St Mary’s on track for more success as Worlds head to London
The clock is ticking and the race is on to qualify for the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.
Next summer, elite competitors from all over world will descend on the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, reviving memories of the 2012 Games.
But can the magic of that hugely successful event – and the medal haul they generated for Team GB – be recreated five years on?
With London at its multicultural and vibrant best for the Olympics and Paralympics, the achievements and record-breaking moments of 2012 still feel fresh in the mind.
As does the joyous spectacle and bouncing energy, the pride and joy that filled the Olympic Stadium – compared to the rows of empty seats and lack of atmosphere at the Rio 2016 Games.
From the athletes to the fervent crowds and army of ever-helpful ‘Games Makers’, London showed how the Olympics should be, and for the world to see.
At St Mary’s University’s Endurance Performance and Coaching Centre (EPACC) in south-west London, staff are confident that the 2017 IAAF and IPC World Athletics Championships can match will have a similar feel-good factor.
“Seeing the likes of Farah and Bolt training here just gives them so much inspiration”
“It was fantastic, I have never seen a crowd like London,” said Rowan Axe, an assistant at EPACC. “I don’t think you will ever beat what we had, the home support was just fantastic.
“London in particular, it’s so multicultural, they just get behind everyone, whether they be a British or American or whatever, the crowd is behind them.
“And for athletes, competing in front of their home crowd provides inspiration. Next summer is going to be brilliant – London always put on a great show.”
St. Mary’s has played an important role in the achievements of British athletics, with the likes of Mo Farah and Jo Pavey among its success stories in recent years.
“For distance it’s right up there,” said Axe. “I think we produced around 40% of the endurance squad selected to represent Team GB for the Rio Olympics.
“That’s a testimony to the Centre, and looking ahead to the Worlds in 2017, I think there will be a similar number of EPACC-supported athletes competing for Britain.
“Andy Vernon in 5k and 10k, you might have Adele Tracey for the 800m, the list can go on. I think the Centre is helping to produce the great endurance athletes that we need. The continued support from the London Marathon is crucial to enhancing those athletes to get to that next level.”
As well as helping to hone British talent, EPACC’s reputation for sporting excellence has also seen it play host to some of the world’s greatest athletes.
Like Farah, Jamaica’s nine-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt has occasionally trained at the EPACC in preparation for major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“It’s a huge benefit to both British athletics and endurance running if it inspires student athletes to try and get to that level. If they can see those calibre of athletes it inspires them to push themselves,” Axe said.
“A lot of these students are still very young and have a long way to go. But seeing the likes of Farah and Bolt training here just gives them so much inspiration.
“We need to get the profile of athletics out there a bit more, but hopefully it will continue to grow, and we will get more people watching it”
“It’s great that Farah is a huge ambassador for our university. A lot of these students look up to him, and it definitely gives them a lot of fuel to achieve some success.”
According to Axe, the EPACC has played a big role in the Somali-born runner’s feats, which this summer included defending his London 2012 5,000m and 10,000m titles in Rio.
“Farah used the Centre to his advantage, he progressed year on year, looking to take that extra step, and that is ultimately what to took him to the Nike project in America.
“But without the support that he had from the Centre, he might not be the athlete he is today. It definitely helped his career.”
However, even Farah’s success and with the 2017 Worlds on the horizon, Axe believes British endurance running still needs plenty of nurturing and support.
“In the UK, you go to some of our track meets around the country and there will be very little media coverage, there won’t be any big-name sponsors, it lacks a bit of that environment.
“I think they we need to get the profile of athletics out there a bit more, but hopefully it will continue to grow, and we will get more people watching it.
“It’s definitely going in the right direction, it is getting there.”
Medals for Team GB at next summer’s eagerly-awaited athletics extravaganza in Stratford can only help that process.