T&FT@30 – Rewind 2014

In 2014 Greg Rutherford claimed the status of “GB Athlete of the Year” with his Commonwealth Games and European Champs wins and GB long jump record of 8.51m. Within a year he would, of course, hold the full set of major titles – an athlete at his peak!

A hectic year started, as usual, indoors and Luke Cutts’s NR 5.83m pole vault was a prelude before the climax of the indoor season at the Sopot World Indoors in Poland, a delightful venue at the coastal Baltic spa town. With mild weather, an attractive beach, cosy restaurants and a boutique small town vibe with all of the teams lodging in adjacent hotels and the impressive stadium close by it made for a very enjoyable experience. Having a coffee and being asked by Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton if they can share a table was fun, as they relaxed following their gold and silver multi-event medals, and had a surprising outcome for later in the year. The GB team won 6 medals with Richard Kilty winning the 60m and Katerina Johnson-Thompson in the long jump and the GB Men’s 4x400m secured silver medals: in the relay the USA 4×400 team set an indoor WR 3:02.13. Bronze medals were won by Andrew Osagie / 800m, Tiffany Porter / 100mH and GB Women’s 4x400m. Sopot had been a real gem of a place.

For the 2014 Braunschweig EATC another delightful venue with a visit to Hannover and Colditz was another trip where the allocation of an event to a smaller town / city turned out very well and why so many athletics event tours have that extra special dimension to them. Which was just as well as, at the start of a summer with two major events, the GB team was far from at full strength winning just the Men’s 4x400m with the team coming 5th as Germany made the most of hosting with an emphatic win.

Every 4 years the Commonwealth Games / European Champs clash causes athletes to have to decide their priorities. With the Glasgow Commonwealth Games the UK’s four teams were large and T&FT handled 600+ clients in anticipation of the event being a home bonanza for UK athletes but whilst 27 medals were won – 23 by England – only 3 of these were gold. Greg Rutherford with 8.20m secured his long jump win as did Steve Lewis in the pole vault and the England Men’s 4x400m team. UK athletes that medalled in Glasgow that did not medal individually later in Zurich were Luke Cutts, Nick Miller, Mark Dry, Ashley Bryant, Bianca Williams, Isobel Pooley, Sally Peake, Sally Scott, Jazmin Sawyers, Laura Samuel, Jade Lally, Sophie Hitchon and Jessica Taylor.

However, it is the diversity of talented Commonwealth athletes that keeps the event so exciting. Even if Usain Bolt only ran in the relay it was in a 4x100m CR 37.58 Jamaica squad. Jamaica’s Women’s 4x100m CR 41.83, 4x400m CR 3:23.82 and O’Dayne Richards Shot CR 21.61m were record breakers  and brought Caribbean sunshine to those chilly stadium days: as did Kirani James’ CR 44.24 400m win joined by Blessing Okagbare’s CR 10.83 100m victory. In the women’s field events  Sultana Frizell’s CR 71.97m hammer win and Kim Mickle’s CR 65.96m javelin victory were Games record too. The competition was world class in some events and thinner in others but the ageing Hampden Park Stadium was good in athletics mode and although the logistics of the event was a challenge for T&FT with clients distributed in over 15 hotels in the wider Glasgow region the busing operation that we co-ordinated went very well. A real highlight of the event for our clients was the magnificent “T&FT Glasgow Games Afternoon Tea Party” that we held at the famous Corinthian Club with 20+ England team athletes and officials including medallists attending.

An interesting “off duty guest appearance” among our T&FT clients was Ashton Eaton – a surprise booking from the unplanned Sopot contact – to support his Canadian wife Brianne who won the Heptathlon. He had hoped to keep a low profile during his Glasgow stay but there was no chance of that in a hotel full of athletics fans and he was kept busy in the stadium too – he said that he was astonished to be better known and recognised more often in the UK than he was in the USA!

Just 11 days later the Zurich European Champs was starting and it was amazing that so many regular clients doubled up and made it to Switzerland to support the medal table topping GB team who with 23 medals with 12 golds really did have a bonanza – it was noticeable that the standard between the two championships whist varied between events was getting much closer than it once had been. Greg Rutherford with 8.29m secured his second major gold of the summer to be the only British individual athlete to do so. Many of the England Men’s 4x400m squad did so again in Zurich as the GB Men’s 4x400m team triumphed and Martyn Rooney and Matt Hudson-Smith were 1-2 in the 400m. James Dasaolu in the 100m and Adam Gemili in the 200m won their events and won golds in the GB Men’s 4x100m team: the GB Women’s 4x100m team were also triumphant. Mo Farah, who passed on Glasgow, with his 5000m / 10000m wins did not have to get into top gear but earlier in the season he had run a 2 Miles NR 8:07.65. Tiffany Porter won the 100mH and in late season set a new 100mH NR 12.51. Fellow hurdler Eilidh Child won gold in Zurich in the 400mH and also medalled in the GB Women’s 4x400m team. In many respects the most popular GB athlete gold medallist was Jo Pavey in the 10000m all the more surprising at this stage in her career. Other medallists were Andy Vernon, Will Sharman, Jodie Williams and Lynsey Sharpe, Harry Akines-Aryeetey, Ashleigh Nelson and Laura Weightman.  Among these athletes a good number had won medals in Glasgow as individuals or relay team members too – a summer of athletic success.