Ones to Watch 2018: Recap

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Naomi Ogbeta after winning the 2017 British triple jump title. Photo: Naomi Ogbeta.

At the start of the year, we decided to pick out a set of young athletes who we believed showed a glimpse of the future for the sport in Britain.

This mix of runners, jumpers and multi-eventers soared to new heights, broke records, won medals and caught many eyes in the process.

Niamh Emerson – Heptathlon

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  • 13th April Commonwealth Games bronze
  • 7th May BUCS 4x400m relay gold for Loughborough
  • 13th July IAAF World Under 20 Championships gold and 6,253 heptathlon personal best

Niamh Emerson started 2018 by telling us: “There’s literally no expectation for me (at the Commonwealth Games) because it’s something I’ve never done before, so I can just go for the experience, which is what I’m really excited about.”

She has finished the year having made two big global statements with the medals she’s won, gaining huge amounts of experience along the way. Yet she has remained as humble as ever as she joins the list of talented British heptathletes that have brought such joy to our screens in recent years.

Jemma Reekie – 1500m

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  • 2nd July British Championships silver
  • 14th July World Cup bronze in a 4:09.05 personal best
  • 10th August Competed at the European Championships

Before this all happened, Jemma said to us: “I think part of (having high ambitions this year) is about me being more confident in (coach) Andy telling me if what I’m doing is right or if he thinks I can do something…for the European Outdoors now I’ve got my headset on it, I really want to go.”

By the end of the year, Jemma had an amazing set of experiences to reflect on and motivate her for 2019.

Naomi Ogbeta – Triple Jump

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  • 6th May BUCS gold
  • 17th June England Under 23 Championships gold
  • 30th June British Championships gold and broke with a national under 23 record of 13.95m
  • 29th July England Athletics Championships gold with a windy 14.15m jump
  • 8th August Competed at the European Championships and broke the national under 23 record again with a legal 14.15m to go third on the UK all-time list.

In Naomi’s own words back in February 2018: “I think I’ve always been seen as a quiet person at events, which I’m not. I’m really loud! But since then I’ve tried to change my mindset and be as confident as I am in other areas of my life. I do improvisation at university so I’ve tried to think what’s made me confident in that and how can I bring that to my athletics. It’s really helped me believe in myself a bit more!”

Max Burgin – 800m

European under-18 champion Max Burgin returns to Manchester where he set a world age best in May. Photo: Dave Hewitson/Sportsforallpics.
  • 12th May Runs World Under 18 lead and world age-best for a 16-year-old with 1.47.50
  • 8th July Wins European Under 18 Championships in another World Under 18 lead and world age- best time of 1.47.36
  • 26th August Wins the England Under 17 Championships in a steady 1.49.21 championship record
  • 31st August Finishes the season with another comfortable win in the UK School Games

Speaking about their training base in Halifax, Max’s dad Ian told us: “It’s a nice, simple set-up we’ve got down here…at the moment it appears to be working more than we could possibly have expected, 1.49 minutes for a 15-year-old (last year) is just unbelievable! It’s always different every year, so we’ll just see how it goes, but I definitely think Max has got a few seconds in the 800.”

Isabelle Boffey – 800m

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  • 25th February England Under 20 indoor gold
  • 20th May 2.04.00 new personal best
  • 17th June England Under 20 outdoor silver
  • 11th July Competed at the World Under 20 Championships
  • 15th August Represented Great Britain Under 20s at the Manchester International

Isabelle had another promising year, making a global championships and lowering her personal best to 2:04 for 800m. She also won her fourth national age group indoor title in a row. At the start of 2018, she told us: “I know that on the day I’m going to bring out a big performance. I’m confident in my ability to go out there and do well if I’ve prepared properly and do everything that I need to do. I’m not the type of person to get paranoid or worried.”

Tom Gale – High Jump

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  • 9th April Makes his senior international debut at the Commonwealth Games
  • 16th June England Under 23 Championships gold

Tom Gale gained great experience from his selection for the Commonwealth Games in Australia, proving that success at age group level can provide golden opportunities for gifted young athletes. He may not have hit the breathtaking heights of 2017, but still managed a competitive season with a 2.23m best.

Tom is another who seems to have a wise head and knows his battle with the high jump bar:  “I’ve had a few conversations with my coach talking about what would have been if (the bar) hadn’t stayed on. Would I have been selected for the World Juniors? Would I have been as confident for the (2017) European Juniors and would I have then been able to medal? So it’s very much a case of one very lucky jump that made a huge difference.”