This is one of the many things I appreciate about Stuart Weir. He writes pieces like the one below on British 400m up and comer, Alex Haydock-Wilson, a man who took bronze at the Euro 400 meters and then anchored the Men’s British time to the gold, holding off all of Europe in that crazy last stretch.
It’s a fantastic bit of story-telling, and Stuart Weir, the senior writer for Europe, based in Oxford, England, the intellectual capital of the world, gave us an exciting one on Alex Haydock-Wilson
Alex Haydock-Wilson From zero to hero
2022 has been a roller-coaster year for British 400m runner Alex Haydock-Wilson. In Munich, took a bronze and a gold medal at the European Championships. But the story starts back in February when he finished first in the GB indoor trials only to be DQed. He was selected only for the 4 x 400 relay at the World Indoors in Belgrade when GB reached the final of the men’s 4 by 400 but finished sixth.
He was fifth in the GB Championships and World Championship selection trials. He was selected for Oregon but only for the mixed relay. Incredibly GB did not have a team in the men’s 4 by 400 relay as they had failed to record a qualifying time.
GB did not reach the final in the mixed relay, and Alex did not run well. I remember at the time being impressed with the honesty with which he spoke after the race: “I love having a lot to do, and normally, I would be able to rise to that challenge. Today physically, I think I just wasn’t ready, and the rest of the team was. I take full accountability for that; huge sorry to the team. They ran their hearts out and trusted me to do my job, and I’ll make sure next time I won’t let them down. I know what I’m capable of – I know what I am capable of against a field like that. I’ve done it before indoors; I’ve done it in the relay since last year. I know that’s why they put me in that position because they thought I would do something big – and that’s exactly what I thought as well. I don’t want to excuse myself. I want to regroup and go again”.
A late decision by GB management saw Alex included in the individual 400m, where he excelled, running a PR of 45.08 in the semis, the tenth fastest but just outside the 8 qualifiers for the final.
His comments on that Oregon race tell you a lot about Alex the person: “That was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was fun and exciting, I got to run with some of my heroes, and I PB’d. I cannot be happier. I didn’t even picture the race starting from 250m; that first 250m was about me; it was about feeling good and soaking up the crowd; it’s about almost meditating on the back straight and feeling my rhythm. At 250m, people will have come past. I knew that, but I knew then I needed to get stuck in the race and see what I could get out of it”. The 45.08 PR tells you a lot about Alex, the athlete.
Come Munich, he is in the individual 400 and runs the race of his life for a bronze medal. After the race, he started by reflecting on that mixed relay in Oregon: “Honestly – now that enough time has passed, I couldn’t be grateful enough for that experience. It was by far one of the worst in my life; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It taught me so much; it made me fearless as it took me to a point where things really couldn’t get any worse, and I realized this is terrible, but it’s not the worst thing in life. So why should I get anxious on race day when I know I am capable of so much good stuff?
“This means so much, just what this represents – it’s more than a piece of metal, is a culmination of so much hard work, so much pain, so much joy as well. So many people who have poured themselves into me becoming better, and now I owe them a lot. This medal is one way of repaying them, and I know there will be so much more to come”.
But Alex wasn’t finished. He still had a relay to run. And a gold medal to win! He led from the start of the final leg but seemed certain to be caught on the final straight by Dylan Boree from Belgium or Thomas Jordier for France, but he hung on, clocked at 44.47 as GB finished in 2:59.35, winning by 0.14 seconds.
Alex commented: “We’re back, and we’re going to take on the world. That’s the next step! We’ve been biding our time, and we knew exactly what we wanted to do, and putting this team back together took a lot of effort and patience, but we are here now, and we’re not going anywhere!”
European gold medal for the GB men’s 4 by 400, which had not even qualified for Oregon.
And finally, for the next three years, when he is not running, Alex will be studying for a Ph.D. in ‘Improving solar panels to make them more resistant to dust. So now you know what to ask him if you bump into him!