Commonwealth Games: Laura Weightman challenges herself to go the extra mile in Australia

Athlete Laura Weightman (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Athlete Laura Weightman (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
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Middle-distance runner Laura Weightman is determined to kick on from her career highlight at this summer’s World Championships after announcing her plans to step up in distance next year.

Despite being removed from British Athletics funding last year, Weightman produced a stirling performance at the London Olympic Stadium as she claimed sixth place in the world 1,500m final.

Barnsley's Luke Cutts,

Barnsley's Luke Cutts,

However, the 26-year-old has opted to concentrate on the 5,000m at April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia despite having only run the distance once in competition on the track in her career.

The Leeds-based runner, who won a Commonwealth Games silver medal over 1,500m in Delhi three years ago, was confirmed in the Team England squad on Tuesday.

However, she could count herself one of the lucky few after a number of athletes were controversially left out despite holding the necessary qualification standard.

Weightman produced a qualifying time for the Gold Coast with her maiden mark of 15 minutes 8.24 seconds over 5,000m in Los Angeles at the start of the 2017 season.

It’s something we have been targeting for a while and why I did the race in America last year to get a qualifying time. I wanted to try something different and I felt the Commonwealths was the time to do that.

Laura Weightman

The mark was the third quickest by a British runner this year, behind Scottish athletes Eilish McColgan and Laura Muir and was enough to convince the English selectors of her medal potential at the Gold Coast.

“It’s an exciting new challenge,” said Weightman, who is due to find out whether she has won a place back on British funding next month.

“It’s something we have been targeting for a while and why I did the race in America last year to get a qualifying time. I wanted to try something different and I felt the Commonwealths was the time to do that.

“I’m not expecting to be put back on funding. Obviously, I fully believe I deserve it.

“I fully believe I’m more than capable of mixing it with the best in the world but I’ve also shown that funding isn’t the be-all-and-end-all to perform on the world stage.

“If I get given it, great, but I’m not expecting it.”

Whatever the outcome of the funding decision, it is a bold move on Weightman’s part to swap a distance she is familiar with, with one more than three times as long and which she is a relative novice at.

Indeed Weightman, who is coached by former world record holder Steve Cram, plans to revert back to the shorter distance during the summer campaign, which will include the European Championships in Berlin four months later.

The Morpeth-born athlete added: “Me and Steve had a really good conversation about whether I should double up and whether I am sacrificing a medal chance. We both agreed it was the right time to have a new challenge and try the 5,000.

“With the Championships being in April and the Europeans being in August, I have to take into account it being a wider year. The 5,000 at the Commonwealths is a really good time to try out, coming off a big winter of training. I’ll be really fit and strong. I feel like I am getting the best of both worlds.

“It’s obviously difficult. We don’t know who will be selected yet or who is doing what event. There will obviously be some very strong Kenyans in there but over 1,500m I won the silver in 2014 and beat some of the very good Kenyans there, so I know what I am capable of. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s early, in April, and it’s going to be a Championship race. I’m looking forward to it, it’s a fresh new challenge and a new target.”

Olympic race-walker Tom Bosworth, who trains alongside Weightman at Leeds Beckett University, will also wear the red and white English vest on the Gold Coast after being named amongst three Leeds-based athletes for the 20km walk.

Bosworth was disqualified when leading the 20km walk at the World Championships in London in August and finished sixth at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

He will be joined by Callum Wilkinson on the start line, while Gemma Bridge will compete in the women’s event.

Sheffield pole vaulter Adam Hague has been selected for a first senior major championships alongside Barnsley’s Luke Cutts, which is a further boon for the Dearneside Athletics Club run by Trevor Fox which has – in those two young men – produced international calibre athletes on a shoestring budget, while John Lane, who is part of Toni Minichiello’s training group, will compete in the decathlon for a second successive Commonwealths.

Middlesbrough’s Rabah Yousif has been chosen to race in the 4x400m relay after helping British Athletics win bronze in London.