Iwan Thomas is backing Matthew Hudson-Smith to return to the top of the podium at the upcoming European Championships following a superb silver at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Hudson-Smith is looking to complete the set for the calendar year in Munich, having already won bronze at the World Championships in Eugene before his second-place finish in the 400m in Birmingham.
Thomas believes it may take some time for Hudson-Smith to appreciate the magnitude of his achievements this summer but is confident that he has inspired young children across the country along the way.
And three-time Commonwealth Games medallist Thomas believes that parkrun could be the perfect starting point for the stars of tomorrow hoping to emulate Hudson-Smith and the class of Birmingham 2022.
“I chatted to Matt straight after and I think he was disappointed with silver,” said Thomas, who’s UK 400m record was broken by Smith in May.
“You could argue on paper that he probably should have won it. For someone like Matt, when he takes a step back and he’s old like me and looks back at this year, with a World bronze and a Commonwealth silver, I think he’ll be proud.
“I think he will win the Europeans. He’s on that path: bronze, silver, so he’s got to get a gold next. Hopefully, he will get that.”
Hudson-Smith is already a double European champion, but the challenges he has faced off the track since gold in Berlin four years ago puts the test of a 44 second sprint to the line into stark perspective.
The 27-year-old tore his Achilles and hamstring in 2019 and was stranded in America by himself for much of 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic set in. Then in the face of rising debt and having been let go by his sponsors, Hudson-Smith tried to commit suicide in 2021.
Hudson-Smith’s comeback was one of several heart-warming stories to have emerged from the Games, and Thomas believes his return is a demonstration of the relentless hard, and often unnoticed, work that goes into producing medal-winning performances.
“Sport is never plane sailing and when we watch people on television, be it a diver, footballer or athlete, a lot of hard work goes into that,” he said.
“Matt has had a lot of injuries, as have a lot of athletes and sometimes it’s about managing those injuries. An athlete’s career can be short-lived, you don’t have many moments in the sunshine.
“That’s why, when it does come together for say, Laura Muir, and they achieve their dream when it matters, it just makes it so brilliant to watch because you know the journey they’ve been through. There will be kids watching being inspired and that’s what you want.”
While Thomas believes that Hudson-Smith and 1500m star Muir are a couple of the role models to have emerged this summer, he credited his schoolteachers for providing the spark to his decorated and storied career.
This week, The National Lottery have teamed up with parkrun to encourage people across the country to take part in their local event, and Thomas believes parkrun is a great entry point for those inspired by the events of the summer and looking to get into running, regardless of age, shape, or size.
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – including over £3.6m of funding to parkrun alone.
Sport England invested £35 million into the Commonwealth Games – a combination of National Lottery and government funding – to support a long-term legacy of more active and connected communities across the nation.
“If it hadn’t been for my PE teacher believing in me and pushing me in the right direction, I would not have made a living out of what I love doing,” explained Thomas.
“I hope people can realise that and parkrun might just be the starter for them.
“I joke about it, but I knew my days were numbered when I started getting beaten by a nine-year-old boy called Sam. I asked him how old he was, and I thought, ‘what?’.
“He didn’t know who I was, but his mum and dad said you’ve just beaten an Olympic medallist. That’s the beauty, you can rub shoulders with all different people at parkruns.
“Hopefully people can progress from there, and who knows, the next Mo Farah might be doing a parkrun this Saturday.”
The National Lottery and parkrun have joined forces to encourage people across the UK to take part in their local parkrun this weekend. For more information and to find your local parkrun event, visit www.parkrun.org.uk
(Photo Credit: Reuters)