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British Champs 2020

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  • #76
    RunUnlimited that's a very interesting and comprehensive summary of male 400m hurdlers in the UK currently – thank you.

    Chalmers is indeed a real talent, and is backing it up with some very good performances indeed. Becoming the UK Champion certainly topped it off – he was a clear winner and took the penultimate flight of hurdles particularly well. He has adapted well since his coach James Hillier left for India, and in Matt Elias (his current coach) he's got someone who has a very good understanding of the event. Everyone will be keeping an eye on him with his UK title and No.1 ranking (thus far) in 2020.

    As for McAlister, I hope you don't mind my pointing out that he is in fact a civil servant as opposed to a lawyer (he studied Economics and Politics at Birmingham). But he has progressed steadily year on year, and his recent successes have dwarfed those of his training partner, Jacob Paul, who had always been the superior athlete at junior through to U23 level. McAlister has long accepted that his hurdle technique is not as good as it could be, and you can see in his performance at the UK Championships that he stutters into hurdle 5 (indeed, he did the exact same at the UK Championships in 2019 as well). But his strength as a 400m flat runner and ability to pace a 400m H race pretty evenly has made for some very good times indeed (though more so in 2019). He also works full-time, which is impressive for an athlete of his level.

    As for Knibbs, I strongly suspect he will go sub-50 next season, as he has the 400m strength for sure. He has developed a habit in previous years of stuttering into the first hurdle a little though, and his hurdling generally on both right and left leg lead could do with some improvement (Chalmers, for example is a superior hurdler technically). But if he changes his stride pattern next season – and he's indicated he's going to – then he will be competing head-to-head against Chalmers again in the 400m H. He has a particularly very strong finish, no better exemplified than when he won the BUCS 400m H final last season. If he can tighten up his hurdling (Lawrie is another example of an excellent hurdler), he will be a real threat.

    If I am not mistaken, has Seb Rodger not retired from the sport? He had a bad injury last year and I think that effectively made up his mind to quit.

    Jacob Paul is a more curious case, it has to be said. His 2017 was excellent, but 2018 saw him injured immediately before the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast. For much of 2019, a lot of his performances seemed below-par, but to his credit, he came through very strongly in the season's latter races to take a British title. Running his second fastest time ever in the final of the UK Championships last year was an excellent run. Again though, as in 2017, he just missed out on the World Championships. I believe he is still yet to represent England or Great Britain at a major international as a senior athlete? But you are quite correct, time is still on his side. Perhaps he has had a lot of injuries to contend with this year. He seems in the right group to push on, though, as Marina Armstrong has quite a few strong athletes in her group currently (Jessie Knight, for example).

    As for Seamus Derbyshire, he is continuing to improve year on year, which is very encouraging to see. His time at Nuneaton (50.44sec) in windy conditions was a really good run, though he couldn't quite repeat it in Manchester. He evidently has the odd disaster though, with a string of DNFs this season (either falling at a latter hurdle, or running past the first hurdle) and a couple of other falls in 2019 (though it has to be said he took his tumble at UK Championships last season in good humour!). Above all that however, he performs when it matters. At both of his major competitions as a junior (Commonwealth Youth Games and European Juniors) he has come away with both a personal best *and* silverware. Knibbs and Chalmers have both had their respective failures at major international comps, with Chalmers having been disqualified at European Juniors 2019 and Knibbs at the same competition in 2017. Derbyshire does not have such blots on his copybook. His 400m time is also improving (he set a PB of 48.54 at Nuneaton earlier in the season). Like Chalmers, he is a good hurdler technically – he spends very little time in the air, which is a real attribute given his height. It'll serve him well for sure.

    But what about Efe Okoro? It turns out he has been hurdling for longer than I had thought, but he really has had a breakthrough year in 2020, running sub-50 for the first time. His 400m flat time is also very strong. Tony Hadley is perhaps better known for coaching 400m flat runners (Matt Hudson-Smith or Derek Redmond for example) but things seem to be going very well for him and Okoro just now. His technique is a little inefficient but makes up for it with superb strength and basic speed. Doubling up with both the 400m H and the 400m at the UK Championships seemed an odd move initially, but I reckon it paid off.

    It will be very interesting indeed to see how these hurdlers develop in 2021 where, one hopes, there will be a full season of competition.