T&FT@30 – Rewind 2019

Dina Asher Smith & Katarina Johnson-Thompson were the British stars and record breakers of a 2019 season that peaked at a Doha World Champs more successful than many had predicted, with its a/c modified desert heat , and with the Middle East offering adventurous fan touring options.

With the season extended into October, due to the Qatar climate, the daytime temperatures were still 34-38C so the single competition sessions started late afternoon and finished up to and beyond midnight. The stadium temperature was modified by ingenious air conditioning to create an optimal competition environment of 22-24C which was very comfortable for athletes and fans as reflected in the results: of 5 British medals 4 were achieved with national records. Triple medallist Dina Asher Smith’s 10.83 / 21.88 NRs were achieved when winning silver and gold respectively and she was part of the GB Women’s 4x100m silver medal team too. The GB Men’s 4x100m 37.36 NR and EurR secured them silver. Katarina Johnson-Thompson NR 6981pts gold medal performance, trouncing Nafi Thiam, built on her earlier dominant Gotzis victory to cap, like Dina, a magnificent season.

There were two world records with Dalilah Muhammad’s WR 52.16 400mH and the USA’s Mixed 4x400m 3:09.34 wins: a GB Mixed 4x400m NR of 3:12.27 was established too in this new event. Five other world championship records were also set: Donavan Brazier’s CR 1:42.34 800m Sifan Hassan’s CR 3:51.95 1500m, Hellen Obiri’s CR 14:26.72 5000m, Beatrice Chepkoech’s CR 8:57.84 3000mSC & Joe Kovac’s CR 22.91m Shot: the latter event with Ryan Crouser and Tomas Walsh both recording 22.90m was, arguably, the best throws competition of all time. Sifan Hassan achieved a remarkable championships double gold when also winning the 10000m. For our many regular Swedish fans the discus gold medal of Daniel Stahl, following his dominant season, was a highlight along with Armand Duplantis’s battle in the pole vault if losing on this occasion on countback to Sam Kendriks at 5.97m. Doha 2019 was a very memorable event, measured by performances and good competition, but sadly mostly not always very well supported although Qatar high jump star Mutaz Essa Barshim did win his gold in front of a full house.

The challenge of how to get about in Doha / Qatar comfortably in the heat was well managed by T&FT’s all day air conditioned bus transportation service co-ordinated by David and Lee with local sightseeing – including desert safaris – and an excellent team of drivers and guides. Ad hoc group lunch outings and an excellent T&FT Supporters Party event made the social side for clients especially enjoyable. At the completion of the event 50 members of the 160+ fans that had been in Doha departed for a Jordan Add-on Tour with a week’s adventure there visiting Amman, Petra,  Aqaba, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem too – a true Middle Eastern Oddyssey and one of the best ever T&FT extension tours based on fans feedback.

The Bydgoszcz European Athletics Team Champs provided another opportunity for an extended tour led by Lee with various options that included visiting Warsaw before the event and then on to Gdansk / Sopot at its conclusion for up to a week’s tour. With these flexible options T&FT made the arrangements for a large group of fans enjoying the history and culture of Poland as well as the exciting competition of the EATC event. Poland took full advantage of having a full strength team to win the event for the first time and cause the home fans great delight: the British team came 5th. There were three GB event winners with Richard Kilty – 200m, Ben Williams – triple jump and the GB Men’s 4x100m. A very embarrassing DNS for the GB Men’s 4x400m occurred when in error a reserve shot putter was declared for the team instead of 4th leg relay team member Rabah Yousif. Ooops!

Earlier in the year at a wet and chilly Glasgow European Indoor Champs GB home advantage resulted in 12 British medals. Laura Muir’s 1500 / 3000 (8:30.61 CR) wins were a repeat double from Belgrade in 2017 on her favourite track epitomised that. Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s Pentathlon gold set her season off when winning with Niamh Emerson’s silver and multiple discipline PBs an unexpected bonus as her rapid progress continued – her later injury in Gotzis a disappointing setback after such a promising start to her year. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke won 800m gold, with other silver medals for Jamie Webb – 800m, Chris O’Hare – 3000m, Tim Duckworth – Heptathlon, Holly Bradshaw – pole vault and the GB Women’s 4x400m team. There were bronze medals for Asha Philip – 60m and Melissa Courtney – 3000m. A European record was the reward for storming Karsten Warholm’s 45.05 CR 400m victory. With 300+ fans organised by T&FT at these championships the T&FT Glasgow Corinthian Club Lunch guest Brian Whittle – former GB 400m star and now member of the Scottish Parliament – was an excellent and entertaining speaker. T&FT fans had experienced the best of Scotland once again following on from the very successful 2014 Commonwealth Games arrangements.

Other GB records set during the year seen by T&FT fans were Morgan Lake’s 1.97m equalling the GB indoor high jump record and outdoors Callum Wilkinson’s 18:42.23 5 Km Walk. All these many exciting track and travel highlights were to be savoured as little did we know then it would be the last full season of live athletics for a while – memories now more precious to so many fans.