The 100th Welsh Senior Championships were held last weekend. The first Championships took place in 1907, at Newport Athletic Ground, now Rodney Parade, with the two World Wars being the reason why the 100th edition wasn’t held until this year, at Cardiff's Leckwith stadium. Curiously, the programme (£4) cost more than the entry (£3), but for two hours of entertainment on Friday night and six on Saturday, it was well worth the total cost.
There was a parade of champions on the Saturday, featuring some of the finest athletes the country’s produced, across many disciplines. Among those taking part were Lynn Davies, the 1964 Olympic long jump champion, Steve Jones, still the British marathon record holder almost 32 years after setting his record, and Venissa Head, the winner of a remarkable 25 Welsh titles in the shot and discus.
Although an established annual event - this is its sixth year - the Spring bank holiday weekend saw BASC's first sponsorship of the UK Javelin Carnival. This year's competition saw a record entry of around 190, up from 131 last year, spread over 12 categories.
Unlike another BASC-supported event Vault Britain, where several athletes jump simultaneously, for practical (and safety) reasons, it is only really possible to hold one javelin competition at a time hence the Carnival being spread over two days. And two very different days resulted - weather-wise at least. Sunday (28 Nay) was a warm balmy day which included the elite athletes while Monday was overcast, cool and with frequent drizzle. The result was a larger crowd of supporters for the Sunday while Monday was mainly family members cheering on the competitors.
While most eyes were on Gotzis this weekend, another event was taking place in Bedford, the England Athletics Combined Events Championships. And even though Katarina Johnson-Thompson was in Austria, the best of the rest GB ladies were in Bedford, Jessica Tappin, Jessica Taylor-Jemmett and Morgan Lake.
It was a gorgeous day in Bedford, and the stadium was fairly busy, mostly with keen relatives supporting the athletes, some had even set up their tents and gazebos around the outside of the track. The decathlon started first, with the men kicking off with their 100 meters, Peter Moreno taking an early lead, which he would hold for the whole of day 1.
Athletics fans are evolving! Welcome to the age of the “social media” fan. Athletics supporters are using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to connect with each other to discuss their love for the sport, exchange views on the latest hot topics and even organise to meet up at events.
One welcome benefit of this new form of fandom is that people who cannot attend meets can still be made to feel part of it as they watch the action unfold live on TV/online and immediately chat about what happened with those in attendance. I’ve done it myself and it is surprising how much more involved you feel with the event even though you could be sat hundreds of miles away.
Over the past weekend in Belgrade a group of fans used social media to pay tribute to Laura Muir by donning face masks, promoted the hashtag #lauramuirface as a mark of respect to the gritty determination she exudes. They even filmed a witty homage to her now infamous sidestepping of an arena official to take her lap of honour after winning the 1500m...
Last weekend many BASC supporters were in Serbia, Belgrade, supporting the GB athletes – who had an excellent championships – winning 5 gold medals, 4 silvers and a bronze medal. The event was held at the Kombank Arena, a quick tram or bus ride from Belgrade city centre. Many of the BASC supporters’ seats were on the back straight, opposite the finish. Some were directly above this, in the front row of the second tier, and they only cost £8 for three days! These supporters were a bit apprehensive about what the view be like, and are the tickets really for 3 days? But they needn't have worried, the seats had brilliant views of the finish line and the high jump, and they were for 3 days!
It was great that all the supporters were in the same areas – as every time GB won a medal the athletes came over on their lap of honour (sometimes to collect a flag) and were roundly cheered by everyone! It was a great atmosphere and it was even more amazing when the Serbian athletes were competing – in particular Ivana Spanovic in the Long Jump and Mihail Dudas in the Heptathlon – the sound in the stadium was amazing.