British Athletics’ performance director talks about GB’s “exciting combination team” set for next month’s European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague
UPDATE: On Friday (February 27) British Athletics announced that Greg Rutherford has withdrawn from the GB team for Prague. Read more here.
Not unusually, British Athletics’ performance director Neil Black was reluctant to reveal a specific medal target for the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team ahead of next month’s European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague, but said that the “exciting combination team” would be competitive for medals in a number of events.
A 39-strong GB team was named on Tuesday for the championships which take place in the Czech capital from March 5-8, with Olympic, European and Commonwealth long jump champion Greg Rutherford included. The event had not originally been in the 28-year-old’s plans for this winter, but after setting an indoor personal best of 8.17m at last weekend’s Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham – a mark just one centimetre off Chris Tomlinson’s British indoor record set in 2008 – Rutherford has had a change of heart and will look to claim his first major indoor title.
Discussing Rutherford’s selection, Black said: “The weekend (after the Indoor Grand Prix) was the time that he basically asked to be considered. In communication over time it was clear that it wasn’t a key part of his plan, it was more ‘I’m coming to Birmingham to compete, I’m really excited about it, things are going well’. He asked to be considered, we talked it through at the selection meeting and the next thing is, well we know the outcome – he’s in the team.”
Rutherford is currently ranked second in Europe behind France’s Kafétien Gomis with 8.18m. Asked whether Rutherford would likely be making the trip to Prague if he didn’t think he was capable of winning, Black replied: “Greg is a winner, that is what he wants to do. This is one of the titles that he doesn’t have. We’ve obviously been in close communication with Greg and Jonas (Tawiah-Dodoo, his coach) all through the last few months so we knew he was in good shape but it wasn’t in his original plans.”
While Rutherford’s place on the team wasn’t expected but he has secured a spot, the opposite is the case for Nigel Levine. The 25-year-old, who won European indoor silver two years ago, claimed his fifth consecutive national indoor 400m title earlier this month and had initially indicated an interest in competing in Prague. On Levine’s omission from the GB team, Black said: “Really simple – in effect we selected Nigel but because he has got very, very serious aspirations for the outdoor season he felt that it was best for him to concentrate on his preparations for the outdoor season and that’s absolutely fine.”
Black also spoke about the mix of more experienced athletes on the team, such as Rutherford and Jenny Meadows, along with up-and-coming stars, describing Indoor Grand Prix 400m winner Seren Bundy-Davies (pictured) as an “unspoilt talent”.
“She’s obviously got huge potential,” Black said of the 20-year-old who ran a British indoor under-23 record of 51.72 in Birmingham on Saturday to beat world indoor champion Francena McCorory a week after suffering a fall at the British Championships.
“We saw her run at the European Team Championships last year, she was an absolute delight. She’s just a young, almost kind of unspoilt, talent that has shown itself. She has got huge enthusiasm. She had that unfortunate incident at Sheffield which could have really knocked her off track but she re-grouped really quickly and was very pleased when we supported her to have a lane in Birmingham over the weekend.
“She came back and demonstrated again the fitness and the form that she’s got. I think she’s genuinely somebody who we are all looking forward to seeing what potential is there.”
On how the GB team might perform in Prague, Black commented “We don’t do specific targets as we go along. We’re really excited about the team. You’ve seen the combination of the experienced people – people who have won medals before at similar championships and people who are ranked in the top two or three in Europe at this stage – all the way through to the likes of the Lucy Hattons and so on who have just produced brilliant, consistent, progressive performances and demonstrated a fantastic attitude.
“So we see this exciting combination team. We’re going to be competitive for medals in a number of events.
“We just want to go and do a really good job with an exciting team, work well together and the results will speak for themselves.”
The full Great Britain & Northern Ireland team for the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague can be found here.