Rosemary Wanjiru secured her biggest win to date as the Kenyan ran away from Tsehay Gemechu to take the 2023 Tokyo marathon title in a new personal best of 2:16:28.
In only her second career marathon, having made her debut in a second-place at Berlin in 2022, Wanjiru moves to sixth on the all-time list, falling just outside Brigid Kosgei’s course record of 2:16:02, set last year.
Gemechu’s time of 2.16:58 sees her move to eighth, running a time which would have won all but the two most recent editions.
The women’s race quickly developed into a leading quartet as Ethiopians Gemechu, Ashete Bekere and Worknesh Edesa accompanied Wanjiru, the quartet moving away by 15km and staying four-strong right the way through to 30km. Passing 10km in 32:34, they completed the next 10km in 32:08, passing 20km in 2.16.30 pace.
Whilst the four would slow over the next 10km, running 32:43, Wanjiru set the race alight over the next 10km running 31:49 as only Gemechu could even keep her in sight.
Wanjiru had time to waive to fans over the final 2km as she left suggestions there may be even more to come.
The 28-year-old Kenyan has surely announced herself as another in a increasingly dense pack of elite level Kenyan marathoners and will aim to seize more major triumphs in the years to come.
Men’s Race – Gelmisa edges three-way sprint
Ethiopian Deso Gelmisa earnt the biggest moment of an experienced marathon career, edging a three-way sprint finish to take his first World Marathon Major title in his 12th career marathon, running 2:05:22.
Finishing on the same time Mohamed Esa just couldn’t get past his compatriot in the final straight as third place Tsegaye Getachew, Amsterdam’s winner from 2022, finished just three seconds back.
The men’s race saw a huge pack for much of the race as 19 runners were within six seconds of the lead at 30km. The race still really only came alive at 37km as the pack splintered, leaving a leading six in which Esa would slowly bide his time.
With less that 2km to run the lead pack was still six-strong, with Gelmisa still waiting for his moment and he only made his move with 400m to go, closing with devastating speed as Esa initially rounded the final corner in the lead.
With the news this week of the retirement of marathon supremo Mary Keitany we ask ourselves the perennial question, who is the greatest female marathon runner of all time? Here’s our top five. In deciding the list we’ve taken into account times run (for their era), major marathons won, global titles and the length of their dominance.
Brigid Kosgei’s 2.14.04 run in Chicago 2018 makes her place on this list hard to refute but she will need to do more to nudge herself to the top.
Kosgei made her marathon debut back in 2015, running 2.47.59 to take the win in Porto. She has since racked up wins in Milan, Honolulu, Chicago and London (both twice). Her second place to Peres Jepchirchir in the Tokyo Olympics means she will have strong competition for the best in her era, though the two may well end up top of the all-time pile.
Porto Marathon – 1st – 2.47.59
Milan Marathon – 1st – 2.27.45
Lisbon Marathon – 2nd – 2.24.45
Boston Marathon – 8th – 2.31.48
Chicago Marathon – 2nd – 2.20.22
Honolulu Marathon – 1st – 2.22.15
London Marathon – 2nd – 2.20.13
Chicago Marathon – 1st – 2.18.35
London Marathon – 1st – 2.18.20
Chicago Marathon – 1st – 2.14.04 (World Record)
London Marathon – 1st – 2.18.58
Tokyo Olympics – 2nd – 2.27.36
4. Rosa Mota
Rosa Mota may not have ever broken the world record in her time competing but she did put together a series of performances that few in history have rivalled. A winner in Rotterdam, Chicago (2), Boston (3) Osaka and London, the Portuguese star also won two European titles, Olympic gold and bronze and a World Championship triumph in 1987. It is enough to make her fourth on our list.
Such a body of work alone edges her ahead of Joan Benoit and on to my all-time list. Given Mota’s fastest time came in a third place finish to Benoit and Kristiansen I know that is not without controversy.
Rosa Mota’s Career Marathons
Rotterdam Marathon – 1st – 2.32.27
Helsinki World Champs – 4th – 2.31.50
Chicago Marathon – 1st – 2.31.12
Los Angeles Olympic Marathon – 3rd – 2.26.57
Chicago Marathon – 1st – 2.26.01
Chicago Marathon – 3rd – 2.23.29
European Champs – 1st – 2.28.38
Tokyo Marathon – 1st – 2.27.15
Boston Marathon – 1st – 2.25.21
Rome World Champs – 1st – 2.25.17
Boston Marathon – 1st – 2.24.30
Seoul Olympics – 1st – 2.25.40
Los Angeles Marathon – 2nd – 2.35.27
Osaka Marathon – 1st – 2.27.47
Boston Marathon – 1st – 2.25.24
European Champs – 1st – 2.31.27
London Marathon – 1st – 2.26.14
Tokyo World Champs – DNF
3. Mary Keitany
Mary Keitany’s marathon debut came back in London in 2007 when the twenty-five year old Kenyan failed to finish. A half marathon star, Keitany won the World Half Marathon Champs in 2009 before giving the marathon a second shot. Third in the New York City Marathon of 2010 (2.29.01) a solid performance but short of the standard she was to set.
Keitany’s emergence as the heir apparent to Radcliffe only made itself clear in 2011 when the largely unfancied Kenyan ran one of the fastest times in history. In running 2.19.19 to claim the London title she became the fourth fastest female of all time.
By the end of her career she had three London wins and four New York City titles. Though she never won a global title Keitany’s position on this list is cemented by virtue of her 2.17.01 in London in 2017, at the time a women’s only world record.
London Marathon – 1st – 2.17.01 (Women’s Only World Record)
New York City Marathon – 2nd – 2.27.54
London Marathon – 5th – 2.24.27
New York City Marathon – 1st – 2.22.48
London Marathon – 5th – 2.20.58
New York City Marathon – 2nd – 2.23.32
2. Ingrid Kristiansen
Look at the first half of Ingrid Kristiansen’s career and you probably wouldn’t have her in an all time top ten, let alone second. From 1984, however she slowly turned the screw. Nine wins in her next twelve marathons the Norwegian set the world record in London in 1984, a record that would stand for almost thirteen years.
Unbeaten from 1986 to 1989 wins at Boston, Chicago, London and New York cemented her place as one of the greatest of all time.
Paula Radcliffe’s dominance of the world of marathon running may have been briefer than some but at her best the Briton was untouchable. The World Champ from 2005, three times a winner of both London and New York she also boasted a Chicago win in 2002.
Her 2.15.25 from London in 2003 remains to this day the second fastest marathon ever run, and is more staggering given most of the rest of the all-time list come in the era of super-shoes. With three of the top eight times in history, despite her Olympic failures Radcliffe has to go down as near enough the greatest female marathon runner in history.
Paula Radcliffe’s Career Marathons
London Marathon – 1st – 2.18.56
Chicago Marathon – 1st – 2.17.18 (World Record)
London Marathon – 1st – 2.15.25 (World Record – Mixed Race)
Olympic Games – DNF
New York City Marathon – 1st – 2.23.10
London Marathon – 1st – 2.17.42
World Championships – 1st – 2.20.57
New York City Marathon – 1st – 2.23.09
Beijing Olympics – 23rd – 2.32.38
New York City Marathon – 1st – 2.23.56
Joan Benoit and Catherine Ndereba can both count themselves highly unfortunate not to make the list.
Ndereba broke the world record in winning Chicago in 2001, and won Boston three times. Two World titles and a two Olympic silvers make a highly compelling case, only decided against due to the relative brevity of her dominance.
