UK champion Allan Smith has been given one last chance to earn a berth at next month’s European Indoor Championships in Belgrade after being handed a high jump start in Saturday’s Muller Grand Prix at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena.
The 24-year-old Scot, who collected his third British title in Sheffield last weekend, will be matched up once more with domestic foe Robbie Grabarz and Chris Kandu, with each of the trio needing to clear the qualifying mark of 2.28 metres to make the British team.
“I do believe I could do well if I got to Belgrade,” said Smith, who has now withdrawn from tonight’s Athlone meeting. “Most of the guys I’d be up against, even if they’ve got the qualification standard, I’ve taken them already. So I see no reason to believe I couldn’t do well. It’s just been a bit tougher with our standards being tougher than the ones set by European Athletics.”
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With his natural physical gifts, most experts expected Smith to have raised the bar further by now after a slew of early successes. Removed from Lottery funding last autumn, he has set about a reinvention this winter, working with a specialist conditioning coach in Glasgow while shuttling nomadically between Pitreavie, Grangemouth and the Emirates Arena to get the practice he needs. “That’s put new exercises into the mix,” he confirms. “I feel better for it coming into indoors. I do believe I can go above 2.30. It’s just a matter of time. It’s all going well. I need to go higher. That’s all it’s really about.”
Some close to Smith says progress will surely accompany an increasing maturity. He has re-settled in South Queensferry with his parents while receiving his coaching from Scottish stalwart Bryan Roy following a stint in Birmingham along side Grabarz, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist.
There, there was strength in numbers in a training group overseen by UK Athletics specialist Fuzz Ahmed. It did not pan out, but it was no step back to return north, the Scot insists.
“Most of the time now it is just by myself but it’s not be the b-all and end all being down south,” he confirmed. “I came away with a lot of knowledge and was better for it. But I still get some good work done at home. And it’s more enjoyable being there. There are times when I’m in the Emirates Arena literally by myself but you have to get the job done.”
Elsewhere in Birmingham, in-form Andy Butchart will go up against Mo Farah over 5,000m - the first time the pair have met since the Englishman took his fourth Olympic gold in Rio. While Eilidh Doyle, unbeaten so far in 2017, will reunite with hurdles rivals Dalilah Muhammad, Zuzana Hejnova and Shamier Little in the 400m.