Stuart Weir wrote this piece on Matthew Hudson-Smith, who won the 2022 Munich European Champs 400-meter title, defending his EA title from Berlin in 2018. It has been a busy year for Matthew Hudson-Smith, who broke the enduring British NR for 400 meters as well.
Matt Hudson-Smith became the first British athlete to compete in all three championships this simmer and win a medal in all of them. It started with Oregon when he took bronze in 44.66. At the Commonwealth Games, he took silver at 44.81, and in Munich, he took gold with 44.53.
Matt Hudson-Smith has been a talented athlete for years but has never quite seemed to achieve his potential. He reached the Olympic final in 2016 but was eighth. In 2017 he exited in the semi-finals of the World Championships. Then in 2018, he became European Champion. He has had his battles with injuries.
Of the 2022 European Championship victory, he said: “It was a good victory, and I did exactly what I wanted to do; I’m so happy to be European champion again. I wanted to wind it up and try and be calculated, try and go for the gold. People thought I’d go out absolutely blazing on the back straight, so I used them, and I controlled it and wound it up. This victory is a testimony to my coach and my team around me that we are on the right track, and we’ve delivered this year”.
Shortly before Oregon, he spoke to the British press, saying: “The season has been going pretty well and consistent. That was the main aim, to be consistent. We didn’t really talk about winning champs or running times; we just talked about consistency and being competitive. If that was the goal this year, we’ve done that and more”.
Part of that good season had been running 44.35 to break a long-standing British record. He shared his pleasure at the achievement while putting it in context: “I’ve been chasing that since 2014, and to be honest, I didn’t care about the British record because at one point I was chasing it too hard and running tense, which is a recipe for disaster in the 400m. I gave up on chasing that time and thought, ‘if it comes, it comes; if not, it doesn’t. People kept talking about it, and in the end, I was just like, ‘I don’t care, I just want to win medals. When you retire, people aren’t going to talk about how fast you run; they are going to talk about how many medals you collected. For me, it’s all about medals and competing against the best.”
His comment on Munich to referred to his team. In the briefing, he referred to his current training environment with Gary Evans in Clermont: “Everything is directed towards a purpose. Every session is directed towards race strategy. I know my markers, where I need to get to, and what I need to do. When the heats come out, I’ll know exactly what I need to do to get around the track. It’s more detailed and structured toward 400m. It’s a great structure. It’s almost like a mad genius in the sense that he has covered every base, and my job is just to run. Focus on the task at hand. The 400m is one of the most competitive events, but I don’t need to worry about who else is in the race; I just focus on my lane. I think I’ve had more lactic in training than I’ve had in a race”.
He also acknowledged the help he was receiving from Christine Ohuruogu, double world champion and Olympic champion, although he added that when he broke the British record, Christine had told him to “go home, have a cake and celebrate, but remember the job at hand and get back to work as there are three championships this year!”
He made a case for the 400 as the jewel in the track and field crown: “It is the premier event; I know they say the 100m is the blue riband and the 200m is the mid-ground, but really and truly 400m, I wouldn’t say the hardest event. It is the one that everyone respects. It is the man-killer. You have 300m, and then it is about who wants it more? There are many ways to skin a cat; you can be a speed runner, a strength runner, or in-between. I have been in America since 2017 now. I have trained with Noah Lyles and LaShawn Merritt. I have seen the freaks. I now train with Steven Gardiner, who is again one of those freaks. It’s not something where you will shy away from it”.
It is great to see him fit, healthy and thriving and now getting his rewards.