Benoit announced herself on the scene by breaking the course record at Boston in 1979 (2.35.15). Her win in the 1983 edition was the fastest marathon ever run by a woman. Olympic gold followed in 1984 (2.24.52) . The American also won Chicago in 1985 (2.21.21), beating both Kristiansen and Mota. She can county herself highly unlucky not to make the list.
Fancy someone else as the greatest female marathon runner of all-time? Let us know in the comments below.
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Despite the weather, Gateshead Diamond League did have its bright spots. Dina Asher-Smith’s win over Sha’Carri Richardson provided the first chapter to what looks like a compelling battle for the fastest woman on planet earth. Mohamed Katir upset the odds to add himself to the 5,000m medal mix come Tokyo and Jakob Ingebrigtsen proved himself the man for all conditions. Doha offers more of the same but promises fast times, long throws and mighty leaps. The Diamond league is up and running and let’s take a look at it’s next instalment.
All times/distances in brackets are PB performances unless otherwise stated.
Pole Vault (Women) – 17.58 PM
A stacked Pole Vault field opens the evening’s competition. In Katerina Stefanidi (4.91m) and Sandi Morris (5.00m) you’ve got the reigning Olympic gold and silver medallists. Anzhelika Sidorova (4.95m) won the World Champs on her last visit to the Khalifa International Stadium and Katie Nageotte enters the campaign having jumped 4.92m last summer. Holly Bradshaw (4.81m) will hope to add herself to the mix and get over the disappointment of her European Indoors Champs bronze.
Discuss (Women) – 18.18 PM
Sandra Perkovic (71.41m) may have thrown the furthest, be a two time Olympic and two time World Champion but it is Yaime Perez (69.39) who enters with the fondest memories of Doha. The reigning World Champ not only threw her second furthest distance in the Qatari capital but has also thrown further than Perkovic this year. They will be challenged by 26 year old American Valarie Allman (70.15) who broke seventy metres for the first time last summer and World silver medallist Denia Cabellero who won her silver in the same stadium.
Triple Jump (Women) – 18.38 PM
Three of Doha’s entrants are members of the all time top 10 list. Yulimar Rojas (15.43) occupies number two spot and came within seven centimetres of Ukrainian’s Inessa Kravets now 26 year old world record. With the right conditions could it be under threat? The Colombian will have to see off reigning Olympic champion Caterine Ibarguen (15.31), though she is now 37, didn’t jump in 2020 and hasn’t broken 15 metres since 2016. Like her, Olga Rypakova (15.25) may be the 2012 champ but a more serious challenge looks likely to come from Keturah Orji (14.92) and Shanieka Ricketts (14.93), the later who comes into Doha with a win in Gateshead under her belt. The former jumped poorly by her standards in Gateshead’s poor weather.
Karsten Warholm may be missing but there’s still some tantalising match ups over the hurdles. In Rai Benjamin (46.98) you have the World Champs silver medalist and one who has opened the seasons strongly running 47.13 in Mt Sac to set the world lead for 2021. He will be up against bronze medalist Abderrahman Samba, the Saudi Arabian born athlete who now represents Qatar. Commonwealth Games winner Kyron McMaster set his personal best of 47.50 this year, as did twenty-year-old Brazilian Alison Dos Santos (47.68). Thomas Barr (47.97) and Yasmani Copello (47.81) are the two other athletes who have run under 48 seconds.
High Jump (Men) – 19.05 PM
The men’s diamond league campaign gets under way with a home crowd expecting to have something to cheer about. Two-time World Champion Mutaz Essa Barshim (2.43m) would seem on paper a cut above but will be keen to build momentum ahead of the Olympics, a competition where gold has so far eluded him (he won bronze in London and silver in Rio). Ukrainian Andriy Protshenko (2.40m) has jumped the second highest but not since 2014, much like the Bahamian Donald Thomas (world champion in Osaka in 2007, 2.37 PB).
Canadian Derek Drouin is an enigma but is still the reigning Olympic Champion. He hasn’t jumped since 2019 but is a 2.40m jumper at his very best and is still only 31. Instead stronger opposition looks to be in the form of Ilya Ivanyuk, the Bronze medalist from Doha who has set a lifetime best of 2.37m this year and Maksim Nedasekau who jumped 2.37m indoors to win the European Indoors this March. Brandon Starc (2.36m), the Australian, remains as competitive as ever.
Keely Hodgkinson (1.58.19) faces the toughest challenge of her fledgling career but it is one she goes into with confidence. The Euro Indoors champ travels to Qatar having won convincingly in esteemed company in Ostrava. The Three fastest PBs all came from one race with Natoya Goule (1.56.15), Rababe Arafi (1.57.47) and Habitam Alemu (1.56.71) all trying to chase down Caster Semenya in Monaco in 2018. The Jamaican Goule won last weekend in Boston over 600m, with Arafi a distant second in Gateshead last weekend over 1,500. Alemu hasn’t again got close to those dizzying heights.
The battle is likely to come from Faith Kipyegon, the Olympic and World Champion (2017) over 1500m. Her 1.57.68 best over the distance came just last September in the same stadium.
Henna Hynne (1.58.10) provides the European challenge, though she was well beaten in Ostrava and Hanna Green (1.58.19) provides some US interest.
1500m (Men) – 19.28 PM
Doha sees the return of Timothy Cheruiyot, the metric mile’s undoubted stud over the last three years. What sort of shape he is in will be fascinating given Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s imperious win in the Gateshead rain. The Kenyan will be challenged by Stewart McSweyn (3.30.51) with the some interesting additions. Soufiane El Bakkali steps down from the Steeple (3.33.45) and Bethwell Birgen (3.30.77) and Samuel Tefera (3.31.39) make their season openers outdoors.
Adam Ali Musab provides home interest (3.32.41) with the Ronald Musagala (3.30.58) having ran well in the Ugandan trials (3.36.53 to win).
Kenny Bednarek’s (19.80) dominance in Gateshead makes him hard to look past even in a very competitive field. Aaron Brown (19.95), Andre de Grasse (19.80) and Adam Gemili (19.97) were all well beaten last time out. Justin Gatlin’s (19.57) presence provides an interesting match up but I expect this to be a race against the clock for Kenny Bednarek. Ramil Guliyev (19.76) deserves mention even if he hasn’t reached the same heights of his 2017 world crown.
Shot Put (Men) – 19.50 PM
Armin Sinancevic will aim to bounce back from the disappointment of failing to record a mark in the World Champs final at this very stadium but has thrown 21.88m this year. Tomas Walsh (22.90) looks the man to beat but will be challenged by Konrad Bukowiecki (22.25), Tomas Stanek (22.01), fresh of the back of his Euro Indoors win and Filip Mihaljevic (21.84) amongst others.
3000m Steeplechase (Women) – 19.53 PM
If Beatrice Chepkoech (8.44.32) is anywhere near her best it would be a tall challenge for any of the field to think they had a chance but that’s not to say it isn’t a stacked field. How close Emma Coburn (9.02.35) is to providing that opposition come Tokyo may well be revealed in Doha.
2015 World Champ Hyvin Kiyeng (9.00.01) looked good in winning in Berlin last year. A third Kenyan, Norah Jeruto (8.59.62) is the second fastest on paper but has raced sparingly outside Kazakhstan this year, none of those particularly eye-opening performances. Gesa Krause (9.03.30) will have fond memories of a stadium where she won World Bronze in 2019.
