Sprinter Seren Bundy-Davies hopes to continue making great strides after a year which has included world and European medals, writes William Griffiths
Last winter Seren Bundy-Davies emailed Adidas asking for a free pair of spikes. They didn’t reply. When we meet at the start of this winter’s training, she’s sporting her favourite item of a recent hefty Nike kit drop. This tale of two sporting brands tells the story of an incredible sporting breakthrough.
To be fair to Adidas, giving away those spikes would have been a bit of a punt. Bundy-Davies had only been training properly since the winter of 2012. At the English Schools earlier that year she was “clueless”. “I didn’t even know how to use a pair of blocks,” she remembers.
Her athletics CV was brief. The 2014 season had seen a first international vest – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. It was a campaign in which Bundy-Davies readily admits she “didn’t really know what she was doing”.
She quickly worked it out. With the help of a speedy Italian exchange student the 20-year-old – “more of an even-paced runner” – cured her problem of slow starts and began a breathless 2015 campaign which ultimately delivered senior medals at European and world level.
“The European Indoors was the biggest shock to me,” she says. “I was still at the point where I was quite naive and didn’t know what times meant.
“I would run a certain time in training but just didn’t know what that would equate to in a 400m race. I was asking my coach ‘was that a good time?’
“Then I opened up the season with a 52.2 indoors which smashed my outdoor PB. I was really shocked. After that Steve (Ball, her coach) said ‘I think you should target Prague (European Indoors). I think you’ll have a chance of winning it’. I was still like ‘I don’t know about that’. I didn’t really see myself at that level.”
“The European Indoors was the biggest shock to me … I was still at the point where I was quite naive and didn’t know what times meant”
It was Ball, not Bundy-Davies, who was proved right. The Welsh runner left the European Indoor Championships in Prague in March with individual bronze and relay silver medals.
More was to come at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August. Denied the chance to run as an individual by British Athletics’ selection policy, which prevented younger athletes doubling up at age-group and senior major championships, Bundy-Davies put all her efforts into the relay, helping Britain claim a second-consecutive global bronze.
“I would have liked to have raced individually in Beijing,” she says. “It was a really hard one because I was grateful just to be there.
“I knew I was in the mix to run in the relay final and I knew we had a medal chance. I think it would have been slightly different if we had been nowhere near the medals. I think if that happened I would have been pretty annoyed.
“If they had given me the chance to, I definitely would have run individually.
“I think it was the right thing for me in the end because there would have been a lot of rounds to run and I might not have run well in the relay heats then.
“So it was kind of bittersweet but it was great to win a medal. Hopefully next year in Rio I’ll be doing the individual.”
Talk of Brazil invites comparisons with London 2012. Fellow precocious talent Dina Asher-Smith spent the home Games drinking up the Olympic atmosphere carrying boxes for athletes on Super Saturday at the Olympic Stadium. Bundy- Davies’ experience was a little more removed.
“I watched 2012 as someone who did athletics at school but had absolutely no idea about athletics,” said Bundy-Davies, who ended 2012 with a PB of 55.88, ranked 53rd in Britain, 18 places below even short sprint specialist Asher-Smith (55.08).
Three years later Bundy-Davies, a second year Biomedical Sciences student at the University of Manchester, might be having to swat up on the sport’s history, but she’s crystal clear about her future plans for 2016.
“The aim has got to be to make the Olympic final individually or get as close to that as I can. That’s one of them. The other one is to run a PB, sub-51 seconds.” Dual ambitions are appropriate for a runner who has a twin brother called Lewis.
Sub-51-second territory is straying on to Olympic gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu’s patch. Ohuruogu has been British No. 1 seemingly since time began as her first AAA title came in 2004 when Bundy-Davies was aged nine.
“The aim has got to be to make the Olympic final individually or get as close to that as I can. That’s one of them. The other one is to run a PB, sub-51 seconds”
Ohuruogu’s comments after winning that 2004 national title offer comparisons with Bundy-Davies. “I never actually followed athletics when I was younger – I used to find it so boring,” Ohuruogu, an England netballer in her youth, said at the time.
Despite these similarities and their burgeoning rivalry, Bundy-Davies is not motivated by knocking Ohuruogu off her top spot.
“I definitely want to break that 51-second barrier and I want to be as fast as I can possibly be,” she said. “Not so much to challenge Christine but if everyone raises their game as well as myself it will be great for our relay chances. It’s hard not to look up to Christine. She has won everything you can win.
“I do hopefully want to be British No. 1 but we’ll see how next year goes.”
» This is part of a six-page interview with Seren Bundy-Davies published in the November 12 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine