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Weekend in Valencia

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18 March 2008

 

Column by Ed Warner, Chairman of UK Athletics, as seen in Athletics Weekly Magazine

 

The World Indoor Championships in Valencia last weekend demonstrated the appeal of athletics within a bright, well designed venue. Full houses each day bore testimony to this attraction, and it was rewarding to see the Norwich Union Great Britain & NI team respond so positively to the occasion.

Fourth place in the medals table and third in the points table represent a satisfying return, not only for our team of 31 athletes, but also for the UKA performance team and support staff led by Dave Collins – those who made the trip to Spain, as well as those back home who have worked hard with our athletes over the winter.

This is of course an Olympic and Paralympic year, which means that the runes of the WIC will be read even more closely in an attempt to assess prospects for the summer. With many athletes – both British and overseas – skipping the indoor season to focus on Beijing, this is no easy task. What is clear, though, is that those athletes who medalled in Valencia will take a valuable psychological boost into the summer.

Of Britain’s five medals in Osaka last summer and five in Valencia, only one athlete medalled in both World Championships: Kelly Sotherton. As well as demonstrating Kelly’s own consistently high performances, this also indicates a broad spread of achievement across our teams.

It was particularly exciting to see breakthrough performances from three British athletes last weekend: Chris Tomlinson medalling at a major games, Jeanette Kwakye breaking the British record in winning sprint silver, and Phillips Idowu leaping to gold and a British record. There will be a special atmosphere at our Lee Valley HiPAC when they return to training there this week.

Britain’s fifth medal in Valencia was of course won by Dwain Chambers. It was a great personal success for Dwain, who demonstrated in Valencia that he is one of the most naturally gifted sprinters in the world. His success and his welcome public commitment to drug free sport was encouraging. However UKA are still committed to reviewing our policy towards athletes returning from a drugs ban, in line with others changing and reviewing their policies within the sport.

Finally, a word of thanks to the British supporters who turned out in such numbers and great voice last weekend. It was good to meet a number of you again. You can be sure that the team really appreciates your support.

The IAAF wagon now rolls on to Edinburgh in a fortnight’s time for the World Cross. With gales ravaging Britain as I write, the contrasting elements of our sport could not appear greater. I’m sure, though, that the athletes and the Local Organising Committee will put on an equally good show.