It was as assured a performance as he could have hoped for but Andrew Butchart says he was fuelled as much by nervous energy as he was by self-belief.
Claiming he was “pooing his pants” in the build up, the tension worked in his favour as the Dunblane athlete strolled to a dominating victory in the men’s 5000m final at the British Championships, in the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham.
It seals the 24-year-old’s place in the GB team for this summer’s Rio Olympics, where he will race alongside Mo Farah and wraps up a massive five weeks for the Scotsman who has also set new national records at 5,000m and 3,000m on they way to meeting the qualifying standard.
But with five men in yesterday’s final all meeting that standard and only one place guaranteed, he ran a flawless race, breaking away from the pack with four laps to go and finishing in a time of 13min 44sec.
“I said to myself that I wanted to make it fast towards the end and see if those guys could hold on. I thought I was strong, so I went with about four or five laps to go and it was just a matter of whether they came with me. Luckily, I got a jump and they didn’t really go so I was able to cruise the last lap or so.
“I’m buzzing. I cannot ask for a better day. To win the British title and confirm my place in Rio is a great feeling. I’ve not really raced some of these guys before this year and you have no idea what shape they are in, so it’s good to get the win.
“For the last four days I have been a nervous wreck, but I think the nerves definitely helped. It has all happened so quick. I am glad I can relax a bit, go away to Font Romeu and get some training done.”
He plans to return to the track today to help cheer on his compatriots, with a clutch of Scots in finals and looking to secure selection. “Hopefully, this is the start of a good weekend. Fingers crossed they all get through as well.”
A golden period for British distance running, with Butchart joining marathon men Callum and Derek Hawkins and Tsegai Tewelde, and 10,000m athlete Beth Potter in the British team and, given the number of Scots in finals today, it is hoped that tally will rise on what is gearing up to be a super Sunday for Scottish athletics.
Eilidh Doyle had kick-started matters, in the 400m hurdles, and Lynsey Sharp brought the day to a positive conclusion, with a comfortable triumph in her 800m heat, going into today’s final as the second fastest qualifier, with a time of 2.01.86.
Doyle progressed to this afternoon’s medal contest with a time of 56.30, more than two seconds faster than the rest of the field, despite the fact the European champion visibly eased off down the home straight.
“It was a bit messy. I thought we were going to have nice conditions so I was going to go for it and try and get a good time,” said the Scot. “I decided halfway to just do enough to qualify so I did switch it off a bit in the second half. First and foremost, you want to qualify but it is nice to do it with a bit of authority. Hopefully, I will do a bit better tomorrow.”
In winning the men’s discus title, Bearsden-born Nick Percy posted another 60m throw, showing the kind of consistency that gives the 21-year-old Nebraska-based student hope of making it to the major events. His best for the season, 61.27 is just under two metres shy of the European Championship qualifying distance and four of the Olympic standard, but having won the British title with throw of 60.43, he remains hopeful.
“It is unbelievable to be British Champion. I’ve been over 60m four times, twice at competitions like this one, so hopefully I can keep this momentum going and find a metre or two more.”
The momentum is certainly with the Scottish athletes. Fourteen fought their way through to various finals today, with the 1500m runners dominating the line up.
Jo Moultrie and Sarah Inglis join the talented Laura Muir in the women’s final, while six Scots – Chris O’Hare, Neil Gourlay, Jake Wightman, Ben Stevenson, Cameron Boyek and Josh Kerr – provide strong representation in the men’s event.
In the men’s 800m, 17-year-old Ben Greenwood pulled off a surprise win in his heat, pipping fellow Scot Guy Learmonth, but the Commonwealth Games athlete will still race in the final, as one of the fastest losers.
Jamie Bowie also qualified as a fastest loser in the 400m to ensure Scottish athletes and spectators have plenty to look forward to.