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World Juniors Opportunity

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7 July 2008



Article as seen in AW by Katharine Merry



Once again a World Junior Championship is upon us. The event is important in the eyes of the media and the public – but more when the event lands in an Olympic and Paralympic year.




As our Norwich Union GB team head off to Poland, I’m aware of the pressure to perform well at this level – however in my role as a performance advisor for the Junior team I am keen this is not to the detriment of their senior careers.




What I would like to see is more attention to the idea that athletes can use this experience to benefit them as seniors. I remember attending my first Senior World championships in 1993 in good shape and not held back by nerves – I’d already been to two World and three European junior championships.




Of course good results were important to me, but it’s also worth noting I never finished higher than 5th in the world juniors, and plenty of World and Olympic medalists finished further back than I did.




Athletics fans watching our youngsters to ask themselves do they want a medalist in Poland or in the 2016 Olympics? I’m confident we will get some good results next week, but even more significantly I will be sure to keep an eye on those athletes making the world championship team but not making the rostrum just yet.




After all – that was me once, and I can list an awful lot of athlete who medaled at World Junior level and were never ever made it to the senior ranks.




I can understand why we want World Junior champions and medalists – there is nothing more exciting than having an athlete lead the world at such a young age. But in the same way the dividing line between perceived success and failure is thin at senior level – at junior level it is just as intense. And this is the age where the emphasis should be slightly different.




As an athlete I remember thinking at those events how it was the most important moment and was the biggest thing in my world. It’s not until you mature as an athlete and realise it will be one of many experiences – and even if you don’t manage to produce a great performance in your event, you still get an essential learning opportunity.




In  2006 in Beijing I was glad to see our team return with five medals and a heap of final places.




But as we can see from Grosetto in 2004, despite there being a perceived lack of success in medal count, those athletes in that GB team obviously benefited from the experience in some way.




For example Jessica Ennis, Tom Lancashire, Michael Rimmer, Steve Lewis, Craig Pickering, Rikki Fifton, Leon Baptiste, Richard Buck, and Laura Kenney were all part of the 'unsuccessful' Grosetto team, yet are now all strong senior GB team members. Pickering, Ennis and Lewis already having logged senior championship medals in their young careers.




So lets shout on our juniors and help them make the most of this championship experience, but lets also remember this is only step one on a very long ladder.