That’s the number of national champions that were crowned on day two of the British Athletics Indoor Championships, making for a fascinating five hours at the Arena Birmingham. It further bolstered the legacies of top British athletes, introduced up and coming stars to the country and proved the perfect precursor to the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow.
Day one had marked the surprise return of Dwain Chambers, an endeavour that ended early as he was disqualified for a false start in the 60m semi-finals. Meanwhile, Laura Muir asserted her dominance over 3,000m with an indomitable final two laps and Holly Bradshaw had the crowd on their feet by vaulting her way over 4.80m and to a gold medal in the process.
Sunday didn’t necessarily offer as many ‘big names’ but the sheer speed at which top level performances presented themselves made for a thrilling day of competition. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke and Joseph Reid collected gold medals in the 800m, while Neil Gourley and Jemma Reekie stood atop the podium for the 1500m.
We could go on to list every winner on the day and each one of them deserves praise, yet some performances stood above the rest. As a result, we’re turning to our more cynical side and highlighting five athletes that exceeded all our expectations on a memorable Sunday in Birmingham.
From defeating a training partner in dramatic fashion, winning an eyeballs-out final sprint and delivering a massive personal best, here are the five performances that really stood out for us:
The fondly nicknamed ‘KJT’ is looking to build upon her incredible success in 2018 with a strong season this year, preparing for an assault on the heptathlon title in Doha. In the meantime, though, she has been collecting medals on a domestic stage and got her weekend underway with a silver in the 60m hurdles.
However, she went one better on Sunday with a commanding performance in the long jump, asserting her authority by leaping 6.34m in the opening round. Despite prompting the red flag in her following jimps, she would eventually raise her lead to a solid 6.46m.
It was comfortably short of her personal indoor best but, when you consider the long jump is just a seventh of her discipline, claiming the British title was a serious statement. She will be hoping to fine-tune her form over the 800m, shot put and high jump before chasing the pentathlon crown at the Europeans.
She spoke of her confidence going into Glasgow, telling GiveMeSport: "Everything is going really well. I won't be doing an 800m before but I've been running 600m's in training. Everything in training is going great."
As the day of competition escalated into a constant stream of track drama, the performance of Lake was remarkably calm in its mastery. It seemed more likely that the 21-year-old would break the British record than fall short of the title, eventually winning by almost 10 centrimetres.
Her assault on the mark of 1.99m would ultimately prove unsuccessful, allowing Johnson-Thompson to draw a sigh of relief, but her opening jump of 1.94m was enough to put her stamp on the competition. It’s in Lake’s hands to finish the indoor season with a piece of history, hoping to break her 1.97m mark from Hustopece earlier this year.
Bethan Partridge followed up with the silver medal, jumping a season’s best of 1.87m, and Nikki Manson delivered a 2019 record of her own in third place.
From the authoritative performance of Lake to the more unexpected victory of O’Hare, the newly crowned 3000m champion might have expected to see his teammate Andrew Butchart taking the gold. However, being sure to dismiss Butchart’s pre-race confidence, the Boston-based runner finished strongly in 7:52.86.
It was his margin of victory that was impressive, too, finishing over two seconds clear of the pack and looking understandably exhausted upon crossing the line. Not only that, but he overcame times from Butchart and Charlie Grice that also met the standard for Glasgow, giving the UK a strong 3000m line-up going into the games.
Speaking after his success, O’Hare explained: “I feel really good but the 3000m has been a tough race and a new event for me. I just made the step up purely for indoors, I’m not finished with the 1500m yet by any stretch. With the world championships being so late, I didn’t want to be focusing on the 1500m from start to finish.”
Few line-ups were as competitive as the women’s 400m this weekend and that was certainly reflected by the final, which descended into a manic four-way dogfight for the title. So, it’s difficult for us to leave Zoey Clark off the list for defeating a number of top-level contenders with an incredibly strong finish.
Laviai Nielsen looked to have control of the race when the pack broke, running strongly down the back straight, only to fade into third place during the closing moments. The final 20-30m saw both Clark and Amber Anning make their move on the outside, with both securing the overtake and gold and silver medals in the process.
Eilidh Doyle, despite her specialism lying in the hurdles, will be somewhat disappointed with fourth but Clark’s winning time of 52.85 seconds was a real statement. It’s also worth highlighting Anning’s time and we could easily sneak her on to the list for grabbing the British junior indoor record and joining Clark on the flight to Glasgow.
Now, as brilliant as the aforementioned performances were, did anybody come close to Sophie McKinna on Sunday? Rightfully named the athlete of the day on commentary, McKinna started proceedings off with a bang, not only securing the British shot put title but delivering a huge personal best along the way.
In general, the shot put was a fascinating match-up and Amelia Stricker should be proud with a silver medal, PB of 17.28m and qualification for Glasgow. Yet McKinna was streets ahead of the competition and made her intentions clear with an opening throw of 17.64m.
Those in the stadium would be forgiven for thinking the competition was over there and then, but McKinna went one better with a huge put of 17.97m. That sensationally elevated her to third in the all-time UK indoor rankings and was the longest throw from a Brit since 2000.
Having come up short with bronze and silver medals in recent years, the 24-year-old gave a roar of celebration when her victory was confirmed and she was greeted with the biggest cheer of the day. Speaking afterwards, she expressed her joy by remarking: “I have been wanting this British title for a long, long time. I couldn’t be more happy.”
It’s been an incredible weekend for British athletics and frankly, we could have highlighted at least 10 more gold medallists. Cameron Chalmers can count himself unlucky after defeating a strong 400m field and Tom Bosworth secured his eleventh (yes, 11th) British title in the 5000m race walk, just to name a few.
However, the majority of the victors will get their chance to go one better and add European glory to their domestic success when Glasgow rolls around in three weeks’ time.
GiveMeSport will be live in Scotland’s first city to see if the British contingent can romp their way to success against their continental challengers. With a cohort including competitors like the five above, you wouldn’t bet against the hosts. Bring it on.News Now - Sport News