England’s Phillips Idowu, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis all won Gold at this summer’s European Championships in Barcelona before confirming that, for a variety of reasons, they would not be attending the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Whilst the withdrawals no doubt came as a blow to organisers, Iwan Thomas saw the positive.
“If you’re a youngster who wants to make a name for himself you may see this as an opportunity to go and get a medal,” said the former Commonwealth 400m Gold Medallist.
Ennis’ event, the heptathlon, is a prime example of this. In her absence, compatriots and relative unknowns Louise Hazel and Grace Clements took centre stage, winning gold and bronze respectively. Whilst they are 25 and 26 years of age, there is still plenty of time for them to improve and go on to make an impact on the world stage.
Ennis herself is also a good example of the potential benefits of the Commonwealth Games. Four years ago, she was a young athlete with considerable promise but little experience on a major stage. She won a bronze medal at the games in Melbourne and hasn’t looked back since. This time around Ennis’ absence opened the door for Hazel and Clements. Everyone associated with British athletics will be hoping they can follow a similar path and compete for medals at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Former Olympic 200m silver medallist, Darren Campbell recently commented that:
“What takes you up to the next level is the mentality you have when you go and perform at major championships.”
If this is the case, Hazel, Clements and others like them should have gained valuable experience in dealing with the pressure of a major championship and the unique atmosphere of a multi-sport event. Crucially, they have also had a taste of success and reaped the benefits of “standing on the rostrum,” as Campbell put it.