Just back from the Anniversary Games so thought I’d share a few thoughts.
Performance of the Day: Allyson Felix for me. 49.66 WL in the 400m. I haven’t seen her much on the circuit this year and I figured she was maybe starting to decline when I saw her season’s best was outside of 50 secs. But boy was I wrong she comfortably beat a strong field and sent out signals across the Atlantic to Shaunae Miller that she fully intends to defend her title. Excellent running.
Flop of the day: Laura Muir. Yes I have always been critical of her but today she failed at the one thing that is supposedly her strong suit. Pace made record attempts. The billing was that she was meant to break Zola Budd’s 32 year old Mile record. She failed. Despite the support of a sizeable proportion of the crowd. She lost to Helen Obiri who has actually won gold medals, and missed the record too. If athletes like Obiri are beating her. She’ll really struggle at the World’s v the Hassans and Kipyegons of this world. Don’t believe the hype.
Disappointment of the day: The women’s 100m. Elaine Thompson was the athlete I was most looking forward to seeing today and she seemed flat. I don’t know whether it was jetlag or what but the fire wasn’t quite there. She just about did enough to win and her heat seemed like a training jog. I’m hoping she’s ok but the fireworks I was anticipating from the Schippers showdown on the super fast London track just didn’t materialise. Hopefully she’s saving all for Words.
Other random thoughts: Now I really love my athletics. But I couldn’t help but get the sense that today’s meet was just a little flat. From the crowd/atmosphere perspective. There were a lot of empty seats, nothing really seemed to capture the crowd till Mo at the end and he’s retiring from the track. The Olympic Stadium is a stadium that if it’s not packed, it feels hollow. Last year I went on the Friday night when Bolt was competing there was a buzz for the whole event not just for the 20s he was competing. I don’t know what it was today that was the reason for the flatness, but I suspect it’s symptomatic of a wider trend. That trend being that athletics golden era of mass popularity coming to the end and uncoincidentally the sport’s most marketable popular figures in the UK are all either retired or imminently retiring, those being Mo, Jess and Bolt. Now a figure that transcends the whole of sport like Bolt is of course extremely rare and athletics has probably never had someone like that but there’s always been stars within the sport and every athletics nation has them. The question I ask right now. Is when Mo retires, who’s the next British star. There’s a dearth. We have no other Olympic champions, no other World No 1s and to be honest no other future World No 1s really, I pinned my hopes on Katarina Johnson-Thompson for a while but the rise of Thiam seems to have put paid to that, then I think Morgan Lake in the High Jump has massive potential but she still has 2 or 3 years before she’s challenging for Golds. When you look across our team there’s a lot of mediocrity and no one really powering through. At the last 3 or 4 major champs there’s very few new names medalling. I think British Athletics is heading for dry period where we don’t win any golds. I don’t know if that’s ever happened but I’ll look it up. Right now I’m fearful. The 2003 World Championships was the last occasion we won 1 silver and 2 bronzes (Kelly Holmes, Darren Campbell and Hayley Tullet). Who’s drawing the crowd next year? I wonder. One alternative theory is that everyone opted to go to the World Championships instead. But if this is a genuine issue. I think moving the Diamond League back to Crystal Palace is a potential solution, yes it takes away the Olympic anniversary element but Crystal Palace is a track steeped in athletics history too, and it was always a venue with amazing atmosphere. I also noticed that the Paris Diamond League is now held in a smaller athletics specific venue but it’s still one of the most prestigious meets.
Looking forward to the World Championships
I’ll likely do a formal preview in the lead up but just a couple of thoughts after today’s proceedings. It looks like CJ Ujah will get picked in the final 100m berth for Team GB, which I’m happy about because he’s had a good season, apart from his “cramp” last week. In terms of British medal contenders for London 2017, it’s a home champs so people will raise their game but right now I have to say I only see Mo, KJT and maybe Andrew Pozzi but he was bizarrely missing today, so who knows. Laura Muir I think will choke again, Holly Bleasdale has too much competition, Dina Asher-Smith is very far from her best and is there anyone else in the mix. Laura Muir? Well we’ll see. I definitely don’t think she can get gold but if she actually learns to run, she can maybe medal, maybe. In terms of the world scene I’m a little concerned about Thompson, because Bowie’s seems to be selecting her races carefully and I think will be in excellent shape come the Champs. The women’s 400m is gearing up to be one of the races of the Championships, along with the Men’s High Hurdles with a resurgent Merritt, running his fastest times since his kidney operation. It’s all getting quite exciting and I think it’ll be a great championships.