9th January 2014

A Look Back At 2013

2013 saw no fewer than six British records rewritten, with GB & NI making the podium on 97 occasions at major international events spanning track, field, mountain and trail. We caught up with Ian Hodge, British Athletics statistician, to shine a light on his most memorable moments of the year.

What was your 2013 performance of the year?

 For me it was Ohuruogu at the IAAF World Championships because it was that bit more unexpected. It was the finest performance of her career and it was exciting, so it actually had a lot more ticks than Mo Farah, amazingly enough.

Who was your breakthrough athlete of 2013?

That would have to be Adam Gemili. He switched events and it certainly looked as though the 200m would be the focus in order to make an international final. But, to almost win a medal and to run below 20 seconds was quite unexpected.

Who do you predict will breakthrough in 2014 and reach a new level in the way Gemili did?

It has to be Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Adam may never make the top of the podium because it’s pretty hard in sprints; there is always a Jamaican. Katarina will make the top of the podium; there is no question about that. I believe she will continue to make these massive steps forward. Also worth a mention is Desiree Henry. She’s already a world champion at under-18 level but now she’s at university, she’s grown up a bit and she could make massive steps forward. There’s no question that she has the natural ability.

Team of the year 2013?

It would be the European Junior team, simply because we won our greatest number of medals; 19 is one more than we’ve ever had before. Of course the target now is for half of those to win senior medals at some stage in their career. That won’t happen, but that has to be our target.

What do you think was our most unexpected result of the year?

Middle distance runner Kyle Langford was a great story from this year, winning bronze over 800m at the world youth championships and he looks like he will become a 1500m champion too in the future. I’d never heard of this fellow before May. That’s quite special and I never saw that coming at all.

Tiffany Porter is worth a mention too. She hadn’t shown world-beating form at all until she went to Moscow. Then, all of a sudden, things really clicked for her.

What do you think will be our most successful championship of 2014?

As a country, we have the most pressure on us for the European Championships because we always do perform well. So we’ve got to come out again and win let’s say 20 plus medals and eight gold’s – that’s a hard ask. Obviously the Commonwealths are a totally different environment, but you suddenly realise it’s a much stronger championship than it used to be. Even in what people believe to be the weaker championships, every medal won is a proper medal won. So I think that praises the championships.

But I believe it will be the European Championships where we will succeed the most because Britain’s standing in Europe is still up there with the best.

Do you have any medal, or even record predictions for the coming year?

The people that win the medals have that level of ability. So if you can get to that level and you understand how hard it is, there is a great chance that you can keep winning. 2013 was a tough year for some athletes, so it’ll be interesting to see how these athletes make a comeback. Greg Rutherford knows he can be right in there at the European championships, but he will still have to jump pretty much as well as he did in London. Jessica Ennis-Hill has still got to get back to 95-98% of her potential to do it. That is still quite a task.

Going back to the Commonwealths, Scotland are the hosts and could win six or seven medals this time round, however records are always a bit of a lottery. Holly Bleasdale has the strongest chance now she’s back as her outdoor record isn’t anywhere near a reflection of her potential. Aside from that, we’d love to see the women’s 4x100m relay broken as that’s the oldest on record and this year we came quite close to. That would perhaps be the most satisfying.

What are your predictions for this year’s major championships?

Regarding the IPC European championships, there are people like Libby Clegg or Stef Reid who have been in the sport for a five or six years, Jonnie Peacock who’s been in the sport for about three years along with Hannah Cockroft and then Sophie Hahn who’s only been around for one year and has already won two world titles. It highlights that and anyone can come into the sport as a novice and perform. Those athletes mentioned, along with Denisha Marshall-Brown who is only 13, have the chance to do something special next year and take the sport forward.

James Dasaolu will hopefully be a big talking point. The moment of the year for a lot of people would be his sub-10 second 100m. Providing he maintains his form, he will deliver this year. James will obviously be looking for the British record and trying to emulate Linford Christie in winning a European title.

I want to mention Sophie Hitchon as well, as she really is the only elite thrower we have, sadly. She could be on her way to winning medals at senior level and that would be wonderful for the sport as we’ve not had a hammer medallist for 80 years! Sophie also has that unique ability of being able to perform brilliantly on the day. It will be interesting to see how Eilidh Child does. At the last Commonwealth Games she almost should have won, so it’ll be interesting to see whether she can take that step up.

Are there any other special moments of 2013 you feel deserve a mention?

 Mo Farah was an interesting one. There was a horrible amount of pressure in London and then he goes to Moscow and everyone expects him to win. But it was incredibly tough to do what he had done, so to then do it again was very special.

I think as well as that there were also the disappointments of the year, the main one being the men’s 4x100m relay. A medal was lost which has quite an effect on the nation; ‘the man dropping the baton’ is sometimes the news that becomes most talked about. You hope that next year we will just get it round. You don’t want another DQ; there will be a bit of expectation next time I think.

Another disappointment would be Perri Shakes-Drayton. She wasn’t going to win the world title, but it certainly did look like she was going to be second.  Prior to a championship we talk about how many medals we might win, but no medal is guaranteed and the sad thing is that next year it will happen again to someone else. But that’s what life is about – success and failure. It keeps it exciting I suppose!