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.
My previous experiences of indoor athletics have been weekend stays in Sheffield for the Indoor Championships but with London 2017 on the horizon and my budget focused on that I had to forego my usual short break in South Yorkshire to instead take in the Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham - the climax of the IAAF’s World Indoor Tour.
After a train ride of around 90 minutes from Wigan, most of which consisted of my brother and I gassing about who we were looking to seeing compete, we arrived in Birmingham and promptly had important work to do… breakfast!!!
Once that was consumed it was a matter of trying to find our way to the Barclaycard Arena, after a short experience of Google Map trying to get us lost in Birmingham city centre we finally tracked our bus down and headed off to the arena.
I was looking forward to my weekend in Sheffield – who would win the trials and book their trips to Belgrade, Serbia, in three weeks time? We travelled up on the Friday night – so that I could take part in the Hillsborough parkrun on Saturday morning. It was very cold and wet – but at least the forecasted four inches of snow hadn’t materialised! I got round the three lap course in just over 27 minutes – a personal best – against the time I set last year!
Then it was time to head to the England Institute of Sport (EIS) arena, and I was lucky enough to be representing the BASC as a guest of UKA. It was a great afternoon of athletics – with Andrew Pozzi in the 60m hurdles being the highlight – equalling the world lead in the heats. The other highlight for me was being asked to present the medals to the men’s long jump winners. It was a great competition, with Dan Bramble (7.80) overtaking Ashley Bryant (7.71m) in the last round to snatch the gold medal, with Daniel Gardiner in third.
The other bit of excitement for the crowd was the sight of 46-year-old Anthony Whiteman beating the M45 World Record in the 800 meters.