Paul Halford writes a weekly column for @runblogrun on British athletics. This is his column for the week of September 16. It is about Kyle Langford and Eilish McColgan, two of the rising stars of British athletics.
Missing out on a medal by just four hundredths of a second at the World Championships was far above the expectations most had of Kyle Langford, but the confident young Brit believes he has the talent to win Olympic gold in 2020.
The 800m runner says after his fourth place in London 2017: “If I don’t get that gold in Toyko, it’s only my own fault.”
Langford has been tipped for the top since world youth gold in 2013 and particularly since 2015 when he became European junior champion and clocked 1:45.78 to go to third on the UK all-time under-20 rankings. However, his 2016 was ruined by injury and he did not enjoy the best build-up to London, thus he went into the event ranked just 29th on times.
He qualified for the semi-final only as a fastest loser and took advantage in a surprisingly open final behind winner Pierre Ambroise-Bosse of France. As Poland’s Adam Kszczot took silver, Langford had moved through from eighth in the home straight to finish just behind Kipyegon Bett of Kenya in the battle for bronze. He beat Nijel Amos and Mohamad Aman, two of the top 10 fastest in history.
However, Langford was among the least surprised. “I said to my new coach, John Bigg, when I first joined him (earlier this year), my aims are to make the final of the World Championships in London and see what happens from there.
“I’m a very optimistic person, I’m very hard on myself on what I want to achieve, so it wasn’t a shock to me. I know my season’s not been great this year in the build-up, but it wasn’t a shock.”
Langford, who was previously coached by George Harrison, says: “My training has changed a lot since moving coach. We’ve been working for the rounds. I think my strongest thing is championship races because I know I can knock out three fast races in a row.”
In that final, the 21-year-old ran 1:45.25 to take two tenths off his PB, which surely isn’t a reflection of his current ability.
“I don’t think I achieved the time I can achieve this season,” he agrees. “I’m pretty sure I’d have been able to have run 1:44-low, 1:43-high. That’s something I wanted to do but these are things I’ve got to strive for next season.”
The final could hardly have been more different than the last major championship final held on that track when David Rudisha broke the world record in one of the greatest races ever in an Olympics. Britain’s Andrew Osagie ran a PB 1:43.77 in that London 2012 final yet was last. Like many events, the men’s 800m now appears much more open and Langford feels he can capitalise.
“The sky’s always been the limit for me,” says Langford before looking back to the 2015 Worlds when he went out in the heats. “There and then I wanted to make the final. I didn’t see the route I had to take to get there and it’s something I’m seeing more and more and now I’ve come fourth at the World Championships I know the only reason I don’t medal at the next World Champs and the Olympics is because I’ve not trained hard enough – because I know I can do it. Everyone around me knows I can win a gold medal at Tokyo. If I don’t get that gold in Tokyo, it’s because I’ve not trained hard enough – but I know it’s not going to be the case because I’m motivated to keep pushing forward.”
McColgan ends with a flurry of PBs
Few athletes can claim to have enjoyed a better finish to their season than Eilish McColgan, who must be wishing it wasn’t time to hang up her spikes for 2017.
The Scot ended her season with six PBs in her last six competitions, culminating in a 4:20 at the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile in New York last Sunday.
It began in Monaco on July 27 when she ran 8:31.39 for 3000m. Then at the World Championships she clocked a best-ever 15:00.38 in her heat before going slightly slower in the final for 10th place. Following that, she recorded 4:01.60 in Berlin and in Birmingham 8:31.00 for 3000m. It meant her 5000m PB was due for considerable renewal and in Brussels she duly ran 14:48.49.
She said after Birmingham when she fifth, within a second of Hellen Obiri: “I think mentally it’s taken time for me to catch up with the shape I’m in. in the past I’ve been worlds apart from the best girls but I was right there and it was taking a bit of time to sort of catch up. I’m excited by the progress I’m making.”
When watching a US one-two at the World Championships steeplechase, she must be wondering what might have happened had she not been forced to give up what at one time was her preferred event due to injury. She was an 9:35 steepler at best but since giving up the event has improved her 3000m flat PB by more than 16 seconds and, given her 1500m speed, could have possibly done damage in championship races as a sub-9:20 performer.
“On this one foot I’ve got seven screws and a metal plate so I’ve been through a lot with the steeplechase,” she said. “Mentally it was very difficult to ever think about going back – the pain in my foot from jumping was just too much. I was watching the two American girls this year run nine minutes and come first and second, I was screaming at the TV for them to get there. Looking at it you sort of feel that it’s bit sad that I’ve left it behind because you feel there’s such a big opportunity there.”
However, after such a great 2017 season, she is looking ahead to a future over the flat.
“I enjoy the 3k and 5k much more,” she said. “There’s no fear there for me. I was getting very hesitant and scared of the barriers almost. I’m looking forward to the future now.”