20th July 2009

Supporters Reflect On The Trials


20 July 2009

Article as seen in Athletics Weekly – by Jack Miller for the British Athletics Supporters Club

I arrived in Birmingham committed to enjoy myself over the weekend. I had taken such a public stance that I wanted the Trials to go back to Birmingham after  their short lived ( but what seemed eternal at the time ) trip to the north, that I had been racked with guilt at being abroad and therefore missing the return last year.

So I went to see old friends, to enjoy the Supporters Club dinner (where Paul Dickenson’s speech was every bit as entertaining as had been hoped) but above all to see competitive and meaningful athletics. The weekend is probably the most important of the year for the Club. It is the one occasion when our members meet and have time to reminisce and gossip.

On the Saturday there was a magic moment which summed up how competitive the athletics was. Katharine Merry is very special to the Club. She (although retired from racing) is our still our Patron Athlete and a few years ago was the prodigy who dominated the annual awards we make to young athletes – so much so that our ambition for our fiftieth year is rename our principal trophy the Katharine Merry Trophy.

Nowadays Katharine’s role is the challenging one of extracting a coherent comment from athletes who are on the point of exhaustion straight after their race. The interview with women’s 1500m winner Charlene Thomas was for me the highpoint of the weekend. If the enthusiasm and essence of what winning meant to an athlete could be bottled and taken round schools to energise children to get involved in the sport, then that bottle would be labeled Chateau Charlene Thomas 2009. Please Charlene when you get to Berlin come and chat to us in the Stadium. We know that no-one will be more proud to wear the tracksuit than you.

Almost immediately after that moment I found myself in conversation with Jon Ridgeon – another former winner of a Supporters Club Young Athlete of the Year a few years ago. This started me looking out for performances by all of our previous award winners. The star performance by a former winner was by Jemma Simpson in winning the very competitive 800 metres.

Emeka Udechuku – our young male athlete of 1995 won two medals in discus and shot. The only pair of brothers to have been won this award Alex and Peter Smith excelled- Alex winning the National Hammer Title while younger brother Peter set a British Junior Record in the same competition.

It was good to see that the 2008 Ron Pickering Coaching Award winner Chris Zah had prepared Perri Shakes Drayton for possible selection in the senior relay with a superb 400m flat race. This sat nicely with her 400m hurdles victory in the Under-23 Championships a couple of weeks ago.

At our dinner we had remembered stalwart members who had died during the year. Two in particular came to mind. This was only second time since 1948 had there been a National Championship without Bernard Gomm. I was shown a couple of weeks ago Ron Jewkes’ collection of athletics memorabilia who included programmes going back to 1934. Would they have enjoyed their weekend if they had been there? Undoubtedly, they would.