28 Jul Commonwealth Games 1500m Quick Fire Questions // Lee Emanuel, Chris O’Hare & Chris Gowell
The Commonwealth Games athletics schedule got off to an absorbing start yesterday, with the marathon events, women’s para-sport long jump and men’s 5,000m deciding the first athletics medals of the Games.
This Friday night, the traditional blue riband event of any athletics championship get underway as the men’s 1500m heats kick off at Hampden Park.
Most eyes and support inside the stadium will be focused on Scottish trio Chris O’Hare, Jake Wightman and David Bishop as they look to make the final on what will also be the last day of athletics competition on August 2nd.
England’s Lee Emanuel will be aiming to make his first major championship final and continue the momentum that has seen him return to PB-setting form indoors and out over the last eighteen months. The Yorkshireman will be joined by Charlie Grice and Richard Peters in the England team.
James Thie became the first Welsh athlete since Christian Stephenson in 1998 to make the men’s 1500m final in Delhi last time out and Swansea man Chris Gowell will be hoping to make it a much shorter wait in Glasgow on Friday as he competes in his second-successive Commonwealth Games.
The US-based trio of Emanuel, Gowell and O’Hare discuss their seasons so far, the pressure and prestige of the Commonwealth Games and their hopes and ambitions for next weekend in a Quick Fire Questions-style catch-up below.
You’ve picked up some good momentum over the last eighteen months – a PB last year and then British indoors 1500m title followed by World Indoor Champs this past winter – is everything still heading in the right direction?
Last season was a big season for me and I was so happy to get myself back into some decent form and run a PB for the first time since 2009. & indoors was a success – running a mile and 3k PB and then winning my first British Champs against a good field was a huge boost. World Indoors was a major disappointment to me though as I expected to make the final.
The outdoor season has not taken off quite as I’d have hoped yet but I’m hoping it will soon… The last couple of months have been a bit scrappy but I am ready to run fast. I had a disappointing race in Heusden last weekend but I’m looking to bounce back in Glasgow.
Are you training well and feeling in good shape for Glasgow?
Training has been very pleasing over the last few weeks. The second half of May was a bit of a struggle due to some health problems but each week my fitness has improved and I did some workouts in early July that suggested I’m ready for a PB and to race well.
You’ve raced sparingly outdoors this season… was that part of the plan, to keep the powder dry?
Yes, it’s been a weird season. The early naming of the team meant I needed to show some form early on in the season and so I raced a bit earlier than normal, through the second half of April and first half of May in the States.
I had planned to then have a 4 or 5 week break and come back home from my training base in New Mexico to race the British Trials. I had some issues with allergies in New Mexico and then in California where I raced, which led to me coughing so badly I got lung inflammation. This meant I was unable to train for a spell so me and my coach took the tough decision to miss the trials and therefore forgo any opportunity there may have been to compete at the European Championships.
What’s the plan, training and travelling-wise, between now and your 1500m heat on August 1st?
I decided not to travel up with the team, who left 22nd of July as my race is so late in the Games. I’m training in my home town of Hastings for this week and think I will travel up on Tuesday the 29th as this will give me a few days to soak up the atmosphere but I’ll be able to focus on my race.
In Delhi four years ago it was the opposite – I raced on the first day and spent the next week eating curry and donuts so I’m planning on staying away from the buffet this year for as long as possible!
Chris O’Hare and Jake Wightman ran personal bests on the Hampden Park track and went to number one and two respectively in the UK a couple of weeks ago – do you think the ‘home games’ factor will prove decisive? With not going to the Euros, how much would being top-Brit matter to you?
Of course I want to be top Brit, I want to try and beat everyone no matter where they are from. I think it is an exciting time for British middle distance running with Chris, Jake and Charlie getting down to 3.35 and all at such a young age too. I’m hoping I will run 3.34-35 this season so I can join them in that bracket.
The home factor could go either way – obviously it puts extra pressure on but the energy and excitement it generates could be a huge boost. It is weird being from England as it kind of feels like a home Games with it being in the UK. But I don’t expect the Scottish crowd to give the English runners much support, especially as it is more than likely we will have Scots in our heats and finals!
After narrowly missing out on the World Champs last year, how excited are you for the occasion and opportunity of the Commonwealth Games?
Very excited! Last season my fitness was very good but I was very poor at racing so got blown away by O’Hare at the trials and the Worlds dream went out the window. Making teams means so much to me as it took me a long time to make my first one!
At the beginning of the season I had aspirations of making three teams: the World Indoors, Commonwealths and European (so two out of three isn’t bad).
After my experiences at the World Indoors, I am by no means happy having just qualified. I want to go to Glasgow and do myself and the vest justice.
&, ultimately, what are you hoping to do?
Firstly, make the final. The fields should be pretty decent this year and making the final is by no means a given. After that I will just do everything I can in the final to finish as high as possible.
