When Team GB posted their best ever total at last year’s European Championships there was a sense of wonderment at how they could ever improve from there, at least on the continental stage where the country seemingly now ruled the roost. Yet after this weekend’s European indoors things look even more promising.
Yes, they didn’t top the medals table this time, but they still won the most and definitely had the largest amount of breakthroughs once again!!
For such a young squad in Zurich to do well was one thing, but for another seemingly altogether different bunch of athletes to then follow it up in the same way is incredible.
KJT starts her 5000 point day, photo by PhotoRun.net
Admittedly the likes of Katerina Johnson-Thompson would have performed in Europe last year had she not been struck down by injury. Likewise had Dina Asher-Smith’s hamstring not blown up in the 200 metre final, we may not have been celebrating her first senior individual medal today either, but for others like Lucy Hatton and Lee Emanuel who weren’t shining so brightly during the summer, it certainly showed what a difference a bit of peer motivation can make.
Lucy Hatton went from 8.38 to 7.90 in 60m hurdles in 2015! photo by PhotoRun.net
Of the 8 individual medals collected on this occasion, only Chris O’Hare also made the podium outdoors in 2014, with an impressive run this weekend meaning that he is now a European bronze medallist indoors and out, to add to his world championship final in 2013.
While it would be wrong to say that the sole cause for the remaining seven’s achievements this weekend were due to wanting to match and emulate their compatriots, it seems likely that that what happened in Zurich has started a yo yo effect. As other athletes who believe they are just as good, are motivated to try just a little bit harder in their sessions.
And even if Asher-Smith’s silver here in Prague was less of a surprise than some others, it seems inevitable that she would have been buoyed on by seeing the success of her British rivals in Zurich and Glasgow. So with the likes of Jodie Williams, Asha Phillip and Ashleigh Nelson steering away from the indoors this year, the world junior champion was given her chance to be the spearhead of her team’s challenge on the senior stage for the first time. Given the competitiveness surrounding the women’s sprints, she knew she had to take the chance: “It’s all good people saying you can get a medal if you go out there and do your best but you still have to come out here and do it, so I’m really happy.”
Luckily for her, the race was executed almost to perfection as she produced another brilliant start to explode out of the blocks and mount a serious challenge to Dafne Schippers’ dominance, and with 10 metres to go it looked as though she would be successful. As the giant Dutch super woman came past her in the final moments having finally got into her full stride, Asha-Smith could have let it phase her and yet she stayed strong and drove to the line ensuring that second would still be hers. Even if it was’t completely obvious at first: “I was just looking at the screen begging I’d won a medal spot because the 60 is over so quickly…I literally had no idea what was going on but I got a silver so I’m over the moon!” she said.
To make matters even better for the 19 year-old she had just become the fastest teenager in the history of the 60 metres and in turn equalled the British record held by Jenette Kwakye, an accolade that she will seemingly hold by herself in a matter of time.
Dina Asher-Smith at 2014 World Juniors, photo by PhotoRun.net
What makes Asher-Smith so enjoyable to watch is the smoothness of her running and the determination she shows on her face throughout each race. Add to this the infectiously positive humility and enthusiasm that is shown in every post-race interview and it’s hard not to want her succeed, even if comes at the cost of another Brit, as it may well do in the future.
Of course being the sensible athlete she is, the sprinter will know that her indoor gains will count for nothing when it comes to the outdoor season unless she continues to do the hard work, especially with the test insurmountably bigger if she gets to the World Championships in Beijing on August 22nd.
A competition that now also becomes the focal point of UK Athletics’ future, with the main focus for the team and head coach Barry Fudge centred on turning this continental giant into a global threat.
With it will come more pressure on each athlete to improve, something that is easier said than done. Yet, with such competitiveness for places in the sprints and the distance events, particularly on the women’s side of things, it seems inevitable that they will drag each other forward together onto the next level, with no-one wanting to miss out on the following chapter of this team’s potentially groundbreaking story.
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