Talent heads indoors to target the Welsh and World Championships
Gary Baker on 21/12/2011
Olympic year may be around the corner but young up-and-coming athletes will be aiming for a British team place a little earlier than next summer.
The indoor season begins in earnest in a few weeks, with the Welsh Championships taking place at the National Arena at Cardiff Met University (Uwic).
That is on January 21 and 22, and, while big-name stars like world champion Dai Greene and Olympic finalist Christian Malcolm may not be around for the competition, the Championships are a major stepping stone for the next generation who have eyes on places at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and, maybe, get on the road to Rio and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
The indoor season does not suit athletes like Philippa Roles and Brett Morse, whose discus disciplines cannot be replicated within the confines of an arena but shot-putter Ryan Spencer-Jones may be there.
And, with places in the British team for the World Indoor Championships between March 9-11 in Turkey up for grabs in the early months of the new year, getting race and event form early will be key for some Welshmen and women looking to get a British vest.
Former Great Britain international James Thie, who holds the Welsh indoor records over 1500 metres, the mile and 2000 metres, said the early year competitions will give those who may not have the chance to race for a London Olympic Games place next year something to aim for.
Thie, now working at Welsh Athletics in a talent development role, said: "For someone like Ryan (Spencer-Jones), it is a great event for pushing to the World Indoor Championships.
"For a lot of athletes, it is also a great opportunity to get some competition and seeing how the winter training went."
Back in February this year, Pontypridd middle-distance man Joe Thomas grabbed gold in the UK Indoor Championships in Sheffield. That ensured a ticket on the plane to the European Indoor Championships in Paris.
Thie added: "It will be interesting to see how our (Welsh) 800 metres boys go next year in the indoors. Joe may try a few 1500m this time and he could aim for that time instead of the 800.
"Gareth Warburton may come out to see how his winter training has gone in race conditions too."
But, with the age group Welsh Championships also taking place in January, it is a chance for the future of the sport here to shine indoors.
One of them is a product of Thie's tuition. The ex-GB international 1500m runner said: "I'm really looking forward to seeing how Adam Bitchell does this year. He is a 5000m athlete from Aberystwyth who is at Cardiff Met (Uwic).
"He went to the European Under-23 Championships this year (in the Czech Republic) and won indoors over 3000m at the British Universities Championships in Sheffield last February."
And, if January's indoor campaign at the Welsh Indoor Arena, which also features a Grand Prix series organised by the University, helps someone get a British vest in Turkey, it will be a fantastic result.
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