More than usual is at stake at this year’s British Indoor Championships, coming as they are immediately before the national selectors decide on their team for the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
Traditionally a British indoor Grand Prix meeting has followed to resolve any thorny issues. That was last weekend in Glasgow, so this year the final selection decisions hinge on events in Sheffield.
Richard Kilty could have done with such a repechage after Saturday (27). His tenure as world indoor 60m champion is hanging by a thread after he false-started in his semi-final. Kilty’s reaction time was recorded as -0.023 and the replay clearly showed he twitched before the gun.
He appealed, noting that apparent false-starters had got away with a conduct warning earlier in the afternoon. After that appeal was turned down, he faced the British press, expressing his “heartbreak” at losing the chance to defend his title in Portland. “I thought I’d sat in the blocks,” he said, explaining that the blocks in use in Sheffield were smaller than usual.
Of course there is a possibly he could still be selected, as only the winner of the final is automatically chosen by British Athletics for Portland. That winner of was James Dasaolu in a season’s best of 6.53, but it was close because he needed to reel in the fast-starting Andrew Robertson, who dramatically cut his personal best from 6.61 to 6.54.
Both athletes ran faster than Kilty’s season’s best (6.57) and Glasgow winner Sean Safo-Antwi (6.55), so it wouldn’t be surprising if Robertson – a teaching assistant from Manchester – got the nod for Portland.
Nineteen-year-old Theo Etienne – who at 1.62m must be one of the fastest men in the world for his height – was fourth in a PB of 6.60. Dwain Chambers, almost twice Etienne’s age, was seventh in 6.70 after running 6.68 in the two earlier rounds.
There will be no question about which two women will be named in the 60m for Portland because, as anticipated, there were two way ahead of the pack. The winner, however, was something of a surpise.
Asha Philip spent 2015 in the shadow of Dina-Asher Smith. Here, Asha beat Asher as both established themselves as medal contenders of Portland. Philip got the better start and pick-up. Asher-Smith fought back, but was never going to close the gap completely. The winning time of 7.10 was judged to be the best performance of the day.
Philip credited her success to her coach Steve Fudge and his set-up in Loughborough, to where she has moved from London. “I couldn’t be in a better place,” she beamed as she listed a training group which includes Dasaolu.
“If you want to do well, you have to start,” concluded Asher-Smith. “I didn’t get a good enough start.” Her 7.15 was still a 0.10 quicker than last week in Glasgow.
The other two track finals on the first day of the championships also supplied winners who fulfilled the British Athletics automatic selection criteria.
The first of these was Andrew Pozzi, who overcame the foot problems which kept him out of Glasgow – and away from an outdoor track from August 2012 to August 2015 – to win in 7.61 from former training partner Lawrence Clarke. And that despite a race in which Pozzi said he “was all over the place”.
It may be that the man who has had five foot surgeries in five years will opt out of Portland, but he said he would sit down and discuss that possibility with his coach, Malcom Arnold.
More certain to collect his World Indoor Championships kit will be 3000m winner Lee Emanuel, who is based in the United States. He tracked the event’s other principal, Tom Farrell, as Sam Stabler took the field through 1500m in 4:03.1. Things got quicker when Farrell took over a lap later, but he was stalked by Emanuel who moved ahead with 300m remaining and raced away on the final lap to win in 7:55.61.
Such was his margin by the final bend, he could afford an Ovett-like wave to the crowd. After all, he is a member of the City of Sheffield club. Emanuel has the qualifying standard for Portland with his 7:44.48 from last year’s European Indoor Championships, where he took the silver medal.
The first winner of the day was Nigerian international Tosin Oke who triple jumped a season’s best of 16.48m. Third-placed Nathan Douglas appeared to have gone even farther on his own first effort, but it was ruled a foul. Worse, he tweaked his left knee and was reduced to a cautious 15.93m.
The same sandpit was a happier place for Dan Bramble four hours later. He clinched automatic selection with an indoor personal best of 7.94m. His outdoor 8.21m from last year counts as a qualifying mark.
The women’s high jump has seen British records of 1.96m and 1.97m at the past two editions of these championships, but today the winning mark was 1.90m as world junior champion Morgan Lake beat Isobel Pooley on countback. Lake said she was still hoping she might get a chance to contest the pentathlon in Portland, having scored 4519 last weekend in Salamanca.
Kilty wasn’t the only big name to be disqualified in Sheffield. Michael Rimmer emphatically won his 800m heat in 1:47.95, but was punished for stepping on the line on the first bend. “I think I must have overbalanced,” he admitted before returning to qualify for tomorrow’s 1500m final.
In the 400m, Luke Lennon-Ford was also disqualified for running out of his lane – just has he had at these championships in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2014. This time he was disqualified twice: he was re-instated after an initial infraction in his heat, only to be disqualified again in his semi-final.
Mark Butler for the IAAF