-by Ian Kennedy
Piers Copeland’s form this season has won him invitations to compete in some of the biggest athletics meetings in the country. Though still an under-23, he’s found himself lining up against top class senior international athletes.
Even though we knew that the meeting would be broadcast live on BBC1, as soon as we heard that Piers had been invited to compete in the Diamond League meeting in Birmingham we hatched a plan to go and support him. Four weeks earlier he’d taken part in the Diamond League/Anniversary Games at the London Olympic Stadium where he’d run a sub-4 minute mile. On that occasion there had been a fixture clash and we had only a snatched opportunity of watching his race in the club house at Exeter while supporting other Wimborne athletes in the South West Championships. This time we wanted to do it properly.
Every seat was taken on the minibus we travelled up in. On the journey, Woody Van der Feltz was sat in the seat in front of me. I caught him on his phone scrolling through Piers’ stats on the Powerof10 website. Here was someone who was definitely drinking up some inspiration.
We made our way to the packed stand on the back straight, our seats almost in line with the 1500m start. There were many highlights on the day, we saw some huge throws in javelin and discus. The women’s pole vault was top quality entertainment too, although the athletes were competing in challenging conditions, it was windy and the bar was blown off a few times … the pole vault was won ultimately by Katerina Stefanidi. The men’s 100m with a tail wind was thrilling. Yohan Blake won by the narrowest of margins from Adam Gemili. The competition in the women’s long jump was fierce. It was won by Nafissatou Thaim with a jump of 6.86m, a Belgian national record, Katerina Johnson-Thompson was third with 6.85. A few of the Wimborne athletes saw KJT after the meeting and had pictures taken with her. In the high jump Aussie Brandon Starc jumped a massive 2.30m in trying conditions. In the women’s mile there was a really strong run, and PB, for Eilish McColgan who finished third. There was a cracking men’s 800m which featured many familiar names and this delivered a thrilling finish … won by Ireland’s Mark English. There was a strong performance in the women’s 800 for Team GB’s Lynsey Sharp who came second.
Of course, the main reason so many of us had travelled up for this meeting was to watch the men’s 1500m. As Piers walked out onto the track, although we were up in ‘The Gods’ we made enough noise for him to hear us and he gave an acknowledging wave. One of the last jobs completed before leaving Wimborne was Abbie Lovering’s fabulous ‘Go Piers!’ banner, which we now raised aloft. With 19 athletes on the start line, three Brits and 16 from across the globe, the race was a feisty affair held in blustery conditions. The three Team GB athletes – a Scot, an Englishman and a Welshman – finished 10th, 11th and 12th with Piers in the middle of the Team GB sandwich. Piers was just over a second and a half from Chris O’Hare, the closest he’s got to him yet, and he was just ahead of Jake Heyward who he sometimes trains with in Cardiff. The race was won by Ugandan Ronald Musagala. Due to the wind, of the 17 finishers, only one athlete managed a PB. It had been incredibly noisy in the stands all afternoon, but us WACers most certainly upped our game for the duration of the 1500m!
The final event of the meeting was the women’s 200m, this race was blessed with a stellar line-up that included home favourite Dina Asher-Smith along with the likes of Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Dafne Schippers. The only quiet period in the stands during the day had been those moments of hush as the track athletes await the gun. The spell was broken as my ringtone went off, ‘Shake Some Action’. Usually this is a sound I’m happy to share with anyone, but now was not the time! Action was soon being shaken down on the track, with a win for Miller-Uibo with Dina Asher-Smith second. We’d witnessed a fabulous day of athletics.
Turning my attention to the phone, the call had been from Piers’ coach Bob Smith and we made arrangements to meet up with Team Copeland. It took an eternity to get to the other side of the stadium, but when we got there we were greeted with big smiles all round. Quite rightly Lisa and Mark were glowing with parental pride. Grace has had a summer season to remember too, even if it was cut short by injury. No doubt her recent excellent A Level results have raised her spirits even though I know she’s frustrated that she’s unable to run at the moment. In a few weeks’ time she is heading off to the university, Cardiff Met, which is serving Piers so well.
I returned from Birmingham with a trophy of my own, Piers’ running number! There was a fantastic buzz on the bus and in the stadium all day. It’s enormously satisfying to see an athlete who started out at Wimborne AC as a 9 year-old, and who remains first-claim Wimborne, competing at this level.
A day to remember.