It was been an exceptional year for athletics, and there is nobody better to tell us about it than Lorna Boothe. Commonwealth Games 100 metres hurdles champion, Olympian, manager, and currently training athletes of different disciplines – plus having been awarded the MBE at Buckingham Palace. Lorna has knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and insight, and is a persuasive conversationalist. Yet when we met for a coffee at London Victoria railway terminus Lorna couldn’t wait to tell us first the latest news – that sprinter Imani Lansiquot, whom she admires, had just come in under 11 seconds for the 100 metres. Ms Boothe is confident, there are more honours to come for the South Londoner. Much the same could be said for Dina Asher-Smith whose muted, though otherwise admirable, performances this season owed much to the ongoing effect of injury.

Ah, yes, the World Championships at Eugene, Oregon – but before we could get there Lorna commented on the physical beauty and graceful fashion of the Dibaba family, and immediately produced a photo to prove it. I don’t know what official position Lorna Boothe holds in athletes, but she is still very immersed in matters of the track (and field). We discussed, and decided that we could not determine, on who was the “Athlete of the World Championships”. Yet we did agree that all the leading contenders were female. Lorna, however, was disappointed by the band-wagon support, much of it driven by commercial interests, which got behind some participants to the detriment of others equally worthy. The observation didn’t apply to only athletics. We shared the opinion that a certain national team had been exalted in the media and public esteem beyond their merits and that the much-published denouement of their performance should have been expected (- and even welcomed?)

Ms Boothe has a keen eye for athletes from her Jamaican homeland. Shericka Jackson was now well within striking distance of Florence Joyner-Griffiths’ long-standing 200 metres world record which has seemed to be impregnable for so long. It was good news, too, to learn that Elaine Thompson-Herah, has shown a return to form after making adjustments to her training arrangements. Having lived for some years in the U.S.A. Lorna recognised also the sprint challenge of the charismatic Sha’Carri Richardson who is said to have modelled herself on Flo-Jo. The future of women’s short-distance running was in very safe feet. As for the men, my glance at the time-table to catch my train was sufficient to say that that, though equally meritorious, this had to wait for another time.

There is a theme running through all our recent conversations with people involved in sports training – hurdler Lorna Boothe, boxer Vivien Parsons and fitness/bodybuilder Ian Dowe – that interest in indeed blossoming, particularly among sectors of the community with which such activity had not been associated previously.  The prospects are more than just merely encouraging for next summer’s 2024 Olympic Games in Paris – to which, before departing, Lorna reminded me that the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow next March come first. It looks like it is going to another very good year for athletics.   

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