Is it really that time already? Doesn’t feel like it has been 4 years since athletes were getting ready for an Olympic trials but here we are again and it will certainly be an intriguing weekend. A note that the ‘entry list’ on the BA website is not always 100% accurate so there are some assumptions on certain athletes who will or not turn up during this preview. Let’s go!
The depth in women’s sprinting has been stronger than ever this year and in the official qualification period there are 7 women who have the standard for the 100, 11 for the 200 and 6 for the 400 with the possibility of more. The first question to answer is who is going to do what? Last year Dina Asher-Smith did the 100 metres at the championships but ended up doing the 200 at the Worlds so will she do both or just one event (and which one)? Bearing in mind she could easily be selected for both she has the choice to be a bit flexible with the decision. Then there is Desiree Henry who has the UK lead with 11.06 (and shared wins with Asher-Smith in Birmingham) and ran a 200 PB in Stockholm who could feasibly do both and be a good contender to finish top 2. Ashleigh Nelson after missing last year due to injury has returned strong and looked particularly good in Birmingham running 11.31 into a -3.1m/s wind will likely focus on the shorter sprint even though she has the qualifying standard for the 200. Jodie Williams is a contender in the 200 although her recent form has dipped from her early season sub 23 second form although weather condition in a lot of meets in Europe recently have not been particularly helpful for anyone. Similar things could be said for Asha Philip who has been recently beaten by youngster Daryll Neita (who has run a couple of Olympic standards into headwinds) who could well feature in the final and then there is Imani Lansiquot who this past weekend won the u20 championships running 11.25 (also her second Olympic qualifier) in the heat putting her amongst the top juniors in the world this year. I think it goes without saying that the finals this year will be the strongest Britain has ever had by some considerable margin.
There is depth in the 400 metre event as well with Seren Bundy-Davies running back to back PB’s this year which is now down 51.26 seconds although the perhaps surprise UK lead is with Emily Diamond who ran 51.23 in Germany earlier this month and backed that up with another sub 52 second run in Geneva. Of course you must always think of 2008 Olympic Champion Christine Ohuruogu even though she has yet to break 52 seconds this year but she always seems to get in shape by the time the championships come around, it will be harder than normal to guarantee her selection for the team this year though with others in good form. Anyika Onuora had a breakthrough year last year in this event going under 51 seconds for the first time in Beijing and is reigning Champion after beating Ohuruogu last year and has maintained good form this year but it will be much more competitive this year. Then there is the wildcard of Perri Shakes-Drayton who has finally returned after 3 years on injury hell, she has the European standard and is edging closer to that Olympic standard of 52.20 and it would make a tremendous story if she came back to qualify. Also to look out for is Laivai Nielson who is just outside the standard and looks very capable of doing so and her twin sister Lina who the u23 Championships at Before this past weekend going under 53 seconds for the first time.
There is a lot of similarities with the state of women’s sprinting with the men in terms of depth as well as those can potentially double up. The big news of the year has been that of Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake after his impressive performances running in the US collegiate system this year which has seen him run the second quickest 200m time by a Britain when he ran 19.95 back in May and has got Olympic qualifying standards in the 100 metres as well. CJ Ujah has been the most consistent sprinter over the shorter distance this year and leads the UK rankings and starts as the favourite but with James Dasaolu showing some signs he may be getting back to some better form and the likes of Richard Kilty and James Ellington (who is having the season of his life so far) it could be interesting to see who gets those two automatic places. The performances of Adam Gemili will be interesting after a rusty start to his outdoor season but his 20.37 he ran recently was an Olympic qualifier (his first as he did not run a 200 last year) and it makes an interesting scenario with Ellington and Danny Talbot both running very well. There is also questions of what event he will do with the 200 his more likely bet as things stand. Then there is the case of Zharnel Hughes who has been rather MIA this year with just a best of 20.62 but he hasn’t run much so whilst many have been talking of the possible Mitchell-Blake, Hughes, Gemili battle there could be a few interesting scenarios that make things difficult for the selectors.
The men’s 400 this year has been a bit under par so far with only Matthew Hudson-Smith achieving the Olympic qualifying time this year although Rabah Yousif, Martyn Rooney and Jarryd Dunn have multiple standards achieved post May 1st of last year and top two should be enough for any of the previously mentioned to get automatic selection for Rio.
