The Americas dominated world athletics with Portland and Rio the major venues as Team USA team headed the medals tables. Mo, Jess and Greg medalled as a trio one last time with Sophie Hitchon the T&FT choice as the GB Rio standout performance.
In March a group of 50 T&FT fans attended the new look razzamatazz presentation style of the Portland World Athletics Indoor Champs that clearly suited the home team as USA dominated with 23 medals / 13 golds: the second best team Ethiopia won 5 medals / 2 golds and no other team won more than one gold medal or 4 in total. The GB team secured 3 medals with Robbie Grabarz confirming what a good competitor he is with a 2.33m high jump silver. USA based Lorraine Ugen’s 6.93m NR long jump won bronze as did the performance of fellow US resident Tiffany Porter in the 60mH. The synchronised pole vault finals on the first evening were both very enjoyable and a great success as Renaud Lavillenie / 6.02m and Jenn Surr / 4.90m both set CRs. Ashton Eaton and wife Brianne, T&FT “besties”, also synchronised their winter to both peak and win gold in their respective multi-events.
Brazil seemed such an exotic venue for the Rio Olympic Games but with Zika virus an over publicised epidemic as a prelude and other challenges during the event the atmosphere felt flat as the athletics stadium, which was neither large or comfortable, was rarely close to being full. Following the 2012 Games this was a rude shock but then it had been the same in Mexico in 1968 another South American nation with limited all-round sporting traditions and not too many citizens that could afford to attend. Their North American “cousins” from the USA did what they do best with a haul of 32 medals / 13 golds – at least it was not the Spanish or Portuguese plundering prime metals this time! In spite of the stadium not being as fans might have wanted the athletes responded to each other and Olympic titles have currency long after their stadium effort is just a memory. Usain Bolt’s triple gold repeat performances saw the stadium as full as it was ever going to be and there was even a home winner with Thiago Braz da Silva’s 6.03m CR pole vault win – that it was secured amid the toxic atmosphere of local fans booing rival Renaud Lavillenie when he was making his attempts was in many respects a microcosm of the event. However, with the victories of Wayde van Niekerk’s 44.03 WR 400, Almaz Ayana’s 29:17.45 WR 10,000m and Anita Wlodarczyk’s 82.29m WR hammer fans were privileged to enjoy these in less partisan circumstances. There were other Olympic record performances from Consesius Kipruto / 3000mSC, Ryan Crouser / Shot, Ashton Eaton / Decathlon and Vivian Cheruiyot / 5000m and with repeat wins from the likes of David Rushida there were fond echoes of 2012. No more so than for British fans with Mo Farah’s 5000m / 10000m repeat double golds – Mo’s 8:07.85 NR 2 Miles performance a few weeks earlier showed he was, yet again, in fine form. Jess Ennis-Hill’s Heptathlon silver was magnificent but beaten by rising star Nafissatou Thiam’s astonishing 5 PBs. Slipping down the podium too was Greg Rutherford with bronze after a season that saw him retain his European title and set an indoor GB NR 8.26m long jump. During the Heptathlon Katarina Johnson Thompson’s 1.98m NR high jump provided a glimpse of what might have been. It took GB records to secure bronze medals as the GB Women’s 4x100m NR 41.77 and Sophie Hitchon’s NR 74.54 hammer caused GB fans to rejoice. Sophie a regular attendee at T&FT social events catching up with her family in was overjoyed even though, on this occasion, none were in Rio – so we all shouted twice as loud to provide support. The Games overall had been a chaotic affair and very demanding for the T&FT Team but our group of fans, with many enjoying the organised T&FT Amazon pre-event & Iguazu Falls post-event tours, plus other individual trips co-ordinated too, had an enjoyable time in dramatic, magnificent if irritatingly flawed Rio and Brazil.
Earlier in the summer the Amsterdam European Championships had served as Rio preparation for many athletes but the focus of their season for some. The 1928 Olympic stadium was full for most sessions and the atmosphere and competition in the historic and compact venue was good and the sizeable GB team was rewarded by the joint highest medal tally with 16 medals. Greg Rutherford had retained his long jump title as did Martyn Rooney’s 400m win and the GB Men’s 4x100m team. Dina Asher Smith won her 200m and the GB Women 4x400m team triumphed too. Silver medals were won by ever consistent Robbie Grabarz / high jump, GB Women’s 4x100m squad & Jazmin Sawyer / long jump. For the GB Men Danny Talbot / 200m, Elliot Giles / 800m, 4x400m squad, Chris Baker / high jump & Julian Reed / triple jump all won bronze medals. For the GB Women Anyika Onuora / 400m, Steph Twell / 5000m & Tiffany Porter / 60mH also secured 3rd place medals. Amsterdam had been a good venue with a well-run programme – following on from the first European Champs / Olympic Games double header in 2012 the combination now seem better balanced for both athletes and fans. The only event record had been Ekterini Stefanidi’s 4.81m CR pole vault, as a prelude to her Olympic Games victory, as others saved their best for a few weeks later.
In post-Olympic events Laura Muir’s 3:55.22 NR showed what might have been with her controlled even paced run unlike the madness of the Rio final when following the suicidal sub-58 secs third lap pace that was the undoing of a few of the favourites.