Steve Cram backs Laura Weightman to be a Commonwealth Games contender

There was joy for three North East athletes yesterday with Alyson Dixon, Weightman and Teesside sprinter Richard Kilty all picked for the Commonwealths, which start next month

Laura Weightman
Laura Weightman

Steve Cram has backed Northumberland’s Laura Weightman to be among the Commonwealth Games contenders after she got the nod to run for England at the 1,500 metres in Glasgow.

There was joy for three North East athletes yesterday with Alyson Dixon, Weightman and Teesside sprinter Richard Kilty all picked for the Commonwealths, which start next month.

Dixon will run in the marathon while Kilty, who shocked the best sprinting talent in the world by winning the world indoor title earlier this year, has got the nod in the 100 metres.

There is also joy for emerging star Weightman, who has been in impressive form so far this season. She clocked a season’s best earlier this month in the Prefontaine Classic IAAF Diamond League fixture and currently leads the IAAF rankings.

Coach Cram believes that while she is in one of the most difficult events in the world at the moment, she can emerge as a contender in both the Commonwealths and the European Championships this season.

“Laura is doing really well and it’s a big year for her,” he said. “It’s a chance for her to try and get to the final after being selected and then we will see what happens. In the Commonwealth Games you’re split into four countries so that gives even more people the chance to win a medal.

“I think the final of both events would be a great achievement. She’s still a developing athlete and unfortunately for her the women’s 1,500metres is one of the strongest events in the world.

“We’ve had (Tirunesh) Dibaba and (Abeba) Aregawi exchange records during the indoor season and when you’re talking about people running faster than anyone has ever done before it’s going to be tough.

“Luckily Aregawi isn’t in either of those championships and Dibaba, despite being from Ethiopia, runs for Sweden so she’ll be at the Europeans. The Commonwealths have some very strong Kenyan girls so it’s tough.

“Laura is getting to that level where she has to target comfortable qualification for the final and then you get in there and just see what happens. 1,500metres is a tough event, it’s not always about who runs the fastest – it can be a tactical event. We’re just trying to get her in the best shape she can be.”

Cram believes there will be major interest in athletics as the summer progresses. “It is an interesting summer and an interesting couple of championships. We will do well at the European Championships, we’ll do well at the Commonwealth Games and there will also be new, developing names who will do quite well,” he said.

“It’s not quite world level so it gives some of those emerging names a chance to progress and then we’re back to Beijing for the World Championships again in the road to Rio.”

The squad includes Mo Farah – who will double up in the 5000 and 10,000 metre events – along with Greg Rutherford, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Adam Gemili and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey.

Chef du mission Jan Paterson said Team England will take a healthy mix of experience and youth to Glasgow, for the games starting on July 23.

“Athletics is our largest squad and I am delighted by the calibre of athletes that we see in this team, not just in the shape of Olympic, World and Commonwealth Champions but also young talent who can really make their mark in Glasgow and become international names in future years,” she said.

London 2012 gold winner Rutherford expects a competitive games in Glasgow.

“This looks set to be a really great summer,” he said. “The Commonwealth Games is going to be an amazing competition and I know that all of us on the team will be looking forward to putting in our best possible performances for Team England.”

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