This past weekend, saw glorious weather across the UK provide one of the best ever editions of the British Championships which doubled as the European Championship Trials. A total of 48 Welsh athletes contested events in Birmingham, with 4 Welsh athletes already in automatic qualification spots for the European Championships; Caryl Jones (Alan Storey) – Marathon, Charlotte Arter (Chris Jones) – 10,000m, Bethan Davies (Andi Drake) – 20km race walk and Heather Lewis (Chris Jones / Pete Freeman) – 20km race walk) in events that had their respective “Trials” earlier this year.
Three further Welsh athletes secured automatic selection spots for the European Championships (where up to 3 athletes can be selected per event) over the weekend. The highlight was Dai Greene’s (Benke Blomkvist) remarkable win in the 400m hurdles, his first National title in 5 years, to earn his first British vest since the 2013 World Championships. There were also well earned silver medals for Melissa Courtney (Rob Denmark) in the 5000m and Ieuan Thomas (James Thie) in the 3000m Steeplechase – both of whom will now travel to Berlin in August.
Other medallists over the weekend included National titles for Brett Morse in the discus (his first since 2015) and for Bethan Davies in the 5km race walk. There were bronze medals for Sally Peake in the pole vault, Gareth Winter in the shot (with a big SB of 17.28m) and U20 athlete, Bethan Rees (Mark Pinner), who won her first UK Championship senior medal in the Javelin. A total of 8 medals, including 3 gold, is the best British Championship medal return for Wales since 2014.
There were a number of other commendable performance elsewhere over the weekend. Jon Hopkins (Chris Jones) placed 4th in 3000m Steeplechase and will now await the decision of the selectors as to whether he will go to the European Championships as one of only three British athletes with the qualification standard in that event. Owen Smith (Matt Elias) made his first UK Championship final in the 400m and went on to place 6th – putting himself in contention for a 4x400m relay spot on that European team.
Sam Gordon (Elias) also made his first senior 100m final and placed 7th, also starting to make himself a more familiar name to the GB selectors. 10,000m specialists Charlotte Arter (Chris Jones) and Jenny Nesbitt (David Walker) dropped down to the 5,000m distance and placed 4th and 7th respectively – despite a fall from Charlotte early on in the race! Hammer throwing duo, Jac Palmer (Adrian Palmer) and Osian Jones (Carys Parry) finished 7th and 8th respectively, while Javelin thrower, Nathan James (John Davies) placed 6th. There were also new personal bests for Amy Odunaiya (Dave Norton) in the 200m (24.40), Beth Kidger (Joel Kidger) in the 1500m (4.17.76), Kristian Jones (Glyn Hawkes) in the 200m (21.04) and Sarah Abrams who went out to 6.31m in a stunning long jump competition where she placed 8th.
Wales is now in an unprecedented position where seven athletes have automatic selection to the British Athletics team for the forthcoming European Championships, with another handful of athletes also in contention for non-automatic places. Given that in 2014, no Welsh athletes qualified for the European Championships, and then in 2016, four athletes contested those Championships, athletics in Wales certainly appears to be on an upward trajectory.