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UK Athletics

A Look Back To... Loughborough

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With the Loughborough International set to kick off the high profile domestic outdoor fixtures this weekend, E-Inspire takes a look back over the last 8 years, to see the highlights of what has often proved to be a significant fixture in predicting the events for the summer ahead.




The mood was upbeat, the sun was shining – May being the only sunny month of summer 2007 meant that athletes had great conditions with which to kick off their seasons.

Goldie Sayers was the pick of the performers – hoisting her spear out to a remarkable 65.05m – a PB by 3.60m and confirmation that the classy thrower was capable of throwing world class distances.

In the junior races, Hayley Jones gave an early season hint of what she was capable of over 200m. The feisty sprinter from Wigan stepped to her less favoured sprint distance with an existing PB that put her only 4th on paper and swiftly ran to a popular victory in 23.61. It was a key moment in a season where Jones made a significant breakthrough – taking gold over 200m at the European Junior Championships in Hengelo.



In a rainy, blustery day at Loughborough there were some clear signs of sunshine in the season ahead with some new names making breakthroughs at the season opener.

Richard Hill, - a talented 400-800m athlete had been peppering the 1.48 barrier for 800m on several occasions and finally made his breakthrough with a victory for England in 1.47.59. It was a significant moment for Hill who managed to lop off a further two seconds just a few weeks later when he led a clutch of athletes to significant PBs at the BMC in June 2006 when he clocked 1.45.10.

In a World Junior year all eyes were on the exciting U20 performances and the promising youngsters obliged. James Campbell thrust the javelin out to a new Scottish Record of 71.22m, whilst 16 year old Chris Clarke won the invitational 400m in a PB of 47.09. Campbell would make the javelin final in Beijing later that year whilst Clarke would win bronze as part of the 4x400m team.

Finally, the pocket rocket Jenny Meadows, still making progress in the 800m, won the race at Loughborough in a PB of 2.01.99, and appeared to be reaping the benefits of having concentrated on 800m for the previous 12 months.


Craig Pickering 2005
New kid on the block - Pickering's victory in 2005

An eighteen year old Craig Pickering burst onto the scene emphatically with a 10.22 victory over a strong Loughborough 100m field. Stunned by his victory having suffered with illness that week he announced himself as “shocked” and underlined his determination  to aim for the European Junior title that summer – a title he would take ahead of age group rival Simeon Williamson.

In the 400m hurdles, Rhys Williams, taking the place of an injured Chris Rawlinson, powered to victory in 51.05 – a pre-cursor to yet another successful summer where he would take European U23 gold.

In the women’s sprints Jeanette Kwakye pulled up mid race in the 100m with a hamstring tear. The injury would occur again at the indoor championships the following winter – but these disappointing times will have instilled the fighting spirit she needed to eventually take World Indoor silver in March 2008.

Finally in the middle distance races, Sam Ellis stepping up permanently from 400m now and Becky Lyne were the victors in the men’s and women’s 800. Ellis beat that winter’s indoor discovery Jimmy Watkins, whilst Lyne, running in her second 800m in 24 hours beat Joanne Ross with 2.07.42. Both athletes would medal at the European Championships in Gothenburg over a year later over the two lap race.




All eyes were on the reigning Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis who was aiming to defend her title at the Athens Olympics and was using Loughborough to hone her early season preparations. Whilst she was a clear favourite for GB success in this event at Athens, she took time to publicly congratulate her training partner who had set a massive personal best at the IAAF combined events challenge just a week or so before with 6404 points in taking second place.

 “She was super. But she has been under-achieving for so many years. She can go on to big things. She knows she has to be tough now. Training with her also inspires me and motivates me.” She was of course talking about Kelly Sotherton – who would later that summer take the Olympic bronze medal.

Meanwhile a promising young sprinter by the name of Christine Ohuruogu – already a  European Junior Bronze medallist smashed her existing PB of 54.21, running the race from lane eight, and crossed the line in a massive PB of 52.20.



Jason Gardener 2003
Long Distance Jason - drivin' round the bend.

In chilly conditions – the official opening of the £5m High Performance Athletics Centre somewhat overshadowed events on track as Lord Coe and David Moorcroft – then CEO of UK Athletics took part in the official opening ceremony. Outside, Lorraine Shaw – Commonwealth Hammer gold medallist threw a UK record of 68.93m in a topsy turvey meeting.

Iwan Thomas made a comeback effort over 400m finishing second to Rob Tobin in 48.03 seconds. The extreme conditions worsening as they day went on meant that athletes in the earlier guest race ran faster than those in the elite field.

Jason Gardener stepped up in distance to 200m and took victory again against the wind in 20.81 – eagerly looking forward to his next race a 100m showdown with European Champion Dwain Chambers, former World Junior Champion Mark Lewis Francis and Commonwealth Champion Kim Collins (St Kitts and Nevis) in Ostrava, Czech Republic to take place later that week.




At the start of a Commonwealth and European summer, an amazing men’s long jump showdown was the key event in the 2002 meet, as for the first time ever three British men cleared the eight metre mark in the same competition with Chris Tomlinson posting 8.17m, Nathan Morgan 8.11m and Jonathan Moore 8.03m, a new British junior record.

In torrential rain, the competition was enough to keep supporters upbeat on an afternoon when they would have been tempted to simply follow the coverage on the BBC.

It was a good day for youngsters – with Mark Lewis Francis, still a teenager - leading home the men’s 100m in 10.10 – a PB ahead of Marlon Devonish and Ian Mackie.

2002 also marked a momentary lull in the production of 400m talent – this was underlined even more so with 400m hurdler Chris Rawlinson claiming victory over the flat race in 46.13 ahead of flat specialist Tim Benjamin. It was a significant pointer to form, with Rawlinson helping the England team to 4x400m Commonwealth Gold later that year on the third leg, narrowly pipping the Welsh team.




Tara Krzywicki continued her dominance of the fledgling steeplechase scene with a UK record for 2000m of 6.29.79. It was one of the key performance highlights in the opening days of a season which would turn out to be classed as an Olympic hangover.

Meanwhile, the former lead Scottish high jumper Lee McConnell continued to make headway in her first season of sprinting, having changed events since the previous  Summer. Her regional Scottish 200m victory in 23.85 showed promise, and at Loughborough she took victory in the 400m with 53.28, ahead of the then 400m specialist Jenny Meadows. Off track there was more attention to the revelations by Dwain Chambers that he has missed a significant amount of training the previous month following a serious motorbike accident.




The opening fixture of the “Road to Sydney” series, the headline act on the Sunday afternoon was the emergence of Mark Lewis Francis as a serious threat to the GB senior sprint scene. Despite the 17 year old’s class in beating Darren Campbell and Christian Malcolm to the 100m win, he shrugged off talk of him being a potential member of the GB team at the Sydney Olympics – preferring to underline his wish to aim for the World Junior 100m title in Santiago, Chile.

Someone with Sydney as very much a part of her plans for the year ahead was an impressive looking Katharine Merry who eased down to a 200m win in 23.22, and then confirmed plans to return to live in Cardiff with her training group for the season in the lead up to the Olympics. Merry, who spent her time training alongside Darren Campbell and Jamie Baulch would later that summer take the Olympic 400m bronze medal.