Stuart Weir did this piece on the Men’s 800m at the EA Indoor Champs, as a preview.
The men’s 800 is one of the most excitedly anticipated events in the European Indoor Championships. Adam Kszczot will be the favorite. He is the reigning World Indoor champion from Birmingham 2018 and has won the European Indoor and outdoor titles three times each.
But then there is Jamie Webb, silver medallist in Glasgow 2019 who ran 1:44.54 in the Copernicus in this very arena, just two weeks ago. Was he surprised by that time? “I don’t know if anyone ever expects to run that well indoors. When you have a breakthrough like that there’s always an element of surprise but I’ve been training really well and had a really good base from September through to January, so when I started turning the speed work on, it was after one of my best ever winters. Then I ran a PR in my first race so after a few more races I was no shock to do the 1:44. I felt I was in 44/45 shape and just needed the right race”.
His silver medal in Glasgow exactly two years ago when he was a full-time Chemistry teacher and part-time athlete was a surprise. A medal in 2021 would not be. How does he compare the 2021 Jamie Webb with the 2019 version? “It’s a hugely different experience. Two years ago I went into the event expecting a performance from myself but I didn’t really believe what I was capable of, whereas this time I do believe it. This year I go in thinking that I am one of the favorites and believing that I can perform at that level. I feel now that I can take on anyone and give them a good race. I have very high expectations of myself and I’m really looking forward to it. There’s some hot competition around but I’m definitely a better athlete than I was two years ago. I always back myself. I think I can beat anyone. My weaknesses have become stronger. I feel I’m at a more rounded athlete as an 800m runner”.
2020 was a challenging year with a stress fracture, the pandemic and lack of races to deal with. He got the injury in April just when the Olympics were postponed which he saw as a blessing in that he didn’t have to rush his recovery. Now a PhD student at Loughborough, h considers himself fortunate to be on funding from British athletics and to be based in Loughborough, so he could access the rehab and facilities that he needed. Looking back he feels he has managed 2020 well, adding “I think that is one of the biggest reasons for my breakthrough this year that I came out of with a more mature attitude”.
When you talk to Jamie in this city inevitably you ask him about the 1:44.54: “I’ve looked at it in a fair bit of detail and, of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing. There were things in the race that were not perfect but I certainly never expected to run that time and lose, with someone running 1:43 ahead of me. It was the fastest I’ve ever been through 400m so I learned a lot from that in terms of what I’m capable of in the first part of the race. So yes, always reflecting, always learning”.
While he is delighted with the time and takes confidence from it, he plays down its significance for this week: “This is a championship; it’s about racing. Times are only important to a certain extent. It is about who crosses the line first and of course there are so many elements in an 800m. Tactics are so important and I’ve been on both ends – getting it right and getting it wrong. This is completely different from a time trial and I’m looking for to some competitive racing”.
He is also realistic about “The big one” saying: “I mean I have to recognize that while running 1:44 is good, it might not be enough to get me on the Olympic team. I got to be in the trials in June and come in the first two to guarantee a spot. And that won’t be easy with the calibre of athletes we’ve got”.
This week is just another stepping stone in his development towards fulfilling his potential