This is the second piece by Stuart Weir, on Hannah England, the 2011 Daegu silver medalist, who just retired.
Hannah England – a professional tribute.
This month Hannah England announced her retirement from competitive athletics. Her statement read: “The 2019 track season was my last as a competitive athlete, I am so proud of my achievements on the track and even prouder that they were done with integrity and joy”.
The highlight of her career was silver in the 1500m in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Korea which she followed with fourth place in Moscow 2013. In the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi she was 4th in the 1500m and 5th in the 800m. I recall Kelly Holmes saying to me afterwards that all that had stopped Hannah from getting a medal had been a little bit of self-belief. She was British Champion in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and Indoor champion at 3000m in 2012 and in 2016 at 1500m.
The world silver medal was a brilliant performance. She ran a cautious race and was seventh coming off the final bend before finding a extra gear to sprint into second place.
The Olympics are a disappointment in her career summary. In 2008 she finished third in the national trials but was not selected. Remember that the third place under the GB selection procedure is discretionary, not automatic and the selected opted for Steph Twell instead. (She had missed out on selection for the 2009 World Champs in identical circumstances).
2012 – the year between her two world championship successes – should have been her peak Olympic year. The year started well with a win in the GB Indoor Champs. Then on 27 May she won the 1500m at the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo in 4:04.05 but was spiked in her Achilles during the race. She developed an infection and did not run again for 8 weeks. While she reached the Olympic semi-final, the lack of training caught up with her and she did not make the final
Other significant race wins included the NCAA 1500m gold and the NCAA indoor mile gold in 2008, when she spent a year at Florida State on an exchange programme from her Birmingham (UK) University Science degree, the Westminster Mile 2013, The Great North City Games mile in 2011. She competed in the Fifth Avenue mile six times, twice finishing third. She was second in the IAAF World Athletics Final in Greece in 2009.
Her PR in the 1500m is 4:01.89 (set in Barcelona in 2011). She is also a sub 2 minute 800m runner. In fact some people think that she could have been a real force on the world stage at 800 had she concentrated on it. Her comment to me on that subject was: “I think I am best suited to campionship1500s, rather than championship 800s. And if you are targeting championships, you cannot look at them as one off races. I think that as an athlete I am better suited to championship 1500s”.
Always keen to give back to the sport, she served as chair of the UK Athletes’ Commission and as a member of the European Athletics Athletes’ Committee. She described the role to me as “The European Athletics Athletes’ Committee is similar to our own UK Athletes’ Commission. The purpose is to make sure the athletes’ voices are heard and understood so that those in charge can make informed decisions. We can have some influence and can make sure the powers that be understand what athletes need”.
She also helped to form the Birmingham Athletics Academy, which offers weekly athletics sessions for children in Edgbaston. She explained: “I and two other friends, both international athletes, grew up in the traditional club system. I remember at the age of 11 getting involved at Oxford City with all the other children and loving it”. The local kids are lucky to have her passing on her expertise.