By Owen Morgan
Swansea Harrier Jonny Hopkins is one of a number of Welsh athletes eyeing Great Britain senior vests this season after successful performances at the Welsh Indoor Athletics Championships on Saturday.
With places at the Tokyo Olympics and European Athletics Championships up for grabs this summer, Hopkins is hoping to replicate the kind of form which saw him finish sixth in the 3,000m steeplechase at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
On Saturday, he led from start to finish to claim the Welsh indoor 1500m title in a time of 3:52.17, ahead of Newport’s Remi Adebiyi, who claimed silver in 3:54.46 and young Cardiff athlete Ben Reynolds who won bronze in 3:55.12.
Hopkins said afterwards: “It was a good tester today. I’m not a 1500m runner, I’ve always wanted to be one, but I’m not quite fast enough!
“I was so disappointed to miss the 3,000 last weekend. I’m in great shape and I think I could have taken the title there as well, but I had a sinus infection so I sat that one out, took a few rest days and now it’s all worth it after feeling really good today.”
Hopkins is hoping his current form could lead to earning him a steeplechase place at this summer’s European Championships in Paris, and possibly the Tokyo Olympics.
The 27-year-old said: “I always aim for the top, there’s always the Europeans as well as the Olympics. I ran 8.30 two years ago and only slightly faster than that may be good enough to go.
” I know I can compete with these guys in the steeplechase, so we’re working on my weaknesses, like my speed and I feel like my strength has got better on the road.
” Myself, my coach Chris (Jones) and my team, I’ve got a really good physio, Adam Rattenberry, we’ve really sat down and looked at things I’m not so good at and things that I am really good at.
“I think that people try to improve those things where they are not so good a bit too much. We’ve really worked on my strengths while working on my weaknesses as well. It’s just a kind of more mature approach.
“I went back to my build up to the Commonwealth Games and saw how I got in that shape and we’ve replicated that this year. It’s a little bit later because we don’t have to peak in April but we are further ahead than where we thought we’d be already. It’s really exciting. I can’t wait.”
Another Welsh champion with Great Britain team ambitions is Sara Abrams, who won the women’s long jump with a new PB and championship best leap of 6.42m, ahead of Commonwealth Games competitor Rebecca Chapman and her Cardiff clubmate Sara Geary.
The Blackheath and Bromley athlete said: “I’m really pleased with the beginning of the season. Training is going well, so it’s just seeing where we are at.
“Outdoors? I don’t know, I don’t want to say anything that puts me under pressure. I think I’m maybe thinking about the Europeans at the end of the year , but there’s lots of training still to go, lots of competitions and lots of things to fix. But I’m really excited for the rest of the season.
Asked about the possibility of an Olympic place, Abrams said: “Don’t mention that just yet, I’ve got a little bit more work to do!”
Shot putter Adele Nicoll was another athlete with international ambitions to impress in the field events on Saturday with a comprehensive victory.
The Birchfield Harrier produced a consistent series of throws, the best of which was 15.96m – more than three-and-a-half metres further than silver medallist Lucy Griffiths, of Cardiff Athletics.
Nicoll said of her performance: “Slightly frustrating, I know there’s a lot more in there but it was a really consistent series, three throws over 15.90m in the same comp is not bad.
“Winter has been going well, I’m really strong at the moment, I’m in a good place, enjoying everything and waiting for it all to come together.
“In February I’ve got the British University Championships and the British Senior Championships in Glasgow, so that will be finishing off my indoor season and then I’ll think about outdoors.
“There are quite a few things going on outdoors. The European Championships are this year and it would be great if I could push towards making that team. That would be my first senior British vest, so if I could do that, it would be great.”