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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Sean Ingle in Budapest and PA Media

Team GB has ‘feelgood factor’ back but Paris will be step up, says athletics chief

Katarina Johnson-Thompson celebrates her heptathlon gold medal
Katarina Johnson-Thompson began a run of British success in Budapest. Photograph: Matthias Schräder/AP

Britain’s track and field stars have got back the “feelgood factor” after their medal haul in Budapest but they will need to step up again at the Paris Olympic Games, the UK Athletics technical director, Stephen Maguire, has said.

Maguire was full of praise for his team after they equalled the previous world championship best of 10 medals set in Stuttgart in 1993, with gold for Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Josh Kerr.

“It’s been brilliant,” he said. “There’s a real feelgood factor. Kat started things off. That story just resonated through everyone. What a start with that, and the mixed relay, and then things just snowballed.

“But these world championships have been tough. The standard has been absolutely through the roof. Paris is going to be another level as well. But the way we are getting the medals, in very tough competition, leaves me very optimistic.”

Maguire conceded that his team had to deal with a few issues, most notably when Reece Prescod walked out on the 4x100m team – as revealed by the Guardian. And while Maguire was diplomatic, he hinted that Prescod was unlikely to be back without a distinct change in attitude.

“When I started with the relays in 2014, we inherited a messy enough situation and we turned it around,” Maguire said. “This is similar. I actually like Reece. Him and I will talk. But there’s a big thing around everything: what is our culture? What do we stand for?”

Maguire said he was prepared to speak to Prescod at the end of the season. But when asked whether the door was still open for him, he pointedly replied: “Yeah, but things do move on as well. The door is open for us to challenge for an Olympic gold medal.”

Maguire, though, was clearly delighted just how well his first championships in charge had gone and singled out the 1500m star Kerr and Zharnel Hughes, who won 100m bronze, for their performances.

“We’ve got a group of 1500m runners who are amongst the best in the world,” he said. “Josh very clearly and Jake Wightman [the 2022 gold medallist, missing through injury] very clearly, will be looking to get on the Paris podium and I think that’s a realistic expectation. Josh has been absolutely amazing. The way he ran the race, the way he conducted himself through the heats and semi-finals. Obviously being up in Scotland I’m a wee bit biased but he’s a class human being and a class athlete.

“Zharnel was absolutely superb. He has now really arrived, you can see him in the warm-up area, the presence he brings to it. As a person and leader within the team, he is absolutely first class.”

More fans travelled to Budapest for the world championships from Britain than from any other nation, and Maguire said he expected the same for the Olympics. “Paris is going to be almost a home Games. I think probably British spectators will be equal to French spectators. It has to be exciting. To me it’s about embracing it, embracing the opportunity, but for the athletes not to get too excited until the right time.”

Meanwhile, Eilish McColgan has revealed she spent five days in hospital after suffering an issue with her spine shortly after pulling out of the world championships with a separate knee injury.

Scotland’s Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion wrote on Instagram: “I thought the silver lining of missing the World Championships was that I could spend the weekend with friends back in the UK, watching my old running pal Matthew marry his beautiful wife.

“Luckily, I managed to see them say ‘I do’… but that’s literally all I saw as my next 5 days were spent in hospital! I don’t know how nurses/doctors do their jobs. They are living saints as the hospitals are in utter chaos.. But to cut a long and pretty distressing story short, I’m finally OK.

“Ended up having a small procedure to seal a fluid leak in my spine and have been gradually feeling better every day since. I just have to be very patient.”

McColgan broke Paula Radcliffe’s British 10,000m record in March but missed the London Marathon in April.

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