On Saturday 1st June, three Brighton & Hove hurdlers – Bethany Close, Matt Hewitt and Jordan Auburn travelled to Oodegem near Brussels to compete at the International Flanders Athletics Meeting (IFAM). This event is used by many international athletes to gain qualifying times for the World and European championships, as the track is reputed to be one of the fastest in Europe. This year the hurdlers were lead by LJ Van Zyl and Richard Yates who both went under 50 sec for the 400mH.
The day was overcast, windy and cold but this did not detract from the racing. With an early start Jordan’s first race was of high caliber, with everyone in it capable of achieving the qualifying standard for European Junior Championships. The race began well with Jordan having his best start of the season and in contention at hurdle three. As he drove into hurdle four his hamstring suffered a tear and although he completed the race his leg reacted by completely cramping and he was stretchered from the track after which he received extensive treatment.
Second up was Matt Hewitt who had a lengthy wait, as his race was part of the main evening program. He had the added pressure of watching the previous four races with their mix of some excellent performances and a few disasters. Matt started very well but one minor stutter in the back straight put him a few meters back and this was followed by a disappointing last hurdle, so Matt’s time was not what he had hoped for.
Lastly, in the center of the main program Beth started very well but clipped three hurdles, which took away her lead. Coming up too quickly on hurdle nine, she smacked it with her lead leg, which meant she had lost too much ground to come back into contention over the last few yards, eventually finishing mid field.
As a coach I see competing at meetings like this, which push athletes, as a key part of their development. It gives them confidence that they can compete with athletes that they do not normally meet and in dealing with completely different competitive environments. It also demonstrates to them what they need to do to compete at this top level. I would encourage any athlete looking to progress to the top level to find a similar appropriate meeting in Europe, if they have not already done so.
Building on the success of this over the last two years we will be going again next year to this or a similar event.’