A tough ending for battling Harrier Bates

Kettering Town Harrier Alice Bates in action during the 1500m finalKettering Town Harrier Alice Bates in action during the 1500m final
Kettering Town Harrier Alice Bates in action during the 1500m final

Alice Bates performed with distinction at the European U18 Championships in Jerusalem, easing through her 1500m heat to make the final in fine style, seen as the minimum requirement from the selectors when selected for the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team. Circumstances conspired to make her appearance in the final less enjoyable but on the whole Bates will take away a huge amount of confidence and will be looking to make future teams.

The Championships saw the best athletes from the 48 athletics member federations do battle over 4 days of intense competition at the impressive Givat Ram Stadium in Jerusalem, the religious capital of the world. The competition goes from strength to strength with all nations upping their game and 19 winning at least one Gold Medal. The GB & NI team easily topped the medal table again with 8 Gold, 1 Silver and 7 Bronze medals, 4 Gold's more than the nearest rival Germany.

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The impressive Givat Ram stadium in Jerusalem, host to the European U18 Championships

The GB Team travelled out on the Friday and Bates was one of the first athletes in Action with her 1500m Heats taking place at 08:45 on the first Monday morning in warm 22 degrees heat.

Bates certainly looked the part in her GB kit and was feeling confident after seeing fellow GB athlete Annie Mann progress through to the final in heat 1, knowing that the first 4 qualify automatically along with the 4 fastest losers. After a cautious start which saw Bates just sit in for the first lap, she decided to take the race out with a significant injection of pace. Bates lead the race and controlled the pace ensuring she kept out of trouble in the inside lane. At the Bell Bates upped the pace significantly and surged down the back straight stretching out the field with just 6 athletes being able to stay in contention. The European No1 ranked Turkish athlete Ayca Fidanoglu hit the front but Bates held of further challenges with a sensible further injection of pace at the 200m mark and in the home straight Bates was challenged further from the field but she was always in control and able to go through the gears 50m out when she accelerated through to second place in 4:31.34, with Fidanoglu winning, and the 3rd & 4th automatic qualifiers Tia Zivko (Slovinia) & Shirin Kerber (Switzerland) finishing in 4:31.37.

Alice Bates leading her heat from Ayca Fidanoglu where she 2nd fastest qualifier overal

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It was a wonderful and mature performance from Bates who upped her game just when in mattered taking on the race on and keeping control of the pace throughout to ensure the qualified as the second fastest athlete into the final in 2 days’ time in fine style. With the pressure of sudden death in the qualifiers there was significant expectation on Bates and she passed the test with flying colours, this bodes well for the future.

With an Ice bath, post-race massage and full rest & recovery protocols Bates was contained within her hotel before the final, and on race day she was complaining of feeling lethargic, which was put down to the fact she had been doing nothing but resting in her room. Bates completed her warm up and was ready to start the most important race in her life, and after her performance in the heats she was feeling confident that she could significantly impact the final and possibly sneak onto the podium.

Lining up with fellow GB athlete Annie Mann, who based on her 4:19 PB was tipped to make the podium, it was looking positive for the GB team. The race set off at a keen pace but with nobody willing to take the race out it was a tactical affair & Bates who was a little slow to get away had to work hard to settle into the mid pack. She maintained a prominent position in the field until 800m when the pace increased as the field all started to get themselves set for the bell lap. Sadly Bates could not maintain the pace and she fell away seeming to struggle with a pace that was well within her capabilities.

As the race progressed it was a sad sight to see Bates struggling at the back, and the race was won with a terrific performance by GB’s Annie Mann in 4:23.41, ahead of the favourite Turkey’s Fianoglu who grabbed the silver in 4:23.98 & Switzerland’s Kerber who won the Bronze in 4:24.46, with Bates finishing in 12th place looking tired in 4:44.41.

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Alice Bates competed well in the opening two laps of the final

It was a very surprising conclusion for Bates who had performed so well two days earlier, and with both athlete & Coach Shane Smith at a loss as to what happened the plan was to reflect on the performance for a few days and discuss. On Thursday Bates who was unwell tested positive for Covid, and both athlete and coach had the missing pieces of the jigsaw. Without doubt her fatigue prior to the race & headache were signs the virus had taken a hold, and Sadly for Bates the final which she was so looking forward to was cruelly denied. Bates described after the race that her legs were gone after 200m, so it was testament to her courage and determination that she stayed in the race so long.

With forced isolation within the GB camp including special arrangements on the flight back home Bates GB debut was somewhat left in tatters. The GB team were full of admiration on the mature way she handled the set back, and based on her hugely impressive heat and overall feedback on her participation there will definitely be further opportunities for the talented 17 year old going forward.

Coach Shane Smith was full of praise for Alice

“I’m hugely proud of the way Alice handled her heat, she got her tactics spot on, and we both drew a huge amount of belief that she could make a big impact in the final”. He added “The performance in the final completely perplexed us it was just not what we expected, Alice was completely flat. The positive test almost come as some relief as we could at least understand why Alice could not perform. It was a cruel hand of fate, but the virus is so prevalent there is little that can be done to completely shield athletes in this environment”.

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Alice Bates with Coach Shane Smith just prior to her heat in the 1500m

Alice was still positive after her experience, and is definitely looking forward to competing on the International stage again with the GB team, on the unfortunate covid infection she was relieved she had the answer to her indifferent performance in the final

“I’m pretty sure the covid infection was the only reason for my poor performance” adding “It’s a shame but on reflection I think I have got more from failing than I would if I had done well. I am definitely targeting more GB vests and this experience will add significant desire to do well in future competitions”.

This is just the sort of response that will ensure Alice remains focused and motivated in the coming years.

Congratulations Alice and we wish you well in your GB career.