One of the columns that Stuart Weir does very well is his assessment of Team GB after major events. I have to admit, I use his method when I do the assessment of the US team.
This is Stuart’s column on Team GB and their performances in Belgrade, Serbia. I think that he was quite fair.
Men’s 60m, WIC Belgrade, Serbia, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
Katrina Johnson-Thompson, WIC, pentathlon, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
Team GB at the world indoor athletics championships
In attempting to assess the performance of Team GB in Belgrade it is, first of all, necessary to establish the criteria against which to judge. For British athletes, 2022 is the busiest summer ever – with an outdoor World Championship, Commonwealth Games, and European Championships. As a result, some athletes opted out of an indoor season. Others did compete indoors but very much as a stage on the road to bigger prizes in the summer. Even some who were in Belgrade admitted to competing somewhat half-heartedly. By that, I do not mean any lack of effort but that the preparation was rather different from how they will target the outdoor World Championships this summer.
GB did take the championship seriously, with a team of more than 40, France, a country of comparable size had only 11. The British team included a significant number of younger, inexperienced athletes who undoubtedly benefited from the experience of being part of a global championship. Many of them have potential but were not realistically going to be in the shake-up for medals this time.
Having set the scene and being in danger of writing an assessment with 1000 qualifications, one reaches the uncomfortable truth that Britain finished with just two medals, both bronze. In 2018, with home advantage, Britain was fourth in the medal table (second in terms of total medals won) with two gold, a silver, and four bronze. Set against that standard, two bronze medals does not seem impressive. It is apparently 35 successive world championships (indoor or out) at which GB had won a gold medal.
Lorraine Ugen, bronze medal, WIC, Belgrade, Serbia, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
When Keely Hodgkinson and Elliot Giles, arguably are best medal hopes – gold medal hopes at that – both withdrew, it did rather remind one of Oscar Wilde’s wonderful line in the play, The Importance of Being Earnest: “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” Neither, we were told, was seriously injured but feeling a twinge had decided not to take any risks. Katarina Johnson-Thompson, reigning World Indoor and Outdoor champion, withdrew from the pentathlon in sixth place with one event to go, assuring people that “I’m fit and I’m happy”.
Marc Scott, shown here in Brit 10,000m, won first 3000m men’s medal at WIC since 1991! photo by Getty Images for British Athletics
Let’s start with the two medals. Lorraine Ugen in the long jump and Marc Scott in the 3000m. Lorraine is a 7-meter jumper. This was her second World indoor bronze as well as a European silver. She has reached World outdoor and Olympic finals. Marc Scott was winning his first global medal at 28. In Tokyo, he was 14th in the 10k but did not make the final in the 5K.
There were several excellent performances by athletes finishing outside the medals. Holly Mills, aged 21, was fourth in the pentathlon, just seven points behind Kendall Williams who took pentathlon bronze.
- Adam Thomas, in his first championship, fifth in the 60m in 6.60
- Neil Gourley sixth in the 1500m in 3:35.87
- David King was sixth in the 60m hurdle, having finished third in the semi-final in a PR time of 7.57 and getting the final place in the final by drawing lots with another athlete who finished in an identical time to the 1000th of a second.
The margins are so small, the gap between success and failure so tiny:
- Jenny Selman in the 800m and Daryll Neita in the 60m missed places in the final by 1/100th sec.
- Jessie Knight, ran her second fastest ever 400m, missing the final by 0.12 seconds.
- Guy Learmonth was third in his heat of the 800 with just 2 places per race available in the final – no fastest losers. He was beaten by Bryce Hoppel and Noah Kibet, both medallists in the final.
- Cheyanne Evans-Gray, in her first championship, ran a PR of 7.19.
There were disappointing performances – which have to be introduced with disclaimers. We do not know what condition some athletes were in or what they were hoping to achieve.
- Andrew Pozzi, World Indoor champion four years ago was eliminated, finishing fourth in the semi-final in 7.60. Four years ago he ran 7.46 twice
- Ama Pipi ran an excellent prelim but was then last in the semi-final.
- Last year Amy-Eloise Markovc was European champion at 3000m. This time she was 15th, seven seconds slower than the winner of her Euro gold
- Charlie Da’Vall Grice was last in his heat of the 800, similarly George Mills in his
- Emily Borthwick, who cleared 1.95 earlier this season, could only achieve 1:84 in the women’s high jump
- In the 2017 World Championships in London, Britain took medals in both 4 by 400 relays, which makes it more disappointing to see the relay teams finish fifth and sixth. The reality is that at the moment we do not have 400 runners of the class we had in 2017.
Talking afterward to the GB media, head coach, Christian Malcolm, said that he wasn’t bothered by the lack of medals and that had everyone stated fit, the medals would have come. He highlighted some performances which had pleased him.
“I thought there were a lot of good performances. I love Marc Scott’s attitude. I remember talking to him last year about his plans and now he’s gone out there and delivered. I thought he ran a very intelligent race. At the moment he’s ticking all the right boxes
“It was great to see Kat back. She hasn’t had that many competitions and it was good for her to get a competition under her belt having just changed coaches. Seeing Holly [Mills] being so close to getting a medal, Adam Thomas did well making the final, David King stepping up…
“It’s amazing to see Lorraine Ugen do well but we all know that Lorraine has the talent to be one of the best in her field in the long jump. She has it all. She is in a good coaching environment, coached by a former world and Olympic champion [Dwight Phillips]. Iam really happy for her and it’ll be interesting to see how it goes in the next couple of years.
“We talked about not having any 400 men on the program but I thought the 4 by 400 relay team stepped up well for a team of young athletes Sam, Ben, and Alex. It gives them a good experience of a major championship. And even if some of them don’t make the teams this year it’s still helping them towards next season.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a mood of gloom in the team we had a number of youngsters who’ve come for the experience. We also ought to recognize that often you learn more from losing and you do from winning”.
Looking at the bigger picture, he stressed that 2022 was is a big year. “Never before have we had World Championships commonwealth and European in the same summer. Because of that, some athletes were taking the indoors seriously but others were just using it to see where they are at and it helped them identify the gaps and what they need to work on”.