One of the most intriguing match ups of the evening comes in the form of training partners Daniel Rowden (1.44.09) versus Jamie Webb (1.44.52). The former was one of the world’s best over the distance in 2020 and has not raced so far in 2021.
The Kenyan contingent of Wycliffe Kinyamal (1.43.12) and Ferguson Cheruiyot (1.42.54) are two of the quickest on paper though neither have given any indication of that form so far this year. Cornelius Tuwei is one to watch, having run 1.44.63 to win the Kenyan Defence Force Champs earlier this month. Amel Tuka (1.42.51) is the quickest in the field but seems a long way from his 2015 best.
400m (Men) – 20.26 PM
Here’s your event of the evening. Fred Kerley (43.64) versus Michael Norman (43.45), the former having already impressed this year by beating Gatlin and De Grasse over 100m. Throw in Kirani James (43.74) and Vernon Norwood (44.40) and it starts to get silly. With Wayde Van Niekirk struggling, having hobbled over the finish line in Boston, this could be a dress rehearsal for Tokyo.
Sha’Carri Richardson (10.70) and Dina Asher-Smith are missing from Doha and in their absence Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce (10.70) will aim to put a marker down to the rest of the field. Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.85) will have something to say about that, as will the American Kiara Parker (10.97) and Blessing Okabare (10.79). Euro Indoor Champ Alja Del Ponte (11.08) will hope for a return to form from a disappointing 8th place in Gateshead.
3000m (Women)- 20.48 PM
The final event of the evening is reminiscient of the Kenyan Trials with seven athletes making the trip to Qatar. The best of these, Helen Obiri (8.20.68) looks a cut above but her compatriot Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (8.24.76) will be waiting in the wings should she slip up. Lilian Kasait Rengeruk (8.29.02) is a third athlete under 8.30 with her nearest competitor, the Turk of Kenyan descent (and former European Champ), Yasemin Can. It will be interesting to see just how fast Obiri runs.
Rosemary Wanjiru secured her biggest win to date as the Kenyan ran away from Tsehay Gemechu to take the 2023 Tokyo marathon title in a new personal best of 2:16:28. In only her second career marathon, having made her debut in a second-place at Berlin in 2022, Wanjiru moves to sixth on the all-time list,…
With the news this week of the retirement of marathon supremo Mary Keitany we ask ourselves the perennial question, who is the greatest female marathon runner of all time? Here’s our top five. In deciding the list we’ve taken into account times run (for their era), major marathons won, global titles and the length of…
Athletics fans are in for a treat. Ostrava on Wednesday, now Gateshead this weekend, over the coming weeks the storylines will be set for this summer’s Olympic Games. Who will launch themselves into Olympic contention and will we see a changing of the guard just when the established order least want it to happen? We…
Amy-Eloise Markovc’s (Reebok Track Club) Euro Indoors gold was a welcome reminder that British distance running’s success relies on more than just what our athletes do on local shores. While nothing new an increasing cohort of athletes are taking their studies to the US and a growing crop of senior athletes have also relocated, joining…
Athletics fans are in for a treat. Ostrava on Wednesday, now Gateshead this weekend, over the coming weeks the storylines will be set for this summer’s Olympic Games. Who will launch themselves into Olympic contention and will we see a changing of the guard just when the established order least want it to happen? We run our eye over Sunday evening’s action.
All times/distances are PB’s unless stated otherwise.
High Jump (Women) – 17.55pm
Gateshead will witness Mariya Lasitskene’s 2021 opener. Her lifetime best of 2.06m is two centimetres better than Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the 2019 World Silver medalist who took the European Indoor title in the Russian’s absence. She’s only 19. Home interest will be in the form of Morgan Lake (1.96), Emily Borthwick (1.88), Nikki Manson and Bethan Partridge (both 1.87).
Tajay Gayle may not have quite reached the heights of his world championship winning jump in Doha (8.69m) but his 8.27m in Florida this year is still the furthest jump by any of his competitors outdoors. Thobias Montler will hope to to kick on from his Euro Indoors silver where he jumped 8.31m, with Gateshead a good indicator of his current place at world level. Reynold Banigo (7.94m) and Alex Farquharson (7.78m) represent Great Britain.
Shot Put (Womens) – 18.38 PM
In Danniel Thomas-Dodd and Christina Schwanitz Gateshead will witness the reigning world silver and bronze medallists respectively. Both will hope to add a first Olympic medal to their glittering collection come August but will face stiff competition, both there and in Gateshead from Americans Chase Ealey (19.68m) and Maggie Ewen (19.47m) and Euro Indoors champion Auriol Dongmo (19.53m). Sophie McKinna (18.61m) will aim to get over the disappointment of Torun with Amelia Strickler (17.83m) battling her to be best of the Brits.
Pole Vault (Men) – 18.40 PM
This is arguably the event of the evening as Armand Duplantis (6.15m), Sam Kendricks (6.06m) and Piotr Lisek (6.02m PB) go head-to-head for the first time outdoors this season. There’s also the younger Lavillenie (5.82m) who comes into the competition fresh into beating Lisek into European silver in Torun. For Harry Coppell (5.85m PB) it will be interesting to see where he opens up on world level and Charlie Myers (5.71m) rounds out the British interest.
100m (Womens) Heats 18.42 and 18.50 PM – Final 20.24 PM
Scrap the above, it is hard to look past the women’s 100 metres with storylines aplenty. Dina Asher Smith (10.83) will open her outdoor season over the distance but she will have to come out flying to win in Gateshead. In reigning world champ Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.70) and Marie-Josée Ta Lou (10.85), Dina faces familiar opposition but there’s a new entrant to the world of sprints and it isn’t necessarily one that’s gone down a storm.
Sha’Carri Richardson has had a flying start to 2021, running 10.72 for a world lead and winding up some athletics fans across the world, including her tweet below complaining about Ostrava. She has every right to believe she belongs at the top of the sport and Sunday evening will be her first test at world level.
Natasha Morrison of Jamaica has run a hugely competitive 10.87 this year, Aijla Del Ponte was imperious over 60m in Torun and both should not be discounted. Finally Desiree Henry (11.06) and Imani Lansiquot (11.09) completes the British contingent and both will want to test themselves against a world class field.
400m (Womens) – 19.03 PM
Three athletes have run under 50 seconds, world and Olympic bronze medalist Shericka Jackson (49.47), Stephenie Ann Mcpherson (49.92 – though not in recent years) and Kendall Ellis of the USA (49.99). Laviai Nielson (50.83), Lisanne De Witte (50.77) and Lieke Klaver (50.83) may all hope to be the best European. Emily Diamond will hope to return to her 51.23 best.
3,000m Steeplechase (Mens) – 19.15 PM
A good world class field is headed by Soufiane El Bakkali (7.58.15) and while he may not face quite the challenge he will come Tokyo it should be a fascinating race regardless. Five men have run sub 8.10 in Djilali Bedrani (8.08.61) of France, Leonard Kipkemoi Bett (8.08.61) and Abraham Kibiwott (8.05.72) of Kenya and the two Americans Hillary Bor (8.08.41) and Stanley Kebenei (8.08.30).
Nevertheless for me some of the greatest interest will be in the battle of the Brits. Phil Norman’s performance in Ostrava (8.20.12) was the eight fastest of all time by a Brit but more importantly meant an Olympic standard, a fitting reward after coming oh so close to the world standard in 2019 (he ran three times within a second of the standard). He will face off against Zak Seddon (8.21.28) and Mark Pearce (8.33.61), the former hoping to return to the form that led him to a World Championship final in Doha.
