In recent days, there has been much discussion concerning the relative value of the athletics programme in the 2014 British Commonwealth Games with the absence of Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and Christine Ohuruogu among others from their respective individual events. It is true that the current Glasgow games do not share the same prestige as winning an Olympic title, but the reaction of English athlete Laura Weightman to winning a silver medal in the ladies 1500 metres final was testament to the fact that any success in these games is considered a serious achievement.
Weightman is coached by European and Commonwealth track gold medallist Steve Cram and qualified for the 2012 Olympic final at 1500 metres. She did not win a medal at the distance but it was a learning curve for the Northumberland born athlete and perceived as a stepping stone for success in future games, especially after establishing a personal best of 4:02:99.
A series of niggling injuries did not help her progress in 2013 and her form of prior to the Glasgow games did not inspire real confidence although she has been noted as athlete willing to fight in adversity. Weightman did manage to qualify for the 1500 metre final but was some way adrift of the leading pair in third position.
The Ladies 1500 metre final comprised three Kenyan athletes, two of whom, Faith Kibiegon and Hellen Obiri, were viewed as the clear favourites for gold and silver with the bronze medal open to the rest of the field.
After two circuits, the pace was rather sedate and approaching the bell for the final lap with the Kenyan favourites lurking at the front of the pack, Weightman decided to adopt the tactics used by Mo Farah during his gold medal winning performances of the previous two seasons. The English athlete assumed the lead on the inside lane and increased the pace, challenging her fellow competitors to overtake.
Both leading Kenyan athletes passed Weightman with 300 metres remaining but no other runner was capable of a similar feat as the field rounded the final turn. With the crowd offering their loud vocal support, Weightman managed to overhaul Obiri and thwarted a late challenge by Canadian Kate van Buskirk to claim second place and a silver medal.
Her glee at such an achievement was evident at the finish as she hugged her mother at trackside and embarked upon a seemingly endless lap of honour. Had Weightman actually won the race, it is difficult to envisage the extent of her celebrations.
When anybody questions the worth of the athletics standard at the Commonwealth Games, a glance at the reaction of the likes of Laura Weightman to winning a medal is proof that these championships are considered an important and cherished target for many people and they should be respected accordingly.
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