Congratulations on making your second-successive Commonwealth Games – apart from taking on a different event, how do your thoughts and confidence differ from Delhi?
Thanks! I am a lot more prepared this time compared to Delhi. This year training has been focused to peak in August whereas for Delhi I was in the NCAA system and found it tough to last the whole season.
You ran the 800 (& 400 relay) in Delhi and are taking to the 1500m this time – was the step-up always part of the plan for Glasgow?
Actually, I was training for the 1500 the year of Delhi. I increased my mileage but never really had the chance to go for a fast 1500 that year due to NCAA and qualifying for the 800. Certainly, I knew that after Delhi I would become a 1500 runner. The relay was fun but I was by no means prepared!
You have stayed on in the States to work and train post-college – do you think it is better to train and race out there than in the UK? What are the main differences?
For me, it is better, but it isn’t for everyone. The UK system yields great athletes. However, I found myself straddling the edge of elite and mediocre, thus, I decided to go to the US to work on both running and further my education. At least then, I thought, I can work on two things that might better serve my future and also experience a different culture.
In US College, I wanted for nothing and had opportunities to race fast on multiple occasions. Frankly, I wasn’t and still aren’t fast enough to receive that level of support in the UK, although the Welsh Athletics/Sports Wales have continued to support me, which has helped with my build up to the CWG. I’ve been really impressed with the Sport Wales staff out here in the holding camp.
Moving to post-college, I’m able to work full time and focus on my non-athletic career, as well as train and receive sponsorship from Adidas through a local non-profit Rogue Athletic club. This is ideal as I transition into other life ventures. I’m fortunate to still do both.
How have you found the transition to 3 and ¾ laps over the last few years? You’ve had a year-on-year improvement, dropped three Welsh B standards this year and ran a PB in May – can you PB again in Glasgow?
It has taken a long time to adapt, mostly due to my own errors. I tend to read some theory and exhaust it to within an inch of its life: High mileage; less mileage; speed; strength; weights; ice baths, etc. Through many trial and errors I feel I’ve finally got the right balance of training. In short, I run less, think about it less and enjoy life more.
For the first time in my life I can finally say I’m totally prepared for an event. So what you see in the Games is all I’ll have, barring accidents.
You will be the sole Welsh competitor in 1500m but are you encouraged that with 33 athletes it is the largest ever Team Wales athletics squad?
It is the largest squad with the highest qualification standards in history. It’s also great to see a mix of veterans and youngsters coming through. The team is totally different to what it was in Delhi, the future is bright. Compared to Delhi, there is a greater sense of pressure and excitement and this gives me huge encouragement.
Finally, what’s the aim in Glasgow?
The plan is to make the final. If I can do that, I’d be over the moon. From there, then it’s all down to belief.
Firstly, how is your hamstring holding up? Your hamstring troubled you last year and you mentioned it after the Glasgow Grand Prix – has training gone OK over the last couple of weeks?
Hamstring is good now. It was a bit worrying when I had to pull out of the Oslo Dream Mile. Having to pull out of a race is never fun and in such a big year for Scottish athletes, I could see my whole season going down the drain. However, after a lot of intense physio sessions, we got it back to fighting strength.
You finished last year ranked second in the UK, made the World Champs final and ran a PB again this year to top the rankings ahead of Glasgow – as a ‘leading light’ for Scotland, how happy have you been with preparations over the past year?
Preparations for Glasgow have been good and bad. My winter was the best winter I have ever had so strength-wise I am very happy with where I am at. Obviously with my hamstring issue, the summer has been a bit fragmented but my coach Terrence Mahon has been very good at making sure my training program is perfect to recover from my injury as well as still progressing through the energy systems.
Do you feel any extra pressure with it being a home games? Were you surprised by Jake’s run in the Diamond League and does his performance add any extra rivalry?
There is definitely an extra bit of pressure associated with a home Games, however, I am very much enjoying it. The extra support is great and I am just taking the extra pressure as it comes and dealing with it just fine.
Jake is a superb talent and I am delighted that he is running so well. Hopefully we can both make it to the final along with David Bishop so we can share in the Hampden Roar together.
What’s the plan between now and August 1st?
The plan between now and August 1st is to just go through the motions and do what I always do pre-race. It is easy to get caught up in Games village life and not do what you normally do. That’s not too smart.
How has the transition from NCAA athlete to pro gone?
Transition into pro life from NCAA has been tough in the sense that every race you go in to is world class, which is obviously difficult to deal with. Then it is much easier because I don’t have the stresses of classes and exams. Lots more sleep and watching TV.
&, ultimately, what are you aiming to do in Glasgow?
What I want to achieve in Glasgow is a tricky question. Every athlete wants to go in to win but I know that is unlikely and would be a huge ask. However I have to convince myself that it is possible because the day I go into a race not wanting to win is the day that I need to hang up the spikes and get a real job.