By Oli Dickson Jefford
Athletics great Christine Ohuruogu hailed Matt Hudson-Smith's leadership role for lifting British men's 400m running out of the doldrums.
Hudson-Smith won world bronze, Commonwealth silver and European gold having broken Iwan Thomas’ long-standing British record.
The 28-year-old led a rousing revival over the quarter mile after Britain failed to qualify a male 400m runner for the Tokyo Olympics, the first time Team GB haven't fielded an athlete in the event since 1904.
It was Hudson-Smith's newfound leadership role that pleased Olympic and two-time world champion Ohuruogu, highlighting a newfound togetherness between runners over the distance.
She said: “I’ve known Matt for many years, and I think on the whole I’m really proud of the 400m running in the country, but Matt did a great job this summer - I call him the captain as he’s the most experienced in terms of 400m men’s running.
“I was really proud of him for leading the team out for the Europeans and they won gold in the relay, which we never saw coming!
“I think what we are seeing is a real uplift in 400m running, where we’re seeing runners who are actually enjoying the competition and are prepared to push each other, and they’re prepared to support each other, that’s a really nice thing to see. I’m just really proud that we have that now.”
Hudson-Smith may be in the prime of his career, but it hasn’t not always been an easy path for him to reach this level of success.
He has battled multiple injuries since his breakthrough season eight years ago, and in the past few months has been open about mental health struggles.
And Ohuruogu heaped further praise on him for his perseverance as well as the impact he’s had on fellow Brit and Loughborough-based Alex Haydock-Wilson, who was also part of the relay quartet in Munich.
Ohuruogu, speaking at SportsAid’s Celebrate the Next event that saw powerlifter Mark Swan claim the charity’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award, added: “I’m just really proud of him. He’s come a long way, he’s worked really, really hard.
“He’s taken some big knocks and he’s finished his season in the best shape he’s ever been in. It’s just nice to connect to him in the way I’ve been connected to him.
“We’re in a really good place and it’s important we celebrate this time, but the job isn’t done yet. We still have a lot of work to do and it’s great to see Alex step in and be counted in that way. I spoke to both Alex and Matt after the Europeans and it was good to see how supportive they were of each other.
“I know that will be an opportunity for both of them to pull each other up and hopefully pull some more up with them, and we can hopefully look forward to seeing them on the podium a lot more in the future.”
SportsAid’s Celebrate the Next event, kindly supported by Royal Bank of Canada, was hosted at Sea Containers House in London thanks to Hogarth Worldwide. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk to find out more.