T&FT@30 – Rewind 2015

“Super Saturday Trio, Jess, Mo & Greg” reprised their famous 2012 gig in China and  2015 was a year of elite multi-eventers making remarkable comebacks, giving up but winning anyway, and of record setting – for Ashton Eaton a WR 9045pts in Beijing.

At the Prague European Indoor Champs it was Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s Pentathlon CR &GB NR of 5000pts when winning gold that set the standard for the multi-eventers year: previously KJT’s 1.97m NR High Jump confirmed her good form – the season ahead looked very promising. The Prague venue was a challenge for spectators, as sight lines were so bad, but proved rewarding for GB athletes winning 9 medals in total. Richard Kilty proved his class winning gold in the 60m as Dina Asher Smith’s 7.08 NR secured silver in the short sprint. Lucy Hatton & Serita Solomon’s 60m H silver and bronze were breakthrough performances as was Seren Bundy-Davies’s 400m bronze. Local star Pavel Maslak’s 400m 45.33 CR got the home fans on their feet as did Renaud Lavillenie’s 6.04m CR pole vault acrobatics. Lee Emanuel and the GB Women’s 4x400m team won silver medals and Chris O’Hare won 1500m bronze. Our Swedish clients saw three medals led by Michel Torneus’s NR 8.30m long jump gold. Prague was a delightful place and T&FT had a very large group of fans for an indoor event including the friends and family of many GB team members and medallists with whom we celebrated their successes – in athletics getting close to the athletes is always a privilege.

One event where getting close to the athletes is unavoidable is the Gotzis Hypomeeting in the Austrian Alps held every May in a small municipal stadium where fans and athletes can mix freely. T&FT fans attended in 2015 and so enjoyable was it that it has remained in the schedule ever since. The 2015 event was Jess Ennis-Hill’s comeback post childbirth and this was critical to fans’ interest: plus, a trip to the European Athletics Team Champs was effectively impossible to organise due to travel and visa logistics to the obscure Russian venue – the GB team came 5th there as the Russian team won, incidentally. The highlight of the Gotzis event was Brianne Theisen-Eaton’s Canadian NR 6808pts winning score making her favourite for the Beijing world championships. Husband Ashton Easton, with a niggling injury, did not compete but supported his wife: it was good to renew our acquaintance with them both from the previous year. Jess Ennis-Hill looked in decent shape scoring 6520pts in 4th place but her last 50m surge in the 800m to pip Brianne to an event win was a significant gesture not lost on anyone. Jess was relaxed and generous with fans at the completion of the competition. KJT who had won the 2014 Gotzis event had sadly withdrawn from attending with injury concerns a week prior. Dafne Schippers had completed 6 events – her 22.39 secs 200m was a real treat – but then withdrew: it proved to be her last multi-events outing to date as her sprinting talent became the focus of her attention. The Men’s Decathlon was a good competition that Germany’s Kai Kazmirek won – just 80 pts covered the top four but it was not a year of records.

The Beijing World Championships was then the focus of the season for multi-eventers and all athletes as we returned to the Birds Nest stadium for the first major event there since the 2008 Olympics. A group of 250+ fans joined T&FT as both pre- and post-event China add-on tours proved very popular with Xian / Terracotta Warriors and Shanghai visited,. With several athletes’ families in the party the BBC joined us all for a trip to the Great Wall that they later broadcast. The Theisen-Eaton family, in particular, had high hopes of a successful time in Beijing and that is how it turned out although, but for a well-known diminutive Sheffield athlete, it could have been perfect. Whilst Brianne had peaked in Gotzis “super-mum” Jess added 149pts to her Gotzis score as Brianne “lost” 254pts to win silver as Jess Ennis-Hill won her 3rd world title. Brianne was later thrilled as Ashton Eaton’s 9045pts Decathlon WR was the performance of the championships. Britain’s KJT had made it to Beijing and had been in medal contention after Day 1 but three long jump fouls ended her chances. There may be “dnf” in the first name of Gotzis drop-out Dafne Schippers but her 100m silver and 200m gold in a CR of 21.63 meant she had found a different way to podium success – the ups and downs of athletics competition encapsulated through the rollercoaster drama of these five top multi-event athletes’ seasons.

But for other elite athletes it was more of the same as Greg Rutherford’s 8.41m victory added the long jump world title to his now faultless CV in emphatic style. Mo Farah’s 8:03.00 NR 2 Miles indoor record showed his form was not diminishing and in Beijing he again won the 5000m / 10000m double as his management team-mate Usain Bolt repeated previous 100m, 200m & 4x100m gold medal triumphs delighting another audience with his talent and charisma making the sensational look ordinary. Records were also set by the Jamaica Women’s 4x100m CR 41.07, Almaz Ayana’s 5000m CR 14:26.83 and Anita Wlodarczyk’s hammer CR 80.85m. There was also a GB national record with Shara Proctor’s NR long jump 7.07m when winning silver. Britain also won two bronze medals in both the Men & Women’s 4x400m relays.  It had been a good championships and with the GB team scoring 94pts for 5th in the 1st > 8th place points table it was the best team result for 20+ years – ideal preparation for the Olympic year ahead.