Javelin (Men) 19.35pm
Keshorn Walcott has thrown the furthest in the field and is the only one to pass 90 metres (90.16m) a mark Johannes Vetter has now thrown 7 times this year. Anderson Peters of Grenada has thrown further than Walcott this year (83.39m SB. 87.31m PB) and both him and Jakub Vadlejch (89.73m) will likely challenge for the win. Britain’s Harry Hughes will hope to mix it up with some of the world’s best (80.32m)
100m Hurdles (Womens) – 19.37 PM
Two British sisters looks likely to contest for the win over the hurdles with Cindy Sember having run a lifetime best this year (12.53) and Tiffany Porter running well herself (12.62 SB, 12.51 PB). They are the fastest in the field by a small margin though Megan Tapper of Jamaica may hope to return to her best (12.61)
Triple Jump (Womens) 19.45 PM
No athlete has broken 15 metres but the Ukraininan Olha Saladukha has got might close. Aged 37 she may not be in the form that saw her win Olympic Bronze in London and will face a stiff challenge from American Keturah Orji (14.92m PB – jumped this year) and Jamaican Shanieka Ricketts (14.63m SB, 14.93m PB). Britain’s Naomi Ogeta will hope to find some form ahead of Tokyo and has only just turned 23 (14.15m).
1,500m (Men) – 19.49 PM
An interesting field will show us just what sort of form Jakob Ingebrigtsen (3.28.68) is in this Olympic year. He is the fastest in the field by a margin but will be challenged by two Australians in Stewart McSweyn (3.30.51), who looked very smooth pacing Joshua Cheptegei’s world record attempt in Ostrava and Oliver Hoare (3.33.19) who has been very impressive in a couple of significant wins over in the US. Ryan Gregson and Matt Ramsden will both challenge these two, with the Australian Olympic team looking one of the best in World Athletics (though McSweyn intends to run the 5,000). George Mills (3.36.72), Archie Davis (3.40.30) will hope to close in the Olympic Standard and Thomas Keen will build on a good indoor season (3.43.97) making his first appearance in a world class field.
Forgive me for my bias but as a Brit this could be the most interesting of the evening with a number of ath;etes seeking breakout performances. Andrew Butchart is the established star (13.06.21) but he will be challenged by Jake Smith, who has already said he is likely to take out the race (13.47.91) and Jack Rowe (13.37.85) who recently ran 13.35 solo on the roads in Battersea Park. Jonathan Davies (13.23.94) and Adam Clarke (13.39.21) will both hope to stop their momentum.
In the race at the front Jimmy Gressier (13.15.77), Morgan McDonald (13.15.83) and Adel Mechaal (13.15.40) could be chasing Nicholas Kimeli (12.51.78) though Aussie David McNeill is in very impressive form (13.12.82).
200m (Mens) – 20.40 PM
Adam Gemili (19.97) will test himself in world class company with American Kenneth Bednarek already perhaps the class act on current form (19.80 PB). André De Grasse (19.80) was comfortably beaten over 100m by Fred Kerley and Justin Gatlin but on his day is one of the best in the world.
Canadian Aaran Brown (19.95) and Jamaican Julian Forte (19.97) round out a very competitive field. Tommy Ramdhan will be the second Brit and will hope to be dragged to a lifetime best (20.59).
1500m (Womens) – 20.51 PM
Last but by no means least is a stacked womens’ field. It seems Laura Muir (3.55.22) may be in a league of her own (judging from her early season form over 800m) though she may face an African challenge in the form of Rababe Arafi of Morocco (3.58.84), Axumawit Embaye of Ethiopia (3.59.02) and Winnie Nanyondo of Uganda (3.59.56).
Watch out for Eilish McColgan (4.00.97) who has impressed over 5,000 this season, Adelle Tracey (4.07.47) who has been flying over two laps and Katie Snowden who dispatched an impress field to win handsomely in Mt Sac (4.02.98). Erin Wallace rounds out the British interest (4.12.57).
Amy-Eloise Markovc‘s (Reebok Track Club) Euro Indoors gold was a welcome reminder that British distance running’s success relies on more than just what our athletes do on local shores. While nothing new an increasing cohort of athletes are taking their studies to the US and a growing crop of senior athletes have also relocated, joining a whole host of professional groups based stateside.
In this article we’ll run through those making an impact stateside but not necessarily getting the same press back home. You’ll notice there are far more men, I’ve gone on 2021 performances and how that figures in the rankings. It seems far more of our women are choosing to stay in the UK. If I’m missing anyone please let me know in the comments below. Times are 2021 season bests.
It is an indication of just how far Marc Scott’s standing has risen that his second place finish in 13.05.13 came as an upset, the first time the Yorkshireman has been defeated this season, running against some of the best talent America has to offer. Now in his third season with the Bowerman Track club, under the tutelage of Jerry Schumacher he has made the step up to genuine world class.
His 7.36.08 is the fourth fastest by a Brit of all-time his 10,000 performance number two and his 5,000 number three. The former Richmond & Zetland Harrier, Cambridge & Coleridge and Tulsa Uni (NCAA Champ in the 10,000) athlete bypassed the Euro Indoors with the Olympics in mind. He will go to Tokyo competitive across both distances should he double up.
Josh Kerr – Brooks Beasts
1500 – 3.35.78
The Scotsman based in Seattle with the Brooks Beasts has shown his cards and shown them early. His victory at the Sound Running Invite a full three seconds clear of a field featuring reigning Olympic Champ Matthew Centrowitz and bronze medalist Nick Willis. A dominant display of front running, the former Edinburgh AC athlete knows competition for a 1500m spot in Tokyo will be the fiercest for decades but has experience at the top level. His sixth place in the 2019 Doha World Champs likely a breakthrough and not anomaly in a very exciting career.
Hannah Segrave – New Balance
400 – 56.88, 600- 1.29.93, 800 – 2.01.33(i)
Originally from Teeside the New Balance athlete has been based in the US since 2013. She recently beat Adelle Tracey in Austin over 800m, another indication that she’ll be aiming to mix it for an 800m slot come Tokyo. That said, this event will be one of the most stacked events in the whole British Championships. She came within a whisker of breaking two minutes in the Anniversary Games in 2019 (2.00.18) and will need something around there to force the issue with selectors.
Adelle Tracey – Training from Flagstaff
800 – 2.01.44 (i)
The Guildford & Godalming athlete has based herself out of the States in 2021, running four times over 800m in Texas, Arizona and New York. In another life Tracey could indeed be a USA athlete, having been born there and spending her early years in Jamaica. The World semi-finalist and European finalist will be hoping to get back to the form which saw her break two minutes for the second time in her career in 2020. With a stacked 800m trials it may indeed be a necessity.
Charlie Da’Vall Grice – Pete Julian’s Group (formerly Nike Oregon Project)
800 – 1.45.62, 1000 – 2.17.20
Rio 1500m finalist has certainly drawn a lot of attention moving to Pete Julian’s group in the US, the coach once former assistant of Alberto Salazar but make of that what you will. Everything has been focused around Tokyo and Grice is already benefitting from a meticulous approach at Nike headquarters hard to replicate in any other camp around the world. A 1.45.62 indoor effort in Arizona was fifth on the British all time list and his national record in the 1,000 culminated an indoor campaign where everything has gone to plan. Focus you would expect will still be on the 1,500 where he will face one of the most stacked qualifiers ever seen on British soil but signs so far indicate the Brighton Phoenix runner will be well in contention.
