After Birmingham hosted the World Indoor Championships in 2018, Britain hasn’t had to wait long for another major indoor athletics event with Glasgow set to host the European version. Here is a preview of the middle distance races and an idea of where Britain might win medals in other events.
Tactics are always important in championship 800m races, even more so on the more claustrophobic indoor track, when good positioning and a well timed move can mean less fancied athletes knock out more favoured ones on their way to the final. Looking at the start list, there are seven athletes who have run 1.46 this year and 17 who have run 1.47 so plenty of the entrants will feel they can make the final. Marcin Lewandowski of Poland is a vastly experienced championship performer and I wouldn‘t bet against him retaining the title he won in 2015. 2017’s silver (Andreas Bube of Denmark) and bronze (Alvaro de Arriba of Spain) are both also on the startlist.
In 1990 Tom McKean became the third Brit in a row to win the title. David Grindley won a bronze the following year but we’ve had slim pickings ever since, with Muktaar Mohammed’s bronze in 2013 the only British medal in the last twelve championships. This years British entrants are Guy Learmonth, Joe Reid and Jamie Webb. Guy Learmonth is a familiar figure in major championships. Sometimes he gets it right tactically and sometimes he doesn’t. He’s one of the seven athletes who’ve run 1.46 this year. Will the Scot get it right in front of a home crowd?
Jamie Webb thought he’d won the British Championships this year, until a disqualification for track contact handed the title to Joe Reid. Reid still needed a qualifying standard so the pressure was on to run quickly at the following week’s Birmingham Grand Prix. Webb beat Reid. Both beat Lewandowski. Reid got the standard and the selectors picked them both.
For a British Isles winner, Ireland‘s Mark English could be your best bet. He’s already won European medals indoor and out and has got very close to his PB with a 1:46 clocking this year.
Lewandowski is also entered for this event, although his experience won’t count for much against the enormous talent of Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen. In case you missed it, Ingebrigtsen set the European outdoor championships alight last year by winning the 1500 and 5000m titles at the age of just 17. Jakob’s brother Filip is also on the entry list and could join him on the podium.
Britain’s recent record in this event isn’t much better than the 800m, with Chris O’Hare’s bronze in 2015 our only medal in the last seven championships. The men hoping to change that are Robbie Fitzgibbon, Elliot Giles and Neil Gourley. Giles is my pick here. As Joe Reid has moved up from the 400 to the 800, Giles has followed some success over 800m with a dabble at 1500m. He is definitely not out of place over the metric mile and his background over the shorter, faster event could see him join the speedy Norwegians on the podium.
If you thought two Ingebrigtsen brothers over the 1500m was a tough proposition, try facing all three of them in 3000m! Again few would bet against Jakob taking top spot but two of the three Brits will fancy joining him:
Andy Butchart has long been considered the successor to Mo Farah as Britain’s best male long distance track medal hope. Last year he was flying on the indoor track and Scottish fans were talking up his chances of a Commonwealth Games medal, maybe even a gold, when he broke his foot. He’s recovered and is again running very well. He knows he can’t outkick the Ingebrigtsens but he has the bravery to go off quickly in the final and try to ‚run the legs off‘ them.
There are loads of cool facts about Andy Butchart that you can wow your friends and family with over the course of his 15 lap race: his girlfriend is fellow international runner Lynsey Sharp; he once ran 14 miles around an indoor car park, he’s from Dunblane – the same town as Andy and Jamie Murray – and all three of them qualified for Rio 2018, not bad for a town with population of 8,000.
Continuing the theme of athletes moving up in distance, Chris O’Hare is traditionally a miler and has done well over 3000m this year. If he joined Butchart on the podium, not only would it mean two British medals, but two Scottish medals, which would raise the roof in Glasgow.
The third Brit, Sam Atkin, has progressed well on the indoor circuit in the USA and will be delighted to have made the squad after the withdrawal through injury of Charlie Grice.
There has been hot competition for places on the British team in this event in recent years. This year the selectors had a headache once again with Scottish favourite Lynsey Sharp failing to demonstrate good form and running poorly at the trials, by her standards. The selectors went with the first three in that race; Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, Mari Smith and Adelle Tracey.