MEN’S MIDDLE DISTANCE
With Kyle Langford having not race this year, only Michael Rimmer has the Olympic qualifying time for the 800 metres which he ran last year and recently ran just outside, giving him a good chance of making another Olympic team but while one would hope for a few more to dip under that 1.46.00 standard before the trials, anyone who can in Birmingham will give themselves a fighting chance of being selected. The scene is a bit more positive in the 1500 metres with Chris O’Hare and Charlie Grice in encouraging form in both the 1500 and the mile this year both winning races in America makes them the favourites for the trials with Lee Emmanuel and Jake Wightman not too far away and it will be interesting to see the different strategies between those who have the standard and for those who are still chasing it.
WOMEN’S MIDDLE DISTANCE
Whilst the men are struggling for Olympic qualifiers in the men’s 800 metres, there are an abundance of potential selections for the women. Lynsey Sharp looks the most likely to qualify but the beauty of the event is that surprises can sometimes happen. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke made a big breakthrough coming 5th at the World Championships and has been steady so far this year but it was at the Championships last year that she really broke through and she may very well do it again this year. The third spot (assuming a third selection is made) is between Jenny Meadows, Adelle Tracey, Alison Leonard and Alexandra Bell who all have the standard with not much to separate them but Meadows’ proven championship credentials could give her the edge.
The 1500 seems likely to feature the two Laura’s. Laura Muir has carried on where she left off last year with a Scottish Record (and 2nd quickest for UK) for the mile in Oslo and 5th for the 1500 in Stockholm. Laura Weightman was 6th in that race in Stockholm and while she hasn’t raced too often this year, she and Muir are the two outstanding favourites to get the two automatic spots for Rio. Sarah Macdonald and Melissa Courtney both ran big PB’s in the Birmingham Diamond League just outside the Olympic qualifying and one shouldn’t discount the experience of 2011 World Silver medallist Hannah England or recent 1500 convert Alison Leonard.
MEN’S DISTANCE RUNNING
With no Mo Farah lining up it gives 2 British athletes the chance to guarantee selection for Rio. It is a shame that Farah won’t be there when the likes of Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford won’t be as well but it does significantly increase the chances of having 3 athletes line up for the 5K in Rio. Andrew Butchart has had a great year with a new Scottish record and is ranked number 1 in the UK this year, he has two standards so just needs top 2 to guarantee selection. Jonathan Davies has run the standard once this year whilst Tom Farrell has multiple standards from last year and could gain selection as well.
The 3000 metre steeplechase has Rob Mullet as the only Brit to have the Olympic qualifying time and has a second performance just outside and will likely finish in the top 2 this weekend. Perhaps the European would be a better chance to get that second qualifier to guarantee selection. Zak Seddon has just run outside the standard which for some reason is the same for both the Olympics and the Europeans which seems a tad counter-productive in my humble opinion.
WOMEN’S DISTANCE RUNNING
It has been a good for female (and Scottish) distance running. Going into the trials it would seem it will be two from three with Elish McColgan, Steph Twell and Laura Whittle all having the necessary multiple standards with Twell going under 15 minutes at the Rome Diamond League. This will likely be Jo Pavey’s last chance to make her 5th Olympic team and ran just outside the standard in a race in America last week having not qualified for the 10K at the trials in Highgate.
Lennie Waite’s non-selection last year’s made headline news but her recent PB of 9.35.91 should mean she is a certainty to be selected now owning the two necessary Olympic standards and very likely to make the top two at the trials with only Rosie Clarke going under 10 minutes this year.
With all the injuries he has had in recent years it has been a welcome sight to see Andy Pozzi running and running well and has multiple qualifying standards this year and is in the driving seat going into the championships. Lawrence Clarke returned to some notable form last year to qualify for the World Championships last year and has the advantage of having multiple qualifiers since May 1st last year with just being outside it so far this year. Will Sharman’s 2015 was dominated by injuries after winning double silver the previous year and is edging closer to the qualifying standard of 13.47 and has a tendency to perform well at Championships which may well give him an edge over his competitors. The wildcard could be Andy King who has run the European standard and won the u23 Championships in Bedford and is on the cusp on going under 13.50, whilst David Omoregie could potentially make a big breakthrough and has a PB of 13.50 from last year.
The 400 metre hurdles favourite is likely to be Jack Green who has made an encouraging return to form and has run the necessary two qualifying marks as he edges closer to a sub 49 second run. Rhys Williams is returning to something like his best form and his experience should not be discounted. Meanwhile Niall Flannery hasn’t quite matched his 2015 form but a top two finish should be enough for him but is yet to go under 50 seconds in 2016. Then there is 2011 World Champion Dai Greene who has barely run since 2013 with numerous injury issues but ran just outside 50 seconds in Luzern recently and will look to prove that form is temporary whilst class is permanent.