Yusuf Bizimana – The University of Texas at Austin
800 – 1.48.49 (i), 1 Mile – 3.57.81 (i)
British track fans will have enjoyed Bizimana’s breakthrough 2020, one in which he wasn’t afraid to take the competition to the established stars. Making the move to the University of Texas this year he has displayed some serious credentials over the mile and qualified with ease to the NCAA finals in a heat which included NCAA 1500m record holder Sam Tanner (who didn’t qualify). Which event he’ll focus on going forward remains to be seen but he has time on his side and is still a U23. The goal will be emulating Josh Kerr and Marc Scott in winning NCAA titles and with his progress so far you’d be a brave man to bet against it.
Tom Dodd – Michigan University
1 Mile (i)- 3.57.00
You’ll struggle to find a bigger breakthrough than Tom Dodd’s 2021. Prior to 2021 the Birchfield Harrier and Birmingham Uni Alumni had run a 1500 in 3.44.25. After his NCAA performance on Friday night, qualifying for the final, he has now run a 3.57.00 indoor mile. As soon as it is ratified it will place him just above Jake Wightman on 15th in the British all time list. Some run. A new level has been reached and the 24 year old has just added his name to a ridiculously crowded middle distance mix.
Tom Anderson – Club North West
3000 – 7.54.33 (i)
Now based in Seattle, the Skipton born athlete, formerly of Bingley AC, has quietly gone about his business but is increasingly knocking on the door to really compete for Olympic places, most likely over the 5000. His 7.54.33 is a continued improvement and ranks him fifth on the rankings this year. His coach Andrew Hobdell will be pleased with his continued progress and don’t bet against another breakthrough in 2021.
Euan Makepeace – Butler University
3000 – 7.55.43 (i)
Another postgraduate, Charnwood AC’s Makepeace’s one and only outing has been an impressive sub-8 performance in North Carolina. Coached by Mark Roe, the 25 year old continues his steady improvement over the last few seasons.
Charles Wheeler – Wisconsin-Madison Uni
3000 – 7.58.42(i)
Adding his name to the 5000 conversation is another athlete who until this year was a 3.49 1,500m man. His first season on the shores of Lake Mendota has seen the Buckinghamshire man break 8 mins over fifteen laps of the indoor track and he is joined at the same uni by U23 Jack Meijer who ran 8.02.79 in the same race.
Finley McLear – Miami University, Ohio
800 – 1.47.47 (i)
1.47 and change is no longer good enough to compete for British teams but the Exeter athlete has impressed in Ohio, winning all his 800m this year, including a meet in North Carolina featuring Nigerian international Edose Ibadin. Still only twenty one I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from this man.
Edit: within hours of publishing Finley McLear ran 1.45.91, finishing second in the NCAA indoor final by a single millisecond. Turned out the prediction happened quicker that I ever could have imagined.
James West (Oregon University) hasn’t as of yet reached his 2020 heights and Chris O’Hare (Adidas) is yet to race this year.
Despite the weather, Gateshead Diamond League did have its bright spots. Dina Asher-Smith’s win over Sha’Carri Richardson provided the first chapter to what looks like a compelling battle for the fastest woman on planet earth. Mohamed Katir upset the odds to add himself to the 5,000m medal mix come Tokyo and Jakob Ingebrigtsen proved himself…
With the dust settled on a fine European Indoor Champs, it will be one British Athletics looks back on with pride. Their tied best medal tally in the history of the event (though 2019 had one more gold), their success was all the more impressive in light of an absence of some of their most…
The 36th edition of the European Indoor Championships starts this Thursday 4th March packed full of British talent. Medal prospects across the distance, in this guide we will be running through the squad and when you can watch them toe the line. Live coverage will be available on BBC TV throughout the four days. All…
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With the dust settled on a fine European Indoor Champs, it will be one British Athletics looks back on with pride. Their tied best medal tally in the history of the event (though 2019 had one more gold), their success was all the more impressive in light of an absence of some of their most dominant stars.
For a number of years these champs have witnessed the genuine breakthroughs of a number of today’s most established athletes, from Laura Muir’s first major champs titles in 2017 to Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s pentathlon gold in 2015. 2021 looks like it will be more of the same.
Keely Hodgkinson’s 800m triumph one that surely won’t be her last, a few days past her nineteenth birthday, and the 3000m women (Amy-Eloise Markovc, Verity Ockenden, Amelia Quirk) ran times that have etched themselves a few seconds closer to world class. Holly Archer’s silver was made all the more difficult by a bunched up field and the Cambridge & Coleridge athlete has clearly graduated to a new level.
Jamie Webb, Andrew Pozzi, Jodie Williams, Holly Bradshaw, Tiffany Porter and Cindy Sember continue to demonstrate their class on the global stage and a reliability has become of our relay teams.
In this piece we’ll have a look at Torun as compared against previous editions, both in terms of Britain’s own performance, by gender and disciplines, and also the overall speed of the field, with a particular focus on the distance events and 60m.
British women continue to outperform the men
For the sixth games in a row British women have equalled or bettered their male counterparts, winning 23.08% of all medals available for the second consecutive champs. Again the backbone for this has come from four medals in both the distance (800 – 3,000) and sprint events (anything up to and including 400m).
This means the gap is closing quickly in terms of an historical (cumulative) average. In 1987 British women had won just one in every twenty medals available. Only 24 years later that is closer to one in sixteen. Men by comparison have more or less performed against the same historical average that they have had since 2011, winning around one in thirteen medals.
This has the effect that Britain continue to outperform their historical performance on a combined gender basis with the four all-time best performances all coming within the last eight editions.
Track is leaving field behind, quicker than ever
It won’t be a surprise to many that British track athletes have outperfomed the field eventers more or less for the entirety of this competition’s history but the difference between the two has never been so stark. What is it about British Athletics (or Britain itself) that is working so well for our runners but not translating to field success too? If anyone has any theories, feel free to drop your answers in the comments section below.
The shoe debate – how does this Champs compare?
The fairest way of judging this felt to be assessing on a combined basis for all the middle distance events. That way in theory slower tactical races in one event would balance itself out with a quicker one in one of the others. Of course this has its limitations but in short anti-shoe technology campaigners are unlikely to use these championships as their resounding argument, though there perhaps are some takeaways.
Whilst the men’s heats were quicker than we have seen across the last five editions, 2015 still had faster average finals.
For the women again the heats were quicker though the finals were considerably slower than the previous two editions. The absence of Sifan Hassan and Laura Muir of course skews this and if you would like further information behind the data please get in touch via my twitter handle contained at the end of this post.
Mens Combined Time – Average Top 12 Heat Times in 800m, 1500m, 3000m
Mens Combined Time – Average Top 6 Final Times in 800m, 1500m, 3000m
Womens Combined Time – Average Top 12 Heat Times in 800m, 1500m, 3000m
Womens Combined Time – Average Top 6 Final Times in 800m, 1500m, 3000m
Avoid the arguments, watch the sprints
One world which has stayed pretty constant over the last few years are the sprints. For the women this was the slowest champs in a while and for the men their quickest since 2015.
