Stockholm". I assured him it was fine and that it had made brilliant copy instead of the usual bland and self-excusing answers one often gets. That he felt he wanted to apologize speaks volumes about him as a person.

Tonight he was in a tough race up against Ramil Guliyev, the Azerbaijani-born Turkish athlete who os the current World Champion. Coming off the bend, Mitchell-Blake did not look to be in a medal position but then he came hard at the end to finish second in 20.04, getting second place over Alex Wilson (Switzerland) by 6 thousandths of a second.

Mitchell-Blake said of his performance: "It came down to a race for second place if I'm being honest with you, I am a realist in this sport but to get a medal that is what matters at the end of the day and it being silver, it's not too bad.

"I didn't have time to think I was moving too quickly. I caught myself in an awkward position coming off the curve but in race mode you have just got to fix it when you are doing it. You can't think about it too much. I had to claw my way back from about fifth to second and I successfully did it. I wasn't sure when I crossed the line but when I saw I was second I was happy.

"There are no niggles, you have those pre-race jiggles where you feel something but it is just your brain playing tricks on you. You have got to blow that out of the window, get on the blocks and just go. I know I can still sharpen up, I have still got more in the bag, it's been a long season but I feel the better part is coming when it matters"

A great performance by an excellent athlete and fine human being..

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