Athletics

Chambers was disqualified for a false start during the 60m semi-finals..

Rounding up a dramatic first day at the British Athletics Indoor Championships

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There's always an excitement in the air when the British Athletics Indoor Championships roll around.

With athletics having laid largely dormant over the winter months, the competition marks a triumphant curtain-raiser to the season proper and offers a mass of domestic talent all under one roof. That same electricity hadn't fizzled out in 2019 and the Arena Birmingham was populated with fans ready to see their favourite athletes vie to become number one in the country.

The schedule was packed, offering almost nine hours worth of live action, from the very first heat of the women's 60 metres to the conclusion of the men's shot put. Athletes ranged from household names like Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Laura Muir to more unknown competitors wanting to shine in front of the BBC cameras and do their clubs proud. 

There was also the prospect of eligibility for the European Championships in Glasgow with a number of athletes striving to reach predetermined qualifying times. Events like the 3000m, triple jump and pole vault all held finals on the Saturday, indicating that the window of opportunity could open or close for athletes before Sunday's action.

So, if there was anything lacking from the performances in Birmingham, it certainly wasn't determination. And although there are even more finals to come on day two of the competition, there was no shortage of action in the opening 24 hours and it gives us plenty to dissect looking back. 

That considered, GiveMeSport have selected five lessons we've learned from the results of day one at the British Indoor Championships. 

The next generation of British sprinters holds promise

Arguably one of the most fascinating events of the whole weekend was the men's 60 metres. A number of renowned competitors had all signed up for the discipline, with Richard Kilty proving the standout name having become a world champion over the distance in 2014.

Then there was the returning Dwain Chambers - more on him later - and a group of other top sprinters like Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake. However, of the athletes listed there, only Kilty would eventually make the final and he couldn't secure a place on the podium.

Instead, the gold medal went to 19-year-old Dominic Ashwell. Winning in the very first heat, he looked dominant from the outset and was able to translate that into success against sprinters with far more experience under their spikes. Given his age, it makes for a very exciting proposition.

That's not to mention the fact he was joined on the podium by Jeremiah Azu, who bagged himself a bronze medal at the age of 17. The 60 metres has always been an area of success for British athletes and if you just look at the performances and ages, things could get even better in the future. 

SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships - Day One

Athletics fans are incredibly underrated (thanks, Holly)

Any viewers tuning in with little experience of athletics can't have expected much in the decibel department this weekend but thanks to the women's pole vault, they would be wrong. Although numerous races drummed up an impressive atmosphere, the performance of Holly Bradshaw in particular showed that athletics fans deserve more credit.

The pole vault was already shaping up as an enthralling encounter before Bradshaw entered the competition. The former European champion waited until the bar was raised well above four metres and watched from the bench as Sophie Cook and Jade Ive went toe to toe.

However, even when Bradshaw was competing alone, the narrative of her vaulting higher and higher every time brewed a tangible anticipation around the arena. So, when she sensationally flew over 4.80 metres, the crowd reaction was something else and arguably the highlight of the day.

Ok, so there isn't banners, chants or the Poznan but there's a real togetherness in a crowd when you're watching athletes do something as primal as jumping higher or running faster. 

SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships - Day One

The future is unclear for the returning Dwain Chambers

One of the biggest talking points of the tournament in general was the surprise return of Chambers, who had officially hung up his spikes in August 2017. Nevertheless, it emerged in a report by the Daily Mail that the former 60m world champion would make a calculated comeback for the championships.

As the headlines will inform you, the return didn't necessarily go to plan as the 40-year-old was disqualified in the semi-finals for a poor false start. It didn't require the official to walk over with the red card because Chambers was already well on his way, Belgrove vest in hand.

Chambers was still kind enough to speak to the press afterwards, though, and informed us of his conflicted thoughts on his athletics future. He explained: "It was intimidating with the crowd and the lights, because I've been away from it for so long. Even the gun sounded weird, the blocks have changed, the environment has changed.

"I've got to go home and rest, I've got three kids and work, so I've got to juggle these things at the same time. I do a lot of personal training, motivational speaking and a performance academy for children between the age of nine and 18, trying to teach them life skills through sport."

Something tells us we'll see Chambers some time soon, though. 

SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships - Day One

Laura Muir's range is simply incredible

There are three things inevitable in life: death, taxes and Muir bringing a superb performance. That didn't change on Saturday in Birmingham with the 25-year-old delivering an incredible final two laps - clocking a 400m split around 56 seconds - to become British champion in the 3000m.

A lesson isn't really learned in Muir delivering such a fantastic display, but it served to reiterate the range of her ability at the top level. Just three days before the championships, she was threatening to strip Jenny Meadows of her British 800m record during a meet in Poland. Muir was unable to achieve that feat yet still posted the fourth fastest time in UK history.

It's for that reason that Muir's designs on a double-double in Glasgow seem based on reality rather than fantasy, with her early season form proving foreboding for her rivals. "The timetable isn’t perfect but it works,” she confirmed, according to The Scotsman.

“It’s Glasgow, I’m fit, I’m not getting injuries so we might as well make the most of it. We’re both really happy with where I’m at. My endurance is good and my speed is good. The double is achievable.” Let's just say we wouldn't bet against her. 

SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships - Day One

Keep an eye on Michael Puplampu

It looked for all intents and purposes that Nathan Douglas was going to bag himself another British title as the men's triple jump competition entered its final stages. The 2008 Olympian held a commanding lead and only Nathan Fox seemed to vaguely threaten it, jumping over 10 centimetres short in the livery of English athletics.

However, it was Puplampu that would take the gold medal and produce one of the day's highlights, jumping a fantastic 16.28 metres to ascend the podium by the narrowest of margins. Douglas had the chance to respond but miscalculated his run-up and ended up plodding through the sand.

Puplampu is far from the biggest name in British athletics but winning the national title could prove a launch pad for progress in the future. Although his distances currently fall short of the elite level, you can definitely expect him to cause a problem for his compatriots and potentially at a European level.

His sheer joy at claiming the medal - apparent in his brilliant interviews - as well as a long overdue return to full fitness suggests he could be a winner with fans and measuring tapes alike. He could hop, skip and jump himself to major improvements, so watch this space. 

Sainsbury's British Athletics Indoor Championships - Day One

Topics:
Commonwealth Games
Athletics

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