South of England 400m champion Ollie Smith joined Britain’s elite athletes in pursuit of Olympic qualification at the British Championships in Birmingham.
The Chichester Runners ace was aiming to improve on his overall ranking of 36th from the previous year and challenge his personal best time of 47.78s.
The 400m requires athletes to compete over three rounds on three consecutive days. In his preliminary heat on the first day, Smith was drawn alongside GB Olympian Nigel Levine.
In cold and blustery conditions Smith attacked the race from the start and finished strongly to qualify for the semi-finals in 47.89s.
Following a 24-hour recovery Smith lined up next to two Olympians in front of 7,000 spectators live on BBC TV.
Smith, proudly wearing his Chichester Runners vest, got a flying start. Indeed, the excellent start by Smith, combined with a poor start by Olympian Conrad Williams, resulted in Smith passing his illustrious competitor within 20m.
If anything, this distracted Smith from his race strategy. As a consequence of not running hard enough over the first 300m Smith had to play catch-up down the final 100m home straight.
Smith gave it his best effort in blustery conditions finishing in 48.26s, just outside qualification for the final. On reflection this was a very positive experience for Smith, finishing 16th in the overall Championship rankings.
Meanwhile, last Sunday, Smith represented Sussex over 400m in the inter-counties match at Basingstoke.
In the windiest weather of the summer so far, Smith faced the combined challenge of tough conditions and quality opposition.
Following an electrifying start over the first 200m, Smith found himself in the lead around the top bend. Running into a severe headwind down the final 100m, Smith’s lead was challenged by the strength of GB and Surrey athlete Jacob Paul.
In a dip for the line Smith triumphed in a time of 47.95s over Paul’s 47.98s. The thrilling race brought a gasp from spectators as both athletes crossed the line.
Smith is now going back into training to prepare for the English championships in Bedford at the end of July.
Smith said: “Running at the British Championships in front of 7,000 people was incredible. I learnt valuable lessons relating to my race strategy and was really pleased with improving my championship ranking from 36th to 16th. It clearly shows I’m moving in the right direction.”
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