Balham-based athletics star Katie Snowden has thrown her support behind a petition to save the Tooting Bec Athletics Track, where she started training.
Snowden, 27, who is heading to Tokyo to compete in the 1500m, detailed how vital the track has been to her and others at the Herne Hill Harriers in recent years.
The middle-distance runner has been training at the track, which needs re-surfacing after failing an inspection last year, since she was 12-years-old.
She said: “It has been essential for me to have it as part of my training.
“I have used it through all my school years and when I was home from university and it would have been very difficult to keep my training going without it and reach the level I have been able to now.
“I frequently use it being a Balham resident and it was especially vital in my build up to the Olympic trials these past few months.”
The track has housed the Harriers for nearly 100 years and alongside the petition, the club has recently been making the case for refurbishment for the site.
This is after a previous bid was made to the council earlier this year – which was unsuccessful.
Snowden added: “I hope the council appreciates how many people make use of it and how tricky it would be for us to continue our training without it.
“It desperately needs resurfacing though as at the moment it has become so hard and worn and without any bounce to it anymore there is a much greater risk of injury.
“Already we can’t wear spikes on it which is essential for some aspects of training too so that is very frustrating.
“I know there are so many good young athletes coming through the club at the moment as well. It’s not just people like myself and Kristal Awuah using it to compete at the highest level, but also a younger generation coming through with the same aspirations and it will make it so much harder for them to achieve them without access to local facilities.”
The Labosport report from February 2020 deemed the track fit for use for another 18 months, which brings it up until August/September 2021.
Currently, the track is unable to host competitions and the Team GB star reiterated just how important events like this are for young runners.
Snowden said: “It would also be brilliant to be able to hold competitions at Tooting again if the track were to be resurfaced as currently no events can take place there.
“When I was younger, open meets that were held at Tooting were where I started competing and racing for the club and were instrumental in keeping me in the sport.”
Snowden is not the only person to have thrown her support behind the need for repair at the track, as Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, MP for Tooting, visited the track again this week alongside Olympian Jade Johnson.
The pair went to discuss the impact the council not funding the track will have on future athletes in the area.
Allin-Khan said: “Tooting Bec Athletics Track is a home to schools, clubs, and aspiring athletes – to lose such a valuable asset in our community will be a devastating blow to so many of our young people.
“Top British Athletes are made at Tooting Bec Athletics Track.
“By letting the track fall into disrepair, Wandsworth Tories are destroying the London 2012 legacy – and seriously damaging the chances of our next generation of Olympic hopefuls.”
Wandsworth Council have previously released a statement defending the current state of the track.
Referring to the independent report already conducted, they said it found that while the surface had hardened in places, it can still be used for running and training.
The Labosport report says the track can be used for “UK Athletics License Level 1 events”.
Its report said: “Use of the facility for training can still continue to take place providing the following informatives are put in place: All known users and any coaches should be advised… that the track surface has been recently tested and found to have hardened to a degree which has reduced its ability to absorb shock.
“Therefore, coaches and athletes should adapt the volume and type of training accordingly and consider the footwear that they wear (i.e. consider wearing trainers/racing flats as opposed to spikes).”
The council’s environment and community services spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters hit back at the criticism over the maintenance of the track.
She said: “We have seen some claims on social media in recent days that the track is crumbling, unusable and unsafe and that its future is somehow at risk. Let me say now that these claims are totally untrue.
“We fully support and encourage our residents, especially our young people, to engage in sports activities, which is why we provide top quality sports facilities across Wandsworth including running tracks at both Battersea Park and Tooting Common.
“We want our local schools and clubs to use these facilities as often as possible.
“The athletics track at Tooting remains perfectly adequate for training purposes and for school sports events as we continue to monitor its condition we will continue to have discussions with local groups, schools and sports clubs about how it can best serve its users in the future.”
The e-petition runs until 1 August and can be signed on Wandsworth Council’s website here.