Despite Covid-19, 2020 has been another standout year for Streatham sprinter Kristal Awuah, as she continues her rise towards the top of British sprinting.
Awuah came into the year following a season which saw her finish fourth in the 60-metres at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Glasgow and be included in the British squad for the World Athletics Championships in Doha.
The latter was a particular highlight for the 21-year-old, who enjoyed the experience.
She said: “It was so fun just to be in that environment and to be there as part of the relay set-up, training and experiencing the whole competition itself.
“I did work on a lot of my weaknesses within the race and tried to understand the 100m a bit better.
“Coming into 2020 it was about putting my race together. There were points of my race in 2019 that were stronger than others so it was about connecting all those bits.”
The reigning Wandsworth Sportsperson of the Year was aware of what she had to work on as she eyed up a spot at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Awuah added that training was going well during pre-season, but doubts about the season began to creep in as the coronavirus spread across the globe.
March’s World Indoor Athletics Championships in China became one of the first major sporting events to be cancelled in late January, and as the months progressed uncertainty about the Olympics grew.
Awuah said: “For me it was just adapting training because there was uncertainty about whether they would cancel the Olympics.
“I think for a lot of athletes it was quite a shock. It’s a four year cycle, you’re looking forward to the Olympics and then coronavirus happened and they started cancelling all the meets that were coming up.
“When we found out there wasn’t going to be an Olympics I was like, ‘Ok, what can I get out of this season?’
“I switched my focus to the British Championships when we found out they were still happening.
“We did what we had to do. We got on with it.”
The Streatham based sprinter was forced to train on grass during the early stages of lockdown, unable to find an open track to train on before eventually finding a track in north London.
That training proved fruitful when several meets were arranged or rescheduled to give athletes some sense of normality in what should have been an Olympic year, with Awuah demonstrating career-best form.
She won six of the 12 100-metre races she entered and also set a new personal best of 23.05 seconds in the 200-metres in her final race of the season in Kenya, with a second-place finish in the British Championships in Manchester back in September proving to be a highlight.
Awuah finished second behind Imani-Lara Lansiquot and is part of a stellar generation of women’s sprinters in Britain led by 200m world champion Dina Asher-Smith which she is excited to be part of.
She said: “I think we’re at the peak of British sprinting. There’s so many amazing athletes and so many amazing sprinters. It’s nice to be amongst them and be able to produce fast times.
“When you’ve got good competition, you compete even better. I love the fact that I am surrounded by so many amazing athletes.”
Awuah also set a season’s best of 11.27 seconds for the 100m in a fourth-placed finish at the Diamond League event in Doha, where she was up against the likes of world medalist Marie-Josee Ta Lou and reigning Olympic 100 and 200m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah.
She said: “It was nice to be amongst greatness, but I just focused on what I was doing. I kept my head, I didn’t get caught up on what people had run in the past or what major championships they had run. It’s about me doing the best I can doing and focusing on the things I can focus on.”
With the Olympic Games rescheduled for 2021, Awuah is hopeful that the event will finally go ahead and is positive after 2020 proved to be a strong season despite heavy disruption.
She said: “I learnt a lot from 2020 despite what happened. Things that I need to work on, areas that I need to improve.
“Going into Olympic year, the goal is obviously to PB and run much quicker times and actually be able to compete at the Olympics in the individual event. That would be my main focus.
“I’m really looking forward to the Olympics. I hope it is able to go on but we can’t actually anticipate what’s going to happen just based on what’s happening in the world right now.
“It would be great if we could compete, but I think safety first. We’ll see how the rest of the year goes.”
Featured image credit: British Athletics