T&FT@30 – Rewind 2017

Four GB records and 2 European titles saw Laura Muir dominate the winter indoor season as the prelude to the best ever fan supported World Champs in London and best ever collective GB team result headed by Mo Farah and the GB relay squads.

It seemed that every time Laura Muir stepped on an indoor track another record would fall as she set NRs for the 1000m / 2:31.93, 1500m / 4:02.39, 3000m / 8:26.41 and 5000m / 14:49.12 over just a few weeks to be the GB star of the winter season.

It was at the Belgrade European Indoor Champs that Laura’s 1500m time was achieved when winning the title with a new CR to add to her 3000m gold also won with a new CR of 8:35.67. It was a productive record breaking indoor season for GB Women as Asha Philip’s NR 7.06 60m secured gold and Lorraine Ugen’s NR 6.97m long jump gained silver behind home town favourite Ivana Spanovic’s prodigious PB of 7.24m. Richard Kilty extended his reign as the indoor 60m king as Andy Pozzi triumphed in the 60mH too. Silver medals were won by Robbie Grabarz in the high jump, Shelayna Oskan-Clarke in the 800m and the GB Women’s 4x400m squad as Eilish McColgan won bronze in the 3000m. With event presentation and fan engagement becoming ever more important a very amusing combined Irish & British fans video Twitter spoof of one of Laura Muir’s laps of honour evading track officials went viral and to his credit Sveine Arne Hansen the EAA President visited the fans responsible to acknowledge their additional publicity for the sport – very much a sign of the times.  The T&FT fans group enjoyed the Serbian capital with good sightseeing, excellent food and a fun party with a local live music group to round off a fun extended weekend break.

Fan engagement at the London World Champs saw 660,000 fans attend easily beating the previous record of 417,000 tickets sold at the 2009 Berlin event. Memories of London 2012 were relatively recent and with Mo Farah’s 10000m victory, winning his 10th successive global title, it was easy to think time had stood still. But time had passed and there was no Jess or Greg both now retired and Mo Farah’s 5000m silver medal finally broke his winning streak. Back in Daegu in 2011 it was an Ethiopian winning 10000m gold there with Mo winning silver that bookended Mo’s 10 global golds and in London another, Muktar Idris, that headed him for Mo’s silver symmetry. Time had also finally caught up with the fan favourite of all time Usain Bolt as his ageing body just about held it together for his 100m bronze, behind ever controversial Justin Gatlin’s win. He then crumbled in the 4x100m final when he cramped when chasing on last leg as the GB Men’s 4x100m NR and European record 37.47 edged the USA team and triumphed. The superb performance of the British quartet of Chijindu Ujah, Adam Gemili, Danny Talbot & Nethaneel Mitchel-Blake was tempered by the sight of a prostrate Usain laid out on the track – far from a scripted Hollywood exit. Hero the Hedgehog mascot whilst impressive was no match for the true hero and Jamaican talisman – but what memories Usain has left us with to cherish.  As the days passed in the London stadium the record number of GB top 8 finishes and five 4th places indicated a very strong team showing but medals that seemed so easy for the dominant USA team recording their 30 were scarce. Over the last two days the GB Women’s 4x100m & 4x400m teams won silver and the GB Men’s 4x400m team won bronze and finally the GB team had 6 medals and with 105pts for 25 1st>8th placings the team finished in 3rd place. To fill the Bolt void Wayde van Niekerk almost completed a 200m / 400m double with his 20.11 silver and 43.98 gold victory but, regardless of his talent, his stature in all senses of swagger and style was not remotely the same – large shoes for anyone to fill. With the fresh UK summer weather there was just one stadium CR with Emma Coburn’s CR 3000mSC 9:02.58 and two 50KM Walk records outside the stadium with Yohann Diaz’s CR 3:21.12 and Ines Henriques’ CR / WR 4:05.56. For T&FT we had handled the arrangements for hundreds of British and international fans ticketing and accommodation and enjoyed seeing so many new fans enjoying the sport. As a celebration of T&FT’s 25th anniversary in 2016 a weekend trip prize provided by T&FT for a group of youngsters to attend the London 2017 event had been won by Stockport Harriers and hopefully this will have become part of a lifetime of their engagement with the sport.

Earlier in the summer the Lille European Athletics Team Championships was a popular destination for fans and we looked after both British fans and members of the German Supporters Club. The latter saw their team triumph with the British team in a close battle for 2nd but eventually finishing 4th. The GB team provided 6 event winners with Harry Aikines-Aryeetey – 100m, Dwayne Cowan – 400m, Jack Green – 400mH, GB Men’s 4x100m, Dan Bramble – long jump and Eilidh Doyle – 400mH scoring maximum points. More poignant memories of British and German engagements were provided for a large group of tour members with an extended day visit to the First World War sites and sights of Passchendaele – it was the  100th anniversary of the battle there – plus Poperinge & Ypres for a moving day concluded with attending a ceremony at the Menin Gate.  There is more to life than sport.

During the season Tom Bosworth’s Mile Walk 5:31.08 was a world best and Holly Bradshaw’s 4.81m NR pole vault had updated the record books too. With Laura Muir, Asha Philps & Lorainne Ugen’s records the new generation were making their marks.