Since the last dying embers of the Olympic flame flickered out to mark the end of London 2012, the term ‘Olympic Legacy has been branded around more than the Mobot. Discouraging funding stories have tried their hardest to dampen the Olympic spirit which captured a nation. However, a year after the 30th Olympic Games began in the capital; crowds at the recent European Athletic Team Championships ensured that Olympic fever was still alive, kicking and definitely on show for all to see.
With Gateshead hosting the first major athletics event since the Games, new and old athletics nuts flocked to the International Stadium, which saw an experienced Great Britain and Northern Ireland side, with a helping hand from the nations rising talents, secure a third place finish. As favourites Russia and Germany battled it out for the top spot, Team GB rode on euphoric wave of home support to secure their podium finish comfortably.
Although a warm reception was on offer from the near sell-out crowd, unfortunately the same could not be said about the weather conditions. Specifically on the Sunday, causing the men’s pole vault and women’s high jump to be moved indoors. Torrential rain, gusting winds and the odd thunder and lightning storm tried it’s best to distract competitors and deter spectators, but to no avail. Umbrellas and gritted teeth filled the stands, as the crowd watched the male steeplechase athletes tremble on the starting line at the height of the storm.
As the Olympics golden girl Jessica Ennis was ruled out of the championships with an ongoing ankle injury (much to the dismay of the events advertising team with hundreds of posters of Ennis painting Gateshead streets), the crowds were denied a full set of their Super Saturday starlets. However, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford reignited the fanfare from last June, as they helped drive Great Britain’s push for third place. Although Rutherford fell short of finishing first in the long jump, Farah did not disappoint. The double Olympic gold medallist made easy work of the men’s 5,000m, performing a blistering final lap, almost matching that of 400m team captain, Perri Shakes-Drayton. As crowds flooded out of the stadium at the end of the first day, a mass media frenzy followed Farah through the mixed zone, hanging on his every word, illustrating the high demand and importance of the calibre of the athletes on show in Gateshead.
However, it was not all about the golden graduates of London 2012. Arguably, the performance of the weekend belonged to 18-year-old, Jessica Judd. As her classmates nursed their Leaver’s Ball hangovers back home, Judd produced an emphatic victory in the 800m, winning by four tenths of a second. Local lass, Laura Weightman also impressed on her ‘homecoming’ after her Olympic final debut, as she marked a return to her old training track, with a second place finish in the 3,000m scoring 11 points for GB.
With the Championships one of few sporting events which sees both male and female athletes coming together, it was only fitting the 4 x 400m relays rounded off the championships on a high. Ensuring fans left with a smile on their face and, with the talent on show, yet more hope for the future of British athletics. Turns out this Olympic Legacy stuff isn’t too hard after all.