When Martyn Rooney took the decision to withdraw from the men’s 4x400m relay at the Commonwealths in favour of concentrating on this week’s European Championship, many questioned his choice, with some even suggesting that he had let his team mates down.
As it so went, Rooney wasn’t missed at all, as new teenage sprint superstar Matt Hudson-Smith produced the performance of his small career to anchor his team to gold.
Suddenly Rooney wasn’t the star of British 400m anymore, as a combination of an under performance in the competition’s individual event and his withdrawal took its toll.
‘Why’s he done that, he’s only going to end up scraping 5th place’ one journalist said.’
While Hudson-Smith’s performance and progression will have impressed the Croydan Harrier, it will surely have given him a metaphorical kick up the butt.
Now it was Hudson-Smith who might win gold at the Europeans, not Rooney.
Of course Rooney knows all about being a promising youngster, after breaking through in 2006, many expected him to take on the world and win medals and build on the talent that had seen him run 45.35 at the age of 19 as well as taking world junior bronze in 2006
8 years on it had not quite worked out that way, a couple of relay medals and one Olympic final aside Rooney’s performances had remained enigmatic.
That was until last night. In the cold wet Letzigrund stadium Rooney took advantage of the fast track to streak home to victory in 44.71 seconds, with Hudson-Smith closing in on him, in second, finishing in a new personal best time 44.75s, which brings him to number 12 in the UK-all time lists.
Behind them in 5th was Conrad Williams on a night when Great Britain continued to enhance their image in the world of Sprinting.
After appearing to have gone out slightly slowly, Rooney, who was left without anybody directly on the outside of him, following a late withdrawal from Jonathan Borlee, got stronger as the race progressed. First he moved past Israel’s Donald Sandford and Poland’s Jakub Krzewina on the inside of him, at 200m, but still he didn’t look in contention. As he looked ahead he could surely see his two British rivals on the outside of him, surely he couldn’t let them leave him behind? They weren’t going to. Pulling himself forward with his loping stride Rooney was starting to come through on his opponents, first Williams and then Hudson-smith were eclipsed as he strode to the front in the home strait.
From there was no turning back.
Arms pumping, the crowd willing him to hold on, Rooney gave every ounce of energy to get to the line first, Hudson-Smith was closing, filled with youthful adrenaline, surely he couldn’t ruin a party that his senior team-mate had been prepping for nearly a decade?
Had it been a 410m race, the result might well have been different, but as was Martyn Rooney had finally come of age as he ran his fastest time for 6 years.
I wonder how many people will question his decision to drop out the relay in Glasgow now.
Having had such a frustrating time in Scotland may well have helped the Brit, knowing he needed to prove a point in Switzerland, there was no way he could not give his all at these championships.
For Hudson-Smith, this is just a beginning, European under 20 bronze one year, senior silver the next, his progression has been phenomenal. Like so many other athletes in the current team, this experience will prove vital as we head towards Rio 2016 and if he can drag some of the other athletes like Rooney and Nigel Levine along with him on his journey towards the top of 400m sprinting, it won’t just be individual honours he’ll be aiming for!