Why British athletics’ future is looking bright

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As the dust settles on the 2022 Oregon World Athletics Championships, the British team can be proud.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland leave North America with 7 medals, including gold, silver and five bronze, placing 11th overall in the medal table.

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The team added a medal to their performance in Doha in 2019, but a few months ago the possibility of seven medals sounded far-fetched.

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After Laura Muir won a silver medal at the 2021 Olympics, Laura Muir’s dreams of doing the same in Oregon seemed to have been dashed by her injury worries. The Scot has struggled to regain full fitness and revealed that she was unable to walk for eight weeks in preparation for the Games due to a leg injury.

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The 29-year-old fought through her struggles to compete in a thrilling 1500m and win a superb bronze medal.

One of the team’s stars is Dina Asher-Smith, who won gold in the 200m three years ago. After an agonizing injury retirement at the Olympics a year earlier, Asher-Smith looked unlikely to find her form for July.

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The 26-year-old would have liked a few uncomplicated months of training before the championship to find her best. Her preparation was then tragically hampered by the loss of her grandmother in May.

Showing her courage and strength, Asher-Smith finished 3rd in the 200m in a star-studded lineup that included Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson-Herah, once again proving her quality against their doubters.

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The championship moment for Team GB and one of the shocks of the ten days was the 1500m gold medal for Jake Wightman. Wightman and compatriot Josh Kerr were both in contention for a medal, but few could have predicted the end result.

The supremely talented Jakob Ingebrigtsen controlled the race from the front but with 250m to go the Scot made his move and held off the Norwegian to take gold. It was Britain’s first gold at the event since Steve Cram in 1983.

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Wightman’s disappointment at finishing 10th at last year’s Olympics was quickly washed away with his stunning 3:29.23 win.

The moment was made even more special when Wightman’s father and coach Geoff Wightman provided the stadium commentary – befitting the tireless work the pair have put in over the years.

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One runner who finally realized his potential was Matthew Hudson-Smith. The 27-year-old made his appearance in 2014, winning the European 400m silver medal. It seemed like the sky was the limit for the young man.

Since then, Hudson-Smith has opened up about the personal issues he’s been struggling with due to his multiple injury woes. The British 400m record holder revealed he had attempted suicide, but the Birmingham-born runner overcame those difficulties forcefully.

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The Briton took third place in the 400m, a medal he didn’t seem capable of just a few years earlier. Its potential has finally been realised.

The 800m was identified as an area where Britain could pick up some medals. In the women’s, Keely Hodkinson was 0.08 seconds from a gold medal. The 20-year-old picked up another silver medal, continuing her growing rivalry with Athing Mu.

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For the men, hopes were pinned on young Max Burgin, who arrived in Oregon with the world record time. Devastatingly, Burgin had to abandon the 800m with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Six months ago it looked like it was going to be a real struggle to match or even better the 2019 medal tally. The team has achieved this and can look forward to the 2023 event in Budapest.

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Were it not for Wightman’s sensational run, the team would have left the United States without a gold medal. However, the blossoming potential of Keely Hodgkinson and Max Burgin will give the UKA confidence for next year.

UKA will be dreaming of another historic moment like they witnessed in the 1500m in Hungary – proving why they must continue to support Team GB and help produce superstars.

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