Womens – 60m
Average Heat Times Top 12
Average Semi-Final Times Top 6
Average Time in Final Top 6
Mens – 60m
Average Heat Times Top 12
Average Semi-Final Times Top 6
Average Times in Final Top 6
If you have any questions on the back of this or would like to hear the stats behind some of the other events, please let me know and I’d be happy to have a look. Just let me know either on my twitter or comments section, both detailed below.
The 36th edition of the European Indoor Championships starts this Thursday 4th March packed full of British talent. Medal prospects across the distance, in this guide we will be running through the squad and when you can watch them toe the line.
Live coverage will be available on BBC TV throughout the four days. All times in brackets are Season Bests.
First Round (6.30pm GMT, Thursday 4th March) Final (8.00pm GMT, Friday 5th March)
First up on the track is a trio of British women who all will be shooting for day two’s final. Only five athletes on the start list boast quicker PB’s than Swansea’s Verity Ockenden (8.51.63i), her dominant win in Sport City a sign that 2021 could be a real breakthrough year for Tony Houchin’s athlete. Not far behind Amy-Eloise Markovc’s (née Neale) 8.54.11 was achieved as part of a 2-mile effort in the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in the States so there may yet be room for improvement.
Amelia Quirk (8.58.57i) has every chance of progressing and will see a senior championship introduction as an exciting stage in her development.
First Round (7.20pm GMT, Thursday 4th March) Final (8.35pm GMT, Friday 5th March)
It is safe to say there’s a favourite in the 1500m and the fact his name is Jakob Ingibrigtsen won’t surprise you. It is testament to the quality of British milers these days that with a host of stars choosing to focus on the Olympics, those that remain still have genuine medal prospects.
Scotland’s Neil Gourlay (3.35.79i) looks to be rounding into form at just the right time and has good memories of a track he performed at less than two weeks ago. His third-place finish was within a whisker of home favourite Marcin Lewandowski. On the start line only the Pole, Jakob Ingebrigtsen and the German, Tesfaye Homiyu have run quicker indoors, with the later not having done so in recent years. Displaying an increasing maturity and a trademark kick the Virginia Tech athlete has every chance of a medal and I for one will be watching with interest.
Piers Copeland (3.38.55i) recently beat a strong field in the trials and has shown little ceiling to his talent. Race well and he can expect to reach the final and has a creditable claim to throw himself into medal contention should he get there.
Archie Davis (3.42.09i) has beat some stellar competition to make the team and will go into the championships with nothing to lose. In a slower race the Brighton Phoenix athlete has a very useful finish and could, in the right conditions, believe himself worthy of a final place.
First Round (11.22am Friday 5th March) Final (6.50pm Saturday, 6th March)
British Athletics send two athletes both hoping to make breakthroughs on the international stage. With a whisker between them at the trials Cambridge and Coleridge’s Holly Archer (4.10.03i) makes her major championships debut and Herne Hill’s Katie Snowden (4.10.43i) will hope to add to the experience of an 11th place finish in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Both will have to be at their very best to nab a final spot though go into the competition without the weight of expectation on their shoulders.
First Round (12.00pm, Friday 5th March), Semi-Final (6.25pm, Saturday 6th March) Final (5.13pm, Sunday 7th March)
Britain’s women all earn their first Senior vests but to say the Championship is only a learning experience would be an outright lie.
Keely Hodgkinson’s performance in Vienna, shattering the World Junior Record by a two second margin has catapulted the Leigh athlete into gold medal contention. 1.59.03, no-one in the field has run quicker she is fourth on the British all-time senior list. She turns 19 the day before the champs.
A performance over three rounds is another ask but she has had some experience before, winning European bronze as an U20. A completely different athlete now, if she can display the same maturity and race craft that saw her seize control with 300m to go in Vienna she has every chance but putting a favourite tag round her neck would be unfair on in her first senior championships.
In any other year Isabelle Boffey’s (2.02.45i) third place finish in the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix would have received more attention than it did but the Enfield and Haringey athlete has quietly gone about her business. The gold medalist when Hodgkinson won bronze a run to the final is not out of reach and indeed may be the target for an athlete starting to impress on the global stage.
Ellie Baker (2.02.73i) of Shaftesbury Barnet makes up the trio and does so as an European U23 silver medallist making her first tilt at a major championships. With similar credentials to Boffey she will hope to go as far as she can through the rounds.
Round One (6.55pm, Friday 5th March) Semi-finals (6.25pm, Saturday 6th March) Final (5.25pm, Sunday 7th March)
The world’s fastest man this year Elliot Giles has recently pulled out but in Jamie Webb Britain still have the fastest athlete in the field. His 1.44.54 on the same track means for my money he’s the favourite and has shown his ability to negotiate the rounds before. The reigning silver medalist in this competition Webb’s challenge looks likely to come from home favourite Adam Kszczot, consistent performer Andreas Kramer and a resurgent Pierre-Ambroise Bosse. He has beaten them all this year and will fancy his chances once more.
For Guy Learmonth these champs will be his fourth in succession, his 2015 debut 6th place finish his best to date. Ever-reliable he front ran a indoor best 1.46.73 in a three man field at the end of January and has every chance of a final slot.
Round One (10.25am, Saturday 6th March) Final (4.52pm, Sunday 7th March)
European Athletics have scheduled the events to invite a 1,500, 3,000m double, meaning the mens 3,000 is the last to commence for Britain’s middle distance squad. Despite Marc Scott opting out, the British trio have all earned their stripes.
Andrew Butchart needs no introduction and comes into the competition in promising form. A 7.40.85 in Karlsruhe was the second fastest British performance of all-time and is the third fastest time this year by any in the field (better than Ingebrigtsen). He may have performed less well in the Selection trials, being reasonably comfortably beaten by Jack Rowe, but he will hope to gather his form in Torun. Now focused just on the 3,000 this could be the Scot’s best chance yet at a major championship medal.
Alongside him are two athletes who have paid their dues on the national circuit. Aldershot, Farnham & District’s Jack Rowe (7.54.35i) has built on his breakthrough 5,000m British silver outdoors and has justly earned his debut major championship vest. In the same vein Phil Sesemann (7.51.27i) makes his debut for Great Britain on the track at the age of 29. Both have nothing to lose and it is an indication of British strength in depth that both will compete.
Mo Farah’s Olympic dominance added a certain sparkle to Great Britain and NI’s credentials over track’s longest two distances, but it is one which has provided many rewards over the years.
The sport may have moved on since George Hutson’s 15.07 was enough to win him bronze in the 5000 in 1912, but as it has GB has kept the pace. Gordon Pirie and Derek Ibbotson’s were 2 and 3 in Melbourne in 1956, Ian Stewart with the bronze in 1972, before 40 years later Mo won Britain’s first gold, repeating the feat 4 years later. In the 10,000 before Mo, James Wilson and Brendan Foster won bronzes with Mike McLeod in Los Angeles 84 Britain’s sole male silver.
As soon as the opportunity arose, British women made their mark, Wendy Sly winning 3000 silver in Los Angeles ’84 and Yvonne Murray the bronze in ’88. In that same Seoul Olympics Liz McColgan won the first silver up for grabs in the Olympic debut women’s 10,000m. No medals have come since Seoul, after which the 3,000 became 5,000 and both sexes were competing on an even keel.
Hoping to follow in these footsteps, twelve places, four disciplines, and another Olympics with medal interests for British track fans.