Last year this event had the best line up in its history with Porter, Ofili, Ennis-Hill, Solomon and Hatton all in the final with the Ofili sisters taking the top steps on the podium. With Hatton crashing out last week, she is a little under pressure and Serita Solomon has not raced much at all but is on the entry list so we will see what form she is in, having been a bit unfortunate not to gain selection last year but certainly the Ofili sisters will start as the two favourites.
Elidh Doyle has never started a season better winning the Doha Diamond League event to open her season and starts as the big favourite especially that Meghan Beesley is apparently not there this weekend so Doyle will not want to take too many risks but will surely be looking to improve her 54.22 PB.
With news breaking that Greg Rutherford and Dan Bramble won’t be at Birmingham, it could give someone the opportunity to get a perhaps unexpected place but with no one bar the previously mentioned Rutherford and Bramble jumping over 8 metres, their places secure (obviously Greg’s, Bramble’s less so).
Nathan Douglas and Julian Reid both jumped World qualifying standards last year at the Champs but both were not selected meaning they will likely have to get repeat their performances from last year to get on that plane to Rio. Julian Reid leads the UK rankings with 16.57 with the standard required 16.85.
In the High Jump, Robbie Grabarz and Chris Baker find themselves in the good position of being the two who possess multiple standards and know that if they finish top two they will definitely be selected.
Luke Cutts is in pole position in the pole vault (see what I did there!) having jumped the standard twice indoors with no one else achieving at least 5.70 this year. Steve Lewis and Jax Thoirs are the possible contenders to challenge Cutts but they will need to jump the standard to give them a chance of selection.
After a stellar year last year that saw Shara Proctor jump over 7 metres for the first time (and winning silver in Beijing) and Britain claiming 3 of the finalists in last year’s World Long Jump final, it hasn’t been quite as exciting this year so far. Lorraine Ugen won World Indoor bronze in Portland and is the UK leader but is not expected to be in Birmingham whilst Proctor has struggled and has yet to jump beyond 6.70 this year (that stupid only 4 get 6 jumps rule in the Diamond League not helping anybody!). Jasmin Sawyers has made a good start jumping 6.61 whilst winning the u23’s last weekend and could cause a surprise but may need the safety on a 6.70+ jump (she has one from last year at the Euro u23’s) to get selected. Katarina Johnson-Thompson won’t be competing this weekend either having guaranteed selection for the Heptathlon after Gotzis.
Commonwealth silver medallist Laura Samuel has jumped the European qualifying standard and is very close to the 14.15 standard for Rio having jumped 14.07 this year but will likely get the chance in Amsterdam to get the standard if she doesn’t get it at the weekend.
No Isobel Pooley in the high jump but you would imagine she would still be likely to be selected which could give Morgan Lake the chance to guarantee selection in the High Jump with her not gaining the Olympic Heptathlon standard going into this weekend. Still need to remember Morgan is a u20 athlete and could yet go to Poland if she choose to do so.
Holly Bradshaw returned to competition at the Birmingham Diamond League and may have been disappointed to only jump 4.35 but has since jumped 4.55 and is almost a certainty to guarantee selection. Sally Peake is just outside the 4.50 Olympic standard and will need a PB to get it but there is no better time than at the Olympic trials to do so.
The highlight should be the men’s Hammer with Nick Miller favourite to retain his title from last year and whilst his best of 76.93 is just below the 77.00 qualifying standard his qualifiers from last year and his NCAA title in America make him likely to be selected although Mark Dry and Chris Bennett will give him a good battle and are both just outside the standard this year. Unfortunately there aren’t any current qualifiers in the Javelin or the Shot Put although Scott Lincoln has made great strides this year but Brett Morse isn’t too far away in the Discus and does have the European standard so he still has time and is very likely to make the top two.
The highlight on the women’s side is Sophie Hitchon coming off her 4th place at the Worlds and new British record and will surely qualify after this weekend. The biggest improvement of the year has been Jade Lally whose early season performances which included a throw over 65 metres means that this time the selectors will be given no choice with no one really likely to challenge her to win the Championships.
Goldie Sayers will be hoping to find her pre-London 2012 form but does have an Olympic qualifier from last year and Rachel Wallander’s improvement has led to a PB of 17.53 with Olympic standard of 17.75, can she make that next big step and make her first senior team with her and Sophie McKinna both throwing over 18 metres this year only to be discounted due surface being downhill.
Also one to look out for is Tom Bosworth who already has guaranteed his place in Rio but goes in the 10km walk and could look to try to break his UK record as he did last year at these Championships.
That completes the preview and it is always worth remembering that surprises usually happen at the Champs so expect the unexpected! If you’re excited about the trials this weekend, give this post and like and remember to follow me on twitter which you can do so at the bottom of this very page.
Until next time!