By Rob Cole
Steve Jones finally lost his British marathon record to Mo Farah this year after 34 years in April and now Iwan Thomas expects his 400 metre mark to fall this week after a 21-year reign.
Matthew Hudson-Smith is hunting down Thomas’ 1997 mark of 44.36 sec as he chases European gold in Berlin this week and the Welsh star expects him to leave Germany with not only the gold medal, but also his British record and his European championship best of 44.52 sec he set in winning the title in Budapest in 1998.
The 23-year-old Hudson-Smith arrived in Berlin as the fastest European in the event this year (44.63 sec) and underlined his title credentials by winning his semi-final heat in 44.76 sec on Wedesday to go into Friday night’s final as the fastest qualifier.
“Every time I watch a British 400 metre runner race I want them to run fast, but on a selfish note I like the fact I am still the fastest Briton after 21 years,” admitted Thomas.
“But Matt Hudson-Smith is going to get it this year. I think he’s going to win the European title and in doing so he will get close to my record.
“He’s the most talented of the British 400 runners at the moment. I’d like to see more of them run under 45 seconds because when I was doing it we had four or five doing it every race.
“Matt is the talent out there at the moment and hopefully the youngsters will come through by being inspired by him.”
Hudson-Smith struck gold in the British 4 x 400 relay team four years ago and also took silver in the individual event. Now it looks as though the individual gold is his for the taking.
Peaking for a championship event often brings out the best in an athlete, but Thomas’ best came in the UK Championships at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham. The conditions weren’t ideal, but he was still able to clip 1/100th of a second off Roger Black’s record.
“I don’t think it was a perfect race – it wasn’t the best conditions and it wasn’t an Olympic final. What made the difference was the domestic rivalry in the event.
“We had myself, Jamie Baulch, Roger Black and Mark Richardson, all of us running mid 44 seconds. To be the best in Briton you had to be on your game in every single race.
“I was just lucky to be around in the same generation as some other great 400 metre runners. To be the best in Britain you had to be in the top five in the world and that’s what helped me.
“Taking the record off Roger was very special. He had only had it for a year and I’ve had it for 21 years.”