Friday, 25 May 2012

Helsinki a great opportunity for medals, believes former two-time European 4x400m relay champ, Baulch


Fourteen years on from collecting continental gold in the long relay with Great Britain and Northern Ireland team-mates Mark Hylton, Iwan Thomas and Mark Richardson, Welshman Jamie Baulch believes the new biennial format of the European Championships is a change for the better, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 38-year-old from Cardiff – who pipped Poland and Spain in the 1998 contest in Budapest and went on to retain the 4x400m crown in Munich four years later from Russia and France with compatriots Jared Deacon, Matt Elias and Daniel Caines – has fond memories of the event and explained:

“Championships are what we’re all after so generally it’s a good thing that the European’s is now every two years, as elite athletes have a short lifespan at the top so they want to get as many medals as they can.”

With the 2012 European event set to be staged in the Finnish capital of Helsinki between June 27th and July 1st fast-approaching, athletes across the continent are opening their seasons early to reach sharp mid-season form.

A winner of eleven major championship medals including the 1999 World indoor individual 400m gold from Japan and the 1996 Olympic relay silver in Atlanta, Baulch knows first-hand how a European title is not to be sniffed at:

“I have great memories of both occasions in my career,” he revealed.

“1998 was so special to me - I have fond memories of the track, the feeling of getting that gold medal and at the time, European 400m running was at its highest peak – we had such an amazing team and it was a tough race.

“I preferred Budapest to Munich as it was drizzling rain compared to the boiling heat of four years earlier.”

The holder of the British indoor record with a 45.39 clocking from the 1997 season, the father of two boys hung up his spikes in 2005 with an outdoor best of 44.57, which still ranks him as seventh on an illustrious British all-time list.

In 2010, Baulch and his team-mates were finally upgraded as the true 1997 World champions, a full thirteen years after the event, leaving the founder of Definitive Sports Management and the Jamie Baulch Academy with a bitter taste.

Keen to utilise his expertise on the global athletics circuit, Baulch manages the likes of World 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene and recalls watching his charge storm to European glory in the 2010 Barcelona event as one of his finest memories as an agent.

On his opinion of the event now only ten weeks way, Baulch explained:

“I think Helsinki will be a successful championship - lots of athletes will contest the 400m, just not the top British sprinters as they have to be a lot more selective this year, what with the home Games approaching and it also comes just a few days after the British Olympic trials. Helsinki’s a great place and it’s somewhere I can’t believe I haven’t been to before.”

Still running regularly – with a fine 3:51:44 clocking in the 2011 London Marathon to his name – Baulch will be seen on British television in July contesting ITV’s “Dancing on Ice – Going for Gold” celebrity competition alongside fellow British compatriots, four-time European 110m hurdles champion Colin Jackson and 1984 Olympic javelin champion Tessa Sanderson on the eve of the London Olympic Games.

Whether he can ice-skate as well as he can run and manage elite athletes remains to be seen...

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