Friday, 27 April 2012

Olympic Nerves for Baulch


Sixteen years on from his finest Olympic moment, former 400m runner Jamie Baulch is set to return to the greatest sporting show on earth in a very different capacity this summer – as an agent to some of Team GB’s brightest track hopes, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 38-year-old Welshman heads the management of World 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene and Olympic 400m final hopeful Martyn Rooney amongst others, and admits to feeling more nervous for his clients than he did for himself in his own athletic heyday.

Based in Cardiff at the Definitive Sports Management offices, Baulch turned to athlete-management in 2009 after hanging up his racing spikes seven years ago.

A silver-medallist in the 4x400m relay at the 1996 Atlanta Games, the British indoor record-holder – with a 45.39 clocking from the 1997 season – revealed:

“Going back to the Olympics will be crazy, really – I actually ran on the Olympic track the other day and I’ve also got a few tickets.

“I’ll be so nervous for my athletes but I tell them the most important thing is to embrace the moment and enjoy the opportunity.”

Also charged with guiding the commercial careers of six-time London marathon wheelchair winner David Weir and Commonwealth heptathlon champion Louise Hazel, Baulch is enjoying being able to pass on the wealth of his expertise in the sport:

"I enjoy managing my athletes – 90% of the time, it’s great and being on the different side of the fence now, I make sure that I guide and nurture my athletes well,” he explained.

“My favourite part is my ‘Jerry Maguire’ bit to the job – getting the sponsorship and commercial opportunities for the athletes and making a difference to their lives.

“I have a big personality – I had my own TV show – so this, together with my contacts and sponsorship, celebrity and elite-athlete knowledge is more than what most agents have.”


The 1999 World indoor 400m champion ended his track career with an outdoor best of 44.57, which still ranks him as seventh on an illustrious British all-time list yet Baulch is hoping one of his clients can leapfrog this performance.

Sixteen years on, Rooney is set to improve his 44.60 life-time best in the one-lap event and thus out-performing his mentor, following an impressive 44.92 clocking in California last weekend.

Speeding to his fastest time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics - where he finished a fine sixth - the 25-year-old from Croydon now faces a promising second Olympic campaign in London this August.

“Martyn’s run didn’t surprise me,” Baulch revealed, “We chatted in a coffee shop in Daegu last summer (after the World Championships) and he was really disappointed in his run to miss the final.

“I told him he could be the best and medal in London so he got his head down this winter and analysed himself – by committing to hurting himself, he was impressive.

“I saw British record potential in him years ago and if he can run under 43.3, he can get a medal in London.”

Shortly returning from a six-week warm-weather training stint in LA, Rooney will next compete at his training base in the Loughborough International three weeks from now before aiming to retain and collect a third-straight British title in Birmingham at the Olympic trials in late June.

Exciting Another client set to raise Baulch’s blood-pressure in the Olympic stadium this summer will be one-lap hurdles gold-medal favourite Greene.

The 26-year-old from Swansea took the European and Commonwealth titles in 2010 before clinching the global crown last summer and finished less than four-tenths of a second behind Rooney in the 400m flat at the British Championships and World trials back in July.

Based in Bath and with a best of 47.88 in his specialist event, Greene is closing in on Kriss Askabusi’s British record and will open his season at the Diamond League in Rome at the end of May ahead making his Olympic debut in London.

“It’s been exciting to follow Dai at his races - we’ve had some great experiences and I really enjoyed seeing him win in Daegu,” explained Baulch.

“I was more nervous for him than I used to be for myself and I’m very confident Dai can win the Olympic gold - he’s the most consistent athlete I’ve ever met.”

Despite his forthcoming nuptials set for late August, Baulch additionally hopes to be in London to cheer on Weir – this time in the Paralympic event:

“David’s a legend – such a humble, great ambassador for the Paralympics and Team GB,” he said.

“I will try to be there for him – he’s in the best shape of his life and is having to slow himself down in training so I think he’ll be a hero after the Games.”


Despite being named two years ago as the true 1997 World 4x400m relay champion alongside team-mates Iwan Thomas, Roger Black and Mark Richardson, due to a positive drug finding amongst the original victorious USA team, Baulch has mainly happy memories of his own athletic career.

Now a father to two boys, he collected in his time, two European 4x400m relay titles and placed fifth in the relay at his second Games in Sydney 2000, after exiting the heats of the individual 400m event.

“Atlanta was an amazing occasion for me – I remember receiving the invitation letter at aged 22 was fantastic and my event for the British team was very strong,” revealed Baulch.

“It was an enormous experience and to come away with the silver in a European and Commonwealth record was brilliant – I felt like a kid in a sweet shop, standing on the rostrum at my first Games, I really enjoyed the moment.”

Four years later and it was a slightly different story for Baulch but nevertheless a privileged experience:

“I didn’t have a good Games in Sydney, unfortunately – the 400m didn’t go well and although I ran a storming leg, fifth in the relay was disappointing but it was a great event to be a part of,” he continued.

“They both seem like only yesterday – sixteen years is a long time ago, it’s only when I take my medal into schools that I realise just how long ago it was.

“I also have five World indoor Championship medals so they make me proud as well - people often ask why I always seemed to run better indoors and in the relay and it’s because I found the individual 400m outdoors quite boring – the others were interesting and challenging – it was fun not just sticking to one lane!”