5000 Metres (Men)
World Athletics couldn’t have set the bar much higher to qualify for the 29th Olympics, with 13.13.50 almost ten seconds quicker than the 2019 World Champs. As it stands only two men have got within the standard, but there are a few more who will be hoping to make the cut.
The fastest on paper is Andrew Butchart, who 13.06.21 was run at the Anniversary Games in July 2019 and makes him the third fastest Brit of all time. Having undergone surgery on his Achilles in April his post-COVID debut came in December in Albi, France running a 28.52 road 10k. With 8 months to get back to his best, the Rio 2016 finalist, should make the plane to Tokyo.
2020, however, has very much been the year of Marc Scott. His 13.08.70 indoors in Boston in February set the standard, before runnning 13.20 in the Podium 5K in August, as well as showing his range with a 60.39 second place in the Antrim Coast Half Marathon. The man in form and 4th all time Brit, barring exceptional circumstances the Yorkshireman should be on the plane to Tokyo and will go there with final ambitions.
For the rest the race may come down to who can reach the qualifying time. Sam Atkin has 5 seconds to find, though he has already reached the 10,000 standard. He may throw his hand to giving himself the choice and chase the standard once more, with Payton Jordan Invitational on 7th May 2021 looking a realistic chance.
Ben Connor is just 6 seconds away from qualification though has made his intentions clear at the Marathon where he not only has the qualifying standard but also looks well positioned to make the team.
Former European U23 Cross Country champ Jonathan Davies continues to compete but will need an improvement of 10 seconds from his current personal best. British Champs silver medallist Jack Rowe made a real breakthrough with his performance in Sport City, but such is the standard the Aldershot, Farnham and District athlete will be looking for a 24 second improvement. Emile Cairess will hope for a similar improvement to springboard himself into Olympic contention.
Our Team Predictions: Andrew Butchart, Marc Scott, Sam Atkin
5000 Metres (Womens)
Getting to an Olympics is hard, but made all the more hard if your event is the women’s 5,000.
15.10.00 is the mark required but achieving it is far from a guarantee of selection. 4 women have so far got the qualifying mark, Laura Weightman, Laura Muir, Eilish McColgan and Melissa Courtney-Bryant. For scheduling reasons we’ve already discussed in our predictions for the 1500m, McColgan seems the most likely to take the berth.
McColgan, the Rio and Doha finalist will aim to make it four consecutive Major Championships finals, her 14.46 pb putting her fourth on the British all-time list. Aiming to join her will be 4 athletes within 10 seconds of the standard.
Reebok Boston Track Club star Amy Eloise-Neale has already come within a whisker of the qualifying standard within 6 weeks of the qualifying window opening in May 2019. Her 15.11.11 remains her PB but she has been hamstrung by a lack of 5,000m opportunities in the USA. Things look more promising in that respect early in 2021 and the athlete originally of Wakefield AC will aim to finally claim her space.
Steph Twell is next on the list though looks more likely to contest the 10,000 if she steps down from the Marathon. Like the Marathon, over 25 laps of the track she already has the standard. Another athlete precocious in her youth, Jess Judd is coming off the back of her maiden British Champs 5,000 win and will be looking for a fast field to shave off the final 6.5 seconds. Her dominant win in SportCity included a sub 2.12 last 800 and questions may come down to what races she and her father can find.
Though within 10 and 15 seconds respectively of the standard, Rosie Clarke and Sarah Inglis will likely focus on the Steeple and Marathon, events in which both athletes are just outside the standard.
Finally Jenny Nesbitt, Verity Ockenden and Amelia Quirk will all hope for breakthroughs in 2021.
Our Team Predictions: McColgan, Neale, Judd
10,000 Metres (Men)
Only one man holds the 10,000 qualifying standard and it’s not the 4 time Olympic champion Mo Farah. Sam Atkin‘s 27.26.58 in California was not bad for someone only entering the race as a pacemaker. 4th on the all-time list and almost 1.5 seconds within the standard, the performance was done on the back of chasing the 5,000 standard the day before and suggests there is significant potential to improve.
Despite Atkin’s efforts Farah will still consider himself team GB’s top dog and with 10 global titles it’s had to make a compelling argument against. Sir Mo’s hour world record shows he’s still a force on the track but he will be facing stronger competition than ever before. In Joshua Cheptegui Uganda has a world champion and in Jacob Kiplimo (the World Half Marathon Champ) he will be pushed every step of the way. Outside the Ugandans a whole host of Kenyans have impressed on the road but if experience has taught us anything it’s not to write off Farah. In a tactical race where his peers think he is past his best, the Brit may yet punish them with a finishing kick.
Behind Atkin and Farah the 27.28 standard is one only 5 athletes in British history have ever managed, though Jake Smith will hope to carry over his half marathon form back to the track. His 60.31 in Poland has set himself in world class company over that distance but he will know significant improvements are required over the shorter distance. A different type of event to the road, many have struggled to make the transition but having time trialed a solo 28.00 in July he will be confident of making that jump.
The best of the rest remains Marc Scott who seems certain to contest the 5,000 and Ben Connor who will be taking a spot in the Marathon team. Nick Goolab will have faint hopes of making the breakthrough and Ross Millington may yet step back down after his debut marathon attempt in London. If he does he will have to take 28 seconds off his 2016 personal best ran prior to representing GB in Rio.
Our Team Predictions: Farah, Atkin, Smith (Farah to win bronze)
10,000 Metres (Women)
31.25 is the qualifying standard for Tokyo and two women have met that standard, both doing so in one of my favourite domestic meets, the Night of the 10,000 at Parliament Hill. In 2019 Steph Twell and Eilish McColgan ran to 6th and 7th on the Brit all-time list in 31.08 and 31.16 respectively. Both have interests elsewhere but I for one would love to see both contest the 10,000. Twell will have to choose between the 10,000 and the marathon but McColgan could forseeably run both the 5,000 and 10,000, though I think we will see her focus on one.
Northern Arizona Elite’s Alice Wright will hope to get back to her 2019 best after a long injury lay off and Payton Jordan Invitational could provide the location for another Olympic qualifying hunt. With almost zero 10,000 events taking place in 2020 it’s a difficult one to call but improvements over the shorter distances from Amelia Quirk and Verity Ockenden could lead these two to step up in distance. Both athletes have performed well in longer format cross country races over the years and may use the slightly weaker 10,000 field as a better chance of an Olympic berth.
Like the 5,000 Sarah Inglis has displayed her credentials at the 10,000 and needs to find around 46 seconds from her 2019 best. With a strong performance in the Marathon Project in Arizona the Scottish athlete will have to decide which event she will commit to. Other athletes pondering the same question include Wales’s Charlotte Arter who’s 32.15 from 2018 remains her personal best but she has performed well over both the 5k and half marathon on the road in the intervening period.
Few countries have a tradition as proud as British middle-distance running. Bannister’s first four minute mile, the dominance of Coe, Cram and Ovett and the trailblazing barefoot feet of Zola Budd, these are but highlights in a deep history. It is a fact that makes recent troubles all the more disheartening. In that wonderful August week of 2004, Kelly Holmes provided the exception, kicking her way to GB’s first 800 and 1500 Olympic double. Take her bronze in Sydney out of the equation and not since 1988 have Great Britain & NI had an Olympic medallist at either the 800 or 1500m.
Times may have changed, but 2021 could represent a genuine renaissance, with a handful of realistic medal contenders across both distances and for both men and women. Getting on the plane to Tokyo will be a battle in and of itself, with Olympic final ambitions a credible goal for all those who succeed.
