Steve Smythe gets ready to report at his 11th World Championships, one he is convinced will be the greatest ever edition but perhaps not the best for Britain
London will be my 11th IAAF World Championships. It sounds a lot but Jesus Angel Garcia has done 12, and while I have sat on my backside watching athletics, he did the 50km walk every time.
I have, of course, watched every other five Championships between 1983 and 1995 thanks to the excellent BBC coverage that was on offer.
I was always a fan first and just out of school I went to the 1977 inaugural World Cup in Dusseldorf and 1978 European Championships in Prague purely as a spectator and part of the Athletics Weekly Tour.
For London 2012, with accreditation limited, I resorted to fan again and spent thousands on tickets.
Luckily, demand for the World Championships is less than the Olympics and I can watch the action while being effectively paid for it!
My first World Championships was Athens 1997, when an Olympic vote was coming up, and I was spoilt there. They hired out a luxury swimming pool with luxury food and drinks on offer all day. I thought it was the norm. I do remember wishing there had been a similar situation when, in the likes of Daegu, I did not even see fruit for over a week.
Having been such a fan, I do really appreciate that now I am paid to do something that used to cost me a lot of money.
London will be the first Championships where I can get home every day and the World Para Athletics Championships gave me an opportunity to try the different options of bike/two DLR lines/train/underground/bus and set various PBs from stadium to home in each!
I am convinced it will be the greatest ever World Championships but am not sure it will be the best for Britain, despite what will be amazing home support.
It would be seen as a disaster if Britain has one of their most barren Championships, but sentiment and home advantage aside and based purely on form, it could be.
“I am convinced it will be the greatest ever World Championships but am not sure it will be the best for Britain, despite what will be amazing home support”
One of my first memories of a major international event is the 1972 Olympics, seeing the AW predictions and then being disappointed when the GB medals won had no relation to what was predicted.
With that mind, maybe it is best to expect less and enjoy the bonuses should they come.
Britain is at a transitional stage and is a pity that Jessica Ennis-Hill could not have held on competing for one more year. Additionally it is a shame that Greg Rutherford could not have stayed fit but even at their best, I think they would have been second at best.
Having carefully gone through form this year, realistically based on all information for the 2016 and 2017 seasons and taking into account current form, Mo Farah is the only surefire GB medallist – if he stays on his feet, or perhaps even if he does not.
I do not think Sir Mo is at the level of form he was in 2012 or 2013 but such is the opposition, I am not sure he has to be and in some ways, I am disappointed in the level of competition. However, thinking he may have a relatively easy job, I was concerned to see that Geoffrey Kamworor believes he has been working on his finishing speed to such an extent that while he was limited to a 55-second last lap, he can now run a 52. I don’t think he will get past Farah if the Briton is ahead but I do think Farah might have a task if the Kenyan leads and the Briton is having to run wide on the last lap and isn’t on the kerb.
We should get a relay medal and I think the best option is the women’s 4x400m – a bronze some way behind USA and Jamaica but even that could be dependent on all four team members having a blinder and then repelling the final leg challenges of Bahamas and Poland.
Both the sprint relay teams are more than capable of medals but neither has the firepower of USA or Jamaica and over the last few years, they do not have the consistency of good changeovers compared to the well-drilled teams of the likes of Germany, Japan and China.
The men’s 4x400m squad does not look to have the quality of previous years but Martyn Rooney is one of the greatest British relay runners of all time and he may snatch a bronze.
The top female athlete with the most pressure is undoubtedly Laura Muir. Even if she were 100 per cent fit, she would have a tremendous task in the 1500m that is one of the most competitive events on the programme.
Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon, world-leader Sifan Hassan and world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba have all been in better form so far in 2017. When you also add into the mix the relative unknown metric mile capabilities of Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya and plenty of other sub-4 contenders, then Muir could realistically have the race of her life and still end up without a medal. However, you can be assured that at some stage she will bid for gold, the crowd will go mad and she will give everything. If she can recapture her Diamond League form of last year, then a medal is possible.
Despite her inexperience, she probably has an easier task at 5000m as there is no onus on her to run away from the opposition to win a medal and she can be the hunter rather than the hunted. I do not think she can beat Hellen Obiri this time but if Dibaba and Almaz Ayana are not at their very best then she can match everyone else with her finishing speed.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson can expect to finish fourth on current form but could go better – even second with improved form in the throws to match her superb jumping.
CJ Ujah is another on form who should go top six so a medal is feasible and with no Usain Bolt or Andre De Grasse, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake has real medal chances at 200m.
Andrew Pozzi should be in the thick of the battle in the 110m hurdles but there is tremendous quality in depth with a dozen athletes capable of sub-13.20 so even making the final will not be a formality.
With the quality missing that was at the Olympics, Callum Hawkins could have been in the marathon medal hunt if in his winter form but with just one race completed in last four months, he is unlikely to be a factor.
Tom Bosworth was higher in the 20km walk in Rio, and is probably in better form, and if he repeats his Rio heroics and does not upset the judges, then anything is possible.
Robbie Grabarz is a superb championships competitor but the opposition is hot and he would need a huge advance in his 2017 form to be in the high jump medal hunt.
Pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw has a consistent major event record and could even win based on her very best form of this year but currently seems to lack the consistency of the other top six contenders.
Sophie Hitchon was third in Rio and looks a near certainty to make the top six again. A medal is well within range again but it does seem the opposition looks stronger than in Brazil.
The other field event with a big GB interest is the long jump. The 2015 near winner Shara Proctor looks a long way short of her fitness from Beijing and Jazmin Sawyers is also not at her best. However, Lorraine Ugen could be a medal hope if she can get back to winter jumping form.
On paper, the likes of Matthew Hudson Smith at 400m, Jack Green at 400m hurdles and Elliot Giles at 800m will be exceeding expectations just to make the final though slightly more could be expected of Chris O’Hare and Jake Wightman at 1500m, but there top six would be superb and well in excess of all previous championships form.
In addition, do not forget Britain’s no.2 at 5000m, Andrew Butchart, who probably has better medal chances than many higher profile names.
On the women’s track side, the race has come a month too early for 200m star Dina Asher-Smith to be a major factor but one of Shelayna Oskan-Clarke or Lynsey Sharp could well make the 800m final. Muir aside, Eilish McColgan may be the likeliest high placer in the women’s endurance events if she can replicate her Monaco form at 3000m for a further five…
Tiffany Porter and Eilidh Doyle have realistic expectations of making the hurdle finals but nothing more based on form so far this year.