Oskan-Clarke is the definition of a championship runner, regularly outperforming her ranking in big races. She is one of only two on the startlist to have broken two minutes indoors and she is also the second fastest based on season’s best times. She has a great chance of at least matching the silver medal she won last time around – although I fancy Switzerland’s Selina Buchel to make it three wins in a row. Behind them, Tracey has a good shot at a bronze medal.
Women’s 1500m and 300m
These races have been billed as showdowns between Britain’s Laura Muir and Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen. On paper the pair of them are literally seconds quicker than the rest of the field over both races. I’d take Muir to pip Klosterhalfen in both events with the rest of the field fighting for bronze.
Muir will have her training partner, Jemma Reekie, for company in the 1500m, her rapid rise being confirmed recently with her first British title. Second in that race, and also on the team is Sarah McDonald. Both should run well, although I’m tipping Poland’s Sofie Ennaoui to pip Ireland’s Ciara Mageean for the bronze, meaning the podium from 2017 is replicated.
In the 3000m, expect both the other Brits; Eilish McColgan and Melissa Courtney to be battling for the bronze McColgan won last time. Pushing them hard will be Germany’s Alina Ray, Norway’s Karoline Grovdal and the Netherlands‘ Maureen Koster. It could be the race of the championships.
Where could Britain’s other medals come from?
To say Britain has a strong track record in the mens 60m would be something of an understatement: In the last fourteen European Indoor Championships, Great Britain has won either a gold or silver medal, and on two occasions they won both. This year’s outstanding British sprinter is Rhys Prescod, who has brought his 60m PB down from 6.61 to 6.53 and is ranked third in the world and first in Europe. However, he never planned to run in the indoor champs and no journalist or British Athletics representative has been able to persuade him otherwise. British Athletics‘ strict, and arguably odd, selection policy meant that only one other man qualified for the mens 60m – Ojie Edoborun. He qualified off the back of a 100m time he ran nearly nine months ago. He clearly excels more over 100m than 60m, illustrated by his eighth placed finish in the British 60m championships. This left Britain’s hopes of continuing their gold and/or silver run looking bleak until European Athletics offered Richard Kilty, the winner of the last two European Indoors, a discretionary place. So Britain’s hopes are alive, although it will require Kilty to swiftly progress in his recovery from the Achilles injury which stopped him running the British Athletics qualifying standard.
In the Womens 60m, Asha Phillip will be fancied to retain her title, although Dafne Schippers will be an interesting addition to the startlist, if she overcomes an injury doubt following a fall. She has form in this event, having won it in 2015.
Andy Pozzi recently got his indoor season started over the 60m hurdles and, although he will be highly fancied to add the European crown to the World Indoor title he won last year, he’ll be nervous of the presence of France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Spain’s Orlando Ortega.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson also won a World Indoor gold last year and few would bet against her adding the European title, particularly in the absence of Nafi Thiam. Commonwealth bronze medallist Niamh Emerson should also fare well and has an outside chance of the podium with a home crowd behind her.
In the Women’s 400m there could be more Scottish success in the form of Eilidh Doyle and Zoey Clark in a highly competitive field. They also make up half of a very strong 4x400m relay team.
In the “field“ Mariah Lasitskene* is a heavy favourite for the women’s high jump, although Morgan Lake is jumping well and will be in medal contention.
Globally, pole vault is riding the crest of a wave at the moment. The are a large number of athletes able to consistently clear 4.80 (women) and 5.80 (men), meaning there should be some fantastic clashes through throughout 2019. Britain’s Holly Bradshaw has started the year in superb shape, clearing 4.80 in the British Indoor Champs and 4.81 in the Birmingham Grand Prix – winning both competitions. In Birmingham, Bradshaw claimed the scalp of Greece‘s Katerina Stefanidi, the dominant force in world pole vault over the last three years. If Bradshaw can repeat her victory over Stefanidi, and see off the challenge of her compatriot Nikolata Kiriakopoulou and Anzhelika Sidorova*, she could reclaim the title she won in 2013.
*Russian athletes cleared to compete as neutrals, despite the ongoing ban on Russia sending a team to international athletics events.