A first British medal for Alisha Rees but she has to settle for sprint silver

Alisha Rees held high hopes of bolting to a first British title at the UK Indoor Championships in Glasgow yesterday. But almost before her challenge in the 60 metres could begin, it was at its end.

Scotland's Alisha Rees, left, celebrates her 60m silver medal alongside winner Amy Hunt, centre, and third-placed Ebony Carr at the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championshipsin Glasgow. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire
Scotland's Alisha Rees, left, celebrates her 60m silver medal alongside winner Amy Hunt, centre, and third-placed Ebony Carr at the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championshipsin Glasgow. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

The 20-year-old, pictured below, rounded out of her blocks like a lorry rather than a Ferrari. By the time she hit sixth gear, it was simply too late. Silver in 7.49 seconds, adrift of the Scottish record she lowered last weekend, was an unsatisfactory reward.

Instead the title went to Amy Hunt, the precocious teenager from Nottinghamshire who set the sprinting universe abuzz last summer. Rees was a prodigy too once, and she is showing signs that she might yet come good, which is enticing ahead of an Olympic campaign. But she is aware her motor will require a few additional revs.

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“It’s great to get my first British medal but you come into a race wanting to win,” she admitted.

“My start was terrible. I haven’t been getting out today. I felt the whole way I was trying to chase people and claw them back. I did a good job of that. But the start let me down.”

Hunt’s pace is startling. Last summer, she ran a world under-18 record of 22.42 secs over 200m. In Doha come the autumn, that time would have stolen her bronze at the senior world championships behind Dina Asher-Smith.

“We’re the next generation of sprinters,” said Rees. For the Aberdonian, a relay berth at Tokyo 2020 is not out of reach.

Hunt – just 17 and preparing for her A-Levels – can afford to dream of greater gains on her exciting trajectory.

“A little bit,” she cautioned. “You can run away with yourself – a lot of people have done that in the past – and we have to stay realistic.”

Bright enough to have an offer to study at Cambridge, and talented enough to have reached orchestral level in playing the cello, here was further validation, if any were required, of her rare abilities.

“We’ve learnt a lot from this indoor season,” Hunt noted. “I’ve had some amazing experiences. I got to race in America, I got to come here for the Grand Prix last week. So it’s been a massive learning curve.”

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With the world indoor championships in China postponed due to the coronavirus, mass absenteeism from the British athletics A-list has robbed the domestic event of its lustre. But Guy Learmonth believes today’s 800m final can raise the bar.

He was nudged into second place in his semi-final by Piers Copeland but his prospective scrap at the Emirates Arena with fellow Scot Josh Kerr adds a motivational 
edge.

“Everyone wants to beat me, don’t they?,” Learmonth said. “Everyone is calling me out.

“Josh could have picked the 1500 metres and won that easily I think. Obviously I want to finish first, Josh can finish second.

“As long as I’m on top of the podium, that’s all that matters.”

The women’s 800m final will pit 2018 world indoor semi-finalist Mhairi Hendry against her evergreen training partner Philippa Millage who, at 39, ran a personal best of 2:05.70 in her semi-final which was a new Scottish masters record.

Abigail Irozuru won the women’s long jump with a mark of 6.60 metres, with Dan Bramble taking the men’s crown with a closing leap of 7.81m.