ON FRIDAY night I was excited to be part of a new movement in athletics, the American Track League. I was, however, less excited by my performance over the 400 metres!
The American Track League is trying to bring athletics to the general American sports fan – they are trying to add some of the razzmatazz and entertainment that you would expect to see at an American football or basketball match. Whilst trying to modestly revolutionise track and field for the sports fan, the league is also trying to create more opportunities at home for the American athlete who often needs to venture to Europe in search of a competitive season.
It was a really fun meet in the suburbs of Atlanta and all the clichés of American sports were there – the band, the cheerleaders and the booming voice of the cheery commentator. As an athlete, it was great to see so many people enjoy the pureness of our sport, the speed and the power. I hope the league really kicks off and becomes something special.
It was disappointing to walk away from a such a great atmosphere with a poor performance and time of 47.42 seconds, all the more so given my promising season opener of 46.55sec in Clermont the previous weekend.
However, that is part of the nature of sport and being an athlete – dealing with success and disappointment, and not dwelling on either too much. After sitting down and reviewing the race – both the positive and negatives – it is now time to refocus and get back to training.
This week the focus shifts to the Great Britain 4x400m squad that will compete in the inaugural IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas. We’ll be doing more training sessions as a squad, and the form we show in those sessions may determine who will actually be chosen to compete over the weekend.
These ‘championships’ are a wee bit different from usual, as there are no individual races – everyone is purely there for their relay.
So whereas normally those competing in the individual 400m might expect to be rested in the heats of the relay, this time the selectors have the option of going with their strongest squad throughout, if that’s what they think will work best.
The event should be fun, and more relaxed than many major championships as there will be fewer athletes there and none of us will have the stress of an individual event to distract us. We will still have a job to do, however, and besides the usual fight for medals the event is also being used as a qualifier for next year’s IAAF World Championships.
If we pull a good team together we’re definitely capable of competing for a medal, though it is very early in the season for the British athletes. We are all looking to peak later in the season, at the Commonwealth Games, the European Championships or both, so our training plan does not have us at our strongest for some time yet. Of course, at this stage of the year we don’t know what shape the other teams will be in, so it could be a very wide-open competition.
Having said that we’re not at our absolute peak just yet, I should add that this British Athletics camp has been going very well. Developing your speed is a lot easier in warmer weather than it is in cold, and even the rain is warmer, which helps with morale. And my earlier visit with the Sco400 squad helped me make a seamless transition to the different time zone. After the Bahamas I’m going straight to a meeting in Belgium with my training camp, then it will finally be back to Scotland. I still need to do two qualifying times for the Commonwealth Games by June 8th if I’m going to be selected for the individual 400m, and the time of 45.65sec is tougher than the one you need to be eligible for the Europeans.It’s a tight schedule, and there is a very fine balance between doing your best to record qualifying times now and trying to be in form to do yourself justice at the Games in July.
As an athlete who is funded by British Athletics and the National Lottery my main focus is on the Europeans, but obviously as a Scotsman it would be great to compete on home soil at the Commonwealths too.