Still running regularly – with a fine 3:51:44 clocking in the 2011 London Marathon to his name – Baulch will be seen contesting ITV’s “Dancing on Ice – Going for Gold” celebrity competition alongside 1988 Olympic 110m hurdles silver-medallist Colin Jackson and 1984 Olympic javelin champion Tessa Sanderson on the eve of the London Games, where he hopes to set a medal-winning example to his stable of clients.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Thommo's Injury Triumph


Bouncing back from an injury-hit summer, long-distance man Chris Thompson is hitting fine form at just the right time, as he enters the all-important Olympic qualification period on the track, writes Nicola Bamford.

Having reluctantly stayed away from the UK for the past five months – even during Christmas week – in order to remain focused on his biggest goal for 2012, Thompson is confident of finally being able to make his Olympic debut this August.

The 30-year-old US-based Brit clocked an impressive 61:23 in the New York half-marathon last month to leap to eighth on the British all-time list, showing encouraging signs of a full recovery from his 2011 injury woes as well as a potential return to the form which led him to the European 10,000m silver medal behind compatriot and reigning World 5,000m champion Mo Farah two years ago, in a glorious comeback from a seven-year injury nightmare.

Based in Eugene, Oregon as part of the Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club Elite, Thompson explained:

“The New York half was a great marker for me - after last summer, I was left with a lot to work on to get my body ready and able to handle the workloads I needed to do.

“The race showed me I was aerobically strong and I was over the moon to feel so good - the final three weeks into the race, I started to finally feel much stronger in training so when the race came and it went so well, it all came at such a great time for my confidence and fitness to press on from here.”


Guided by John Nuttall and Mark Rowland, the Aldershot-born runner is presently training at high-altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona and will remain in the States until early June after competing in the 5,000m at the Prefontaine Classic down the road from where he regularly trains.

After opening his outdoor campaign, Thompson will then head to altitude again in
Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees before flying into Britain for the UK Championships and Olympic trials in Birmingham in late June, where he hopes to seal his selection for the 10,000m event in London at the end of the summer.

It is a plan which may have seemed impossible at times over the past few months, for after he recorded a superb 27:27.36 for the twenty-five lap distance in California eleven months ago to reach fourth-place on the British all-time list, Thompson was forced to miss the World Championships in South Korea following an untimely hernia and heel problem:

“2011 was a frustrating year as I finished 2010 with a huge amount of eagerness to press on and make the next year and beyond even better,” he revealed.

“My injuries unfortunately were waiting to happen as I spent the whole year running with a hernia I had no idea I had, which was presenting like normal aches and pains that every athlete has to deal with.

“Part of my talent but also my downfall is my ability to ignore pain and I was pushing so hard and I was slowly being crippled from within.

“In the end, after running the ‘A’ qualifying time for the Olympics, I limped away from the race and spent an agonizing summer trying to put something together which was a massive uphill battle.”

Thompson also developed a heel problem during his 10,000m run in Stanford due to core instability, yet battled throughout the season until the hernia was discovered and he found himself on the operating table.

“Trying to get going again was not easy and I spent the whole winter trying to rehab and manage my way back, he continued.”

“I don’t feel bad about how the year turned out as I did manage a personal best and a qualifying mark for the Olympics.”

Having raced well in New York and in two indoor competitions around the turn of the year in Seattle – with 7:49.14 and 13:29.94 for 3,000m and 5,000m – the 2003 European under23 5,000m champion is now confident of putting his painful troubles behind him:

“In the last month, I have turned a huge corner which at one point, I was starting to feel would never come as I felt so restricted in training,” he explained.

“I have the plan for the summer and I’m as excited as I could be - I felt last year I never showed how much I progressed from the year before so if I can finish this slice of training off going into the summer, I can’t wait to see where it will take me.”


The partner of Olympic 800m hopeful Jemma Simpson from Cornwall, Thompson is philosophical about his mixed fortunes in the past and is determined to look ahead in a positive mood.

Eager to join Farah again on the British squad in the British capital four months from now, he is grateful to be running at all:

“As I have spent so long getting to this point in my career, I feel like I still learned a lot of lessons in one year around my problems which I needed to as I have not reached this level of performance before,” Thompson revealed.

“In 2010, I reached that point of vulnerability because I was running faster than I had ever before and to go to the next level was never and isn’t going to be easy.

“Even though I missed out on some goals last year I feel I still progressed overall and 2012 was not compromised at all - I am getting stronger all the time and have a lot of running left in me so to still be here and looking as far forward as I am is still and will always be a pleasure.”

On his goals for the season and Olympic ambitions in London, Thompson continued:

“My plans are very simple and like every other athlete - I want to run big personal bests, I need to be in the best 10,000m shape I can be for the Olympics and if I do that, all my other races will fall into place around it and I am very confident I’ll run very fast throughout the summer.

“If I can reach these goals, who knows where that will take me at the Olympics? I can’t control anyone else, I can only control my own fitness - ‘control the controllable’ as my coach would say.

“Olympic results are always hard to predict so there is no point worrying about it - if I am in the best place I can be on the day, then that’s all I can ask for and then it’s all about the execution and being extremely brave and strong on the day.

“I can’t win a medal or achieve a top-eight performance before the race - I can only prepare and be ready to achieve it on the day.”