Gothenburg leaves questions over future of middle distance running

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As France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi stormed to victory at the beginning of the month in the 1500m final at the European indoor championships there was still a sense of unignorable bitterness from armchairs across the UK as many pondered why UK selectors denied our fastest milers the chance to compete at the championships.

However the most disappointed must have been the athletes themselves as Chris Warburton, 29 and Charlie Grice, 19 both watched their hard work and commitment through a tough winter schedule go unnoticed despite them both running the qualifying time. Indeed amidst the controversy it was forgotten that Warburton ran the time twice but the honour of slipping on the Great Britain vest was still overlooked.

But where does this leave the future of male middle distance running? With an arguably unsuccessful summer which saw Andrew Osagie as the only British finalist in the 800m and no 1500m finalists, surely it would be time to delve deeper and dig out some of our rich young talent. This statement may not favour Warburton but with Charlie Grice turning 19 in November last year and having already ran 3.58 for the mile this would have surely been the perfect stage to drive him on to future success and maybe even a future medal contender at the major championships.

It has been commonly known that the European indoor championships act as a proving ground to encourage youth talent as well as giving other athletes the chance to race before the outdoor season.

This year was no exception as finalists included Robert Lewandowski who is primarily an 800m runner and the winner Mekhissi who competed in London over the 3000m steeplechase using these championships to sharpen up as he prepares for the world outdoor championships in Moscow later this year.

With strict selection criteria’s here in the Britain then is it any wonder middle distance fans are left cursing when our athletes are dumped out of the heats of Olympic and world championships missing the vital experience of racing in different situations and surroundings that builds a finalist, medallist or Olympic champion.

This also must not be encouraging for aspiring athletes who see senior athletes at their club such as Chris Warburton left disappointed rather than rewarded for their efforts over the years and makes them doubt their own dreams of one day emulating their heroes of which they are able to train with in a very close knit sport.

With such a successful Olympics surely the coming years are a time to celebrate the athletes Britain has to offer, but instead it seems that they are holding back even more with delusions that this will make the British team even stronger.

Without taking risks Britain must expect to see the same dismal middle distance showings and it may be some time before we produce the likes of Cram and Coe with such a narrow minded selection system.