2013 saw record numbers of fans, inspired by London 2012 and their “FOMO feelings”, book for the inaugural Anniversary Games at the London Stadium plus the Moscow World Champs and T&FT met that demand at both events in an extraordinarily busy year.
British Athletics on a post-2012 London Olympics “high” translated into two sold out days at the London Anniversary Games as those that had missed out in 2012 wanted to experience the now iconic stadium: T&FT handled the British Athletics Supporters Club’s 800 seats per session but the demand from members and friends was 4 times that number – this task then took on epic proportions. Similarly, plans for a T&FT group of 200-250 fans for Moscow had to be up-scaled for the the 450+ fans that booked.
The year began at the Gothenburg European Indoor Champs on a bitterly cold weekend but where the excellent venue / fan zone set up meant that for the 3 days of competition we enjoyed being in the cocoon of our “athletics home”. The British team won a respectable 8 medals with 5 of these from 400m athletes. Perri Shakes-Drayton and Eilidh Child secured a 400m 1-2 and were part of the GB women’s 4x400m NR 3:27.56 winning team. Nigel Levine won silver in the 400m and gold as part of the GB Men’s 4x400m team. In the Pole Vault Holly Bleasdale also won gold, as James Dasaolu won 60m silver and Mukhtar Mohammed secured his 800m bronze. It was good to see Sweden having hosted so well win 6 medals with Abeba Aragawi winning the 1500m – later to win the 1500m at the Moscow World Champs too – and Michel Torneus’s 8.29m NR long jump silver their best performers.
With Gateshead the venue for the European Athletics Team Champs the home fans interest was easily met and a larger T&FT group than normal saw the British team finish in 2nd place not far behind winners Germany. There were 8 British winners with Mo Farah in the 5000m, and the GB Men’s 4x100m & 4x400m teams triumphant. The GB Women’s 4x400m, Perri Shakes-Drayton in the 400m, and Eilidh Child when winning the 400mH followed on from their Gothenburg triumphs. Tiffany Porter won the 100mH and the partisan home crowd, and the media took promising junior Jessica Judd to their hearts with her surprise 800m victory. Plus Sophie Hitchon’s NR 72.97 hammer 3rd place showed she was now mixing it with her event’s world elite.
For the Moscow World Champs T&FT’s summer of mega administration had the additional task of handling so many Russian visa applications but, after a lot of overtime in a well lived in office, this was successfully handled. The mystique of Russia added an edge to the experience and the lack of extensive signage in roman script made travelling about Moscow an adventure but the good weather and mostly decent local service combined for an enjoyable event. At the end of the championships a wonderful add-on tour travelling into central Russia was greatly enjoyed by a large group in this fascinating country – more memories banked.
With so many British fans attending, especially newbies hoping to be a part of a “2012 Games” style atmosphere, the variable daily stadium attendance was disappointing. After a long hard winter other outdoor attractions perhaps held more interest for locals or maybe the Day 1 rambling speech of Lamine Diack – Putin was visibly fidgeting standing in the stadium heat – put them off!
As ever, for committed fans, the competition cast its usual spell once it got under way. At least Usain Bolt drew decent crowd attendances as he again won the 100m following his Daegu mishap. In later winning the 200m and 4x100m golds he became the most successful World Champs male athlete of all time with 8 gold and 2 silver medals to head Carl Lewis. Compatriot Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce matched her excess of names with her own 3 golds in the sprints the first time this had ever been achieved by a female athlete with Jamaica’s 4x100m 41.29 CR a bonus. The thrilling Men’s High Jump saw Bohdan Bondarenko’s 2.41m CR defeat literally rising star Mutaz Essa Barshim and Derek Drouin both with 2.38m. For the British team Mo Farah (3:28.81 1500m NR in Monaco), was not going to be outsprinted by anyone and his 5000m / 10000m double was delivered as if to order. For Christine Ohuruogo her NR of 49.41 just 4/1000ths of a second ahead of defending champion Amantle Monsho was enough for her to reclaim the 400m title. Bronze medals were won by Tiffany Porter in the 100mH, the GB Men’s 4x400m and GB Women’s 4x100m – featuring Dina Asher Smith for her first major senior medal. The GB Women’s 4x400m won silver but sadly without Perri Shakes-Drayton. Her over excited 400mH semi-final run, smashing into a hurdle and then running on with her injured knee, adrenaline masking the damage she was causing herself, not only saw her genuine 400mH and relay medal hopes dashed, but her career too. Such fine margins between the glory of her exploits earlier in the year and tragedy: her potential as a genuine 400m star in waiting sadly destroyed by an event needing precision. She, and admirers of her precocious talent, denied a future that had been wished for. Very much a low point of the season – sport can be very cruel with success often about choices made.
As the T&FT Moscow Supporters Dinner & Party GB team 800m debutant Laura Muir gave an interesting insight into her future 1500m+ distance ambitions, and Jodie Williams when asked said she might “one day” consider the 400m – choices, choices eh!