British athletics diary, Paul Halford writes on Dan Cowan finding his event and the dreams of Andrew Butchart


PA-32392354-696x470.jpgRabah Yousif, Matthew Hudson-Smith, Daniel Cowan, Martyn Rooney, British 4x400m bronze medalist, photo courtesy of British Press Association

Butchart-Farah-WC17.jpgAndrew Butchart, Mo Farah, Yomelif Kejelchar, Paul Chelimo, 5000m, Rio 2016, photo by

Paul Halford writes a weekly column on British Athletics. We missed his column last week, so we are catching up today! Paul writes on the amazing Daniel Cowan, who I watched win the 400m in Birmingham and also run the third leg in 4x400m in British relay at London World Champs.


Cowan finally realises his speed

Track and field produces countless examples of parent-child elite athlete combinations. So many obvious ones spring to mind, such as Liz and Eilish McColgan, Shigenobu and Koji Murofushi, Calvin and Calvin Smith, Geoff and Jake Wightman, Jacques Borlee and the Borlee quartet, but such are far from unusual cases.

Something about athletics seems to lead to a high percentage of offspring following one or more parents into the sport. It is not necessarily due to parental pressure, but more often due to the sort of exposure they encounter growing up and perhaps a desire to emulate their parents.

Dwayne Cowan, one of Britain's recent world 4x400m bronze medallists, is one such athlete who has a famous parent - Lloyd Cowan, a former 13.75 110m hurdler and 50.79 400m hurdler. However, what makes his story so rare is that, despite the exposure to the track and field environment and his father being one of the country's most successful coaches, his athletics potential was not seen as a junior and he took to football instead. That was until his late twenties, when he found out he was actually pretty fast, diverted his efforts and now only five years later, at the age of 32, has he reached world class.

Cowan revealed after winning the 400m at the recent Birmingham Diamond League: "I'd never really watched athletics. I've always been a football fan. I didn't really get pushed into athletics."

He explained not even his father's trained eye picked out any talent: "He just thought I was a footballer with average speed. In school I was known for my skills as a football player. I was really small."

The now 6ft 2in (1.88m) athlete had had a late growth spurt aged around 23 and it was after that he realised he had speed. He played semi-professionally and had trials with AFC Wimbledon when they were in the division below fully professional level. However, his failure to gain a signing with them, hamstring injuries and the fact that his football club were struggling financially to pay players made him consider other options.

It was five years ago that he first put on a pair of running spikes. "I told my dad I was getting into athletics and he thought I was joking. I was just doing it by myself," he said. "He looked at the time on Power of 10 (a statistical website) because he didn't know I was doing it. He was laughing and he said you're really quite fast."

After coming under the guidance of Lloyd, he made significant improvements down to 46.02 in 2016. "Last year I think I was in better shape [than this year], but I just didn't get put into the big races," he said. "This year you're seeing my work from last year, so hopefully next year you'll see much faster times."

With better competition he won the European Team Championships race, got himself under the Worlds qualifier and reached the semi-final there. The fact that took two hundredths off his best, clocking 45.34, to win in Birmingham after the World Championships when most athletes are coming down off their peak suggests he can advance much further in 2018.

"I think I'm in 44-shape, but I went out so lazy and I probably went out a second slower than I should for the first 300m and had to fight for it in the end," said Cowan, who is almost certain to gain a further boost of receiving funding from British Athletics this autumn onwards.

"Hopefully things will improve if I get more support behind me," he said. "It's hard trying to work and train.

"I'm still quite new to the sport. You shouldn't look at my age, I'm still young in the sport. My body hasn't been through a lot of stress."

Butchart hopes for more advancement

After last year making a big leap up to world-class and another season at the top, Britain's Andrew Butchart is optimistic about his prospects for 2018.

The Scot improved his PB by more than 20 seconds to 13:08.61 last year and placed sixth overall and top non-African-born athlete at the Rio Olympics. This year's campaign produced a 13:11 and then an eighth at the Worlds.

However, asked about how he can take the next step up to take on the world's best and perhaps fill the shoes of his compatriot Mo Farah who has retired from track running, the 25-year-old said: "It's still stepping stones. I've had a really good last year and another really good year this year, so hopefully next year's going to be the same if not better. We've just got to stay at this level.

"I think the more miles I get through my legs the better. Years are going to help me out. I'm still quite young."

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