British athletics diary, why medal counts do not tell the story (Paul Halford speaks on GBR medals prior to relays and Mo's 5000m silver)


Hawkins_CallumFV-WorCH17.jpgCallum Hawkins takes fourth in London 2017 WC, photo by

RunBlogRun comments: So, I missed Paul Halford's column for day six. My apologies to Paul, who writes a weekly column on British athletics for @runblogrun. In reading it over, Paul's comments rang true and I think that he makes total sense on British media's obsession with medal counts. Read the piece, and for American readers, consider how we build this up (medal counts) in US over Olympics.

Callum Hawkins is quite impressive. The long term approach, and the fourths by GBR athletes suggest some strong development in future seasons.

As I write this on the afternoon of day six with no prospects of a host-nation medal this evening, the death knell has already been sounded on British athletics by elements of the domestic media.

So far Mo Farah's gold stands alone as Britain lies joint ninth on the medal table and the target set by UK Sport for British Athletics of six to eight medals looks out of reach - despite Farah looking a certainty for another podium place in the 5000m and a couple of possibilities in the relays.

Yet I have always believed that the health of a sport in a particular nation cannot be judged by the number of medals at a major championships held over one week in the summer - much less so half way through. The placings table, in which eight points are awarded for a win, seven for silver and so on down to one point for eighth, is a much better indication of a country's success. Even then, one championships alone should not be the measure of the state of the sport.

Laura Muir, Kyle Langford and Callum Hawkins narrowly missed out on medals with fourth places, contributing heavily to Britain's equal sixth current position on the placings table. How different the story would have been had these gained thirds instead. The home nation lies just a couple of points behind fourth on this table - not bad for the 22nd most populous country in the world. But let's reserve judgement until Sunday.

'Where will the medals come from after the retirement of Mo Farah and with Jessica Ennis recently having hung up her spike?' is a repeated question. The answer is that we possibly don't know yet. Few would have given Hawkins nor Langford a shot at a medal two weeks ago - let alone two years ago - so who knows who will turn up by 2019?

Unfortunately, the death of British athletics is an easy and common story for the press. But perhaps it is a reflection on the status of our report that performances and personalities alone are not enough to be of interest to the wider public. That is why editors need a line around doping or a lack of British success.


A British woman leading a World Championships marathon for around 20km of the race and a GB man finishing fourth overall in his 26-mile event - who would have believed it possible?

Both ran very different races but each went away extremely happy for varying reasons.

Alyson Dixon led by 32 seconds at halfway and, even though no one expected her to hang on to win, she enjoyed every minute of it.

She dropped to 18th with a second half slower than the first and she was 1:48 behind compatriot Charlie Purdue, whom she had beaten at the trial, yet this was no foolhardy glory ride. She simply thought she was on PB shape and set out to run that. It just so happens that pace was good enough to lead. She said afterwards she did not regret her tactics.

True, she could probably have finished higher up with a different ploy in hindsight, but she probably knew a medal was out of the question, so I, for one, would not deny her the chance to run to enjoy the support.

Dixon is the epitome of the British club athlete. She both coaches and runs for her club, the non-elite Sunderland Strollers, when she can. Last winter she jogged around her local parkrun (one of hundreds of free, unofficial races held around Britain each Saturday morning) several times. The grassroots athletics community can relate to her much more than they can Mo Farah. So she naturally had more support than anyone from her fellow club runners and public alike. She made the most of it, high-fiving and gesturing to the crowd to raise the volume.

For Hawkins it was a different outcome. The athlete who finished ninth at the Olympics ran evenly, ignored the breakaway and let them the overexuberant come back to him at the end. His placing matched the best by a Briton in the men's marathon at these championships.

For many fans of British endurance running, this will be the highlight of the championships - more so than Farah's gold or golds. He is seen as very much a product of the British running scene, especially as he is coached by his father.

Despite Farah retiring from the track to turn his attention to the marathon, many are wondering whether it will be Hawkins who finally breaks the British record of 2:07:13 set by Steve Jones in 1985. However, the Scot is adamant he is going after medals rather than times - hence, he plans to go for glory in the Commonwealth Games marathon next spring rather than take on Farah for big money in the Virgin Money London Marathon.

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