800 Metres (Men)
In 2020 only 2 men in the world ran a faster two laps round the track than Daniel Rowden. What makes it all the more ominous is that he did it aged 22 and after having stomach surgery to treat Mals (Median arcuate ligament syndrome). Throw in the fact that on the only occasion he raced one of the two quicker he comfortably beat them, and did so with an almost Rudisha-esque smoothness of stride and you have an athlete that British fans have every reason to get excited about. Questions will come about how he can handle a three round championship but on 2020 form and with age on his side, Rowden should punch his ticket to Tokyo, and if he does will be one every athletics fan should keep their eyes on.
What’s long forgotten is that going into the British Champs in September, Rowden wasn’t even the favourite for the 800m, having been beaten by Elliot Giles in Sweden and with Jake Wightman having run the second fastest British 1500m of all time a few weeks before in Monaco. Both will take to any start line believing they can compete with Rowden but if they don’t there’ll be a whole host of suitors lining up to take their shot. With the schedule unlikely to realistically allow Wightman to contest both the 800 and 1500m in Tokyo (unless he wants to sacrifice any realistic medal prospects) it would seem there are 2 places up for grabs, and in this it seems likely it will come down to a straight shootout in the 2021 British Champs from a stupidly deep field. 3 will come from the below 6.
2020 Seasons Best
Major Performances (Senior)
2016 – Euro Champs – Bronze
2019 – Euro Indoors Silver
2018 Commonwealth Games Silver, 2017 World Champs 4th
2014 Commonwealth Games 6th
PB/SBs taken from Power of 10 at 23 December 2020
Our Team Prediction – Daniel Rowden, Elliot Giles and Jamie Webb (Rowden to win Bronze)
800 Metres (Women)
Although the 800m has two clear front runners in Jemma Reekie and Laura Muir, Tokyo 2020 scheduling means the 800m slot for GB could be thrown wide open. Anyone wishing to do the double would have to run 6 times in 8 days and though possible it seems sensible that the pairs coach, Andy Young, will split them between the events.
Friday 30th July
800m Round One
Saturday 31st July
Monday 2nd August
1500m Round One
Tuesday 3rd August
Wednesday 4th August
Friday 6th August
Given Reekie ran a British record indoors in Glasgow in February 2020 (1.57.91), won the Diamond League and has beaten all but Faith Kipyegon on the circuit, the 22 year old Scot would start the campaign as a realistic gold medal prospect. Muir’s 1.58.44 is mightily impressive and she has doubled up in the past but her better prospects perhaps lie in the 1500m. With Kipyegon so imperious in that event and highly likely to seek to defend her Olympic crown (at the expense of a 800m double), you could see why Muir may want a shot at both events.
Lynsey Sharp, the Commonwealth Games and European silver medallist has run a faster 800m than both of them, running 1.57.69 in her Olympic Final in Rio and she will aim to get back to form and earn her place in 2021. She has also run the qualifying time back in July 2019.
Behind the three of them no other athletes have as yet run the qualifying time of 1.59.50. If either of Adelle Tracey or Alex Bell can shave four tenths of a second of their personal bests they’ll both be highly likely to get the 3rd spot. The same can be said for Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, if she can get back to her best and youngsters Keely Hodgkinson and Isabelle Boffey will be dreaming of a late push, though sitting over 1.5 seconds outside the qualifying mark both may be eyeing Paris 2024 as the ultimate goal.
Sarah McDonald has run within half a second of the qualifying time though will likely focus on the 1500m where she already has the time.
Our Team Prediction: Jemma Reekie, Lynsey Sharp, Adelle Tracey (Reekie to win Silver)
1500 Metres (Mens)
The British Champs on 26-27 June will be worth tuning in for this race alone. 9 athletes have genuine aspirations of making the squad, though only 4 have yet run the Olympic qualifying time of 3.35.00. In prime position, Jake Wightman, whose 3.29.47 in Monaco was not only third in a world class field, but the second fastest by a Brit ever. Whilst he chose to compete in the 800m in the 2020 British champs, in the 1500m he has a genuine outside chance of an Olympic medal and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the plane irrespective of whether he performs in the British Champs or not.
The best of the rest for me is Josh Kerr who wasn’t able to make the British Champs in 2020 due to currently residing in Seattle, but still ran 3.34.53 in his only outing this year. With a 3.32.52 PB and youth on his side the three time NCAA champion should have enough. Charlie Da’Vall Grice and James West will both have something to say about that statement, the former’s 3.30.62 in Monaco in 2019 a reminder of his pedigree. If Grice can get back to the form that led him to a World Championship final in 2015 the place is his, though he will need to improve from recent outings on the domestic circuit. West by comparison is an athlete on the up having ran GB’s second fastest 1500m in 2020. His 5th place in the Doha Diamond league shows he’s rounding into form at just the right time and he has a strong claim to upset the established order.
Behind them are a group who are all chasing the qualifying time, though each of them have their reasons. Piers Copeland leads the pack and needs to find just 33 hundredths of a second to qualify. Chris O’Hare didn’t compete beyond February and will be confident of achieving the standard but will be facing stiffer competition than he ever has before. A genuine world class competitor with a 3.32.11 PB he should, however, be dismissed at your peril.
British Champ and son of England footballer Danny, George Mills has a finishing kick which will play into his hands in any slower Championship race but he will likely spend the first half of the year chasing that qualifying standard. Both him and Josh Lay will need to find in the region of two seconds but as U23’s may have Paris 2024 in their sights.
Finally Neil Gourlay is an athlete that struggled with injuries in 2020. He has shown his class in the past as a European Indoor finalist and will have hopes of putting together a run of form.
Our Team Predictions: Jake Wightman, Josh Kerr, James West (and one of these three to knick a medal)
1500 Metres (Womens)
GB has 6 athletes well inside the Olympic Standard of 4.06.10. Laura Muir, Laura Weightman, Sarah McDonald,Jemma Reekie, Melissa Courtney-Bryant and Eilish McColgan. Selection for this event may be less of a headache for selectors with scheduling again making a 800/1500 double unlikely and a 1500/5000 double the same (The women’s 1500m Round 1 is on the same day as the 5000 final).
With our prediction that Reekie is to do the 800 and Muir the 1500, McColgan, Weightman and Courtney-Bryant will all have to decide whether it will be the 1500 or the 5000. Weightman is world class in both events and in 2020 boasted the 5th fastest time in the world in the longer event. With the front of the field almost 30 seconds ahead of her, however, she may be better suited to a medal in a tactical race over the shorter distance. Her and Steve Cram will have to decide, but either way there will be a slot open in either event by her moving aside. McColgan seems almost certain to compete over the longer distance so from there the team could pick itself, if Courtney-Bryant choose to step up to 5,000 also.
McDonald has the best of the PBs from outside Muir and Weightman and will hope to remind selectors of her credentials after a raceless 2020. Like Sharp in the 800, McDonald has the qualifying time from July 2019.
Jess Judd and Katie Snowden have the pedigree to prize open a place but will have to improve on their 2020 form. With the front-runners established as genuinely world class the door, for now, is only very slightly ajar.
Muir will go into the event as one of the favourites, though Faith Kipyegon’s form over 2020 has been imperious to say the least. Sifan Hassan had a quiet 2020 by comparison but will no doubt be there or thereabouts should she decided to contest the 1500m.
Our predictions: Muir, Weightman, Courtney-Bryant (Muir to win silver).