There are confusing days and nights in the summer athletics season.
I’m back on Greenwich Mean Time this week and find myself catching up on some late evening and overnight sessions from the World Under-20 Championships in Cali, Colombia, a bit like some of you on this side of the planet who were watching last month’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
It still feels too like the rest of the athletics world is navigating its way to the tail end of the European season, with the last few Diamond League events book-ending the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships all set to begin in Munich in 10 days’ time.
It’s all made for non-stop athletics and it can be hard to keep up.
The future is certainly bright if you managed to get a glimpse of events in Cali, especially late on Tuesday night when there was a positive Irish start by Reece Ademola breaking the Irish U-20 long jump record to reach the final. He finished fifth, just 7cm away from a global medal, only losing out in the final round.
Then on Wednesday Nicholas Griggs automatically qualified for the 3,000m final, set for just after 11pm on Friday night. At just 17-years-old Griggs faces a big challenge against the East Africans but he’s in the 15-runner final mix and that’s plenty good for now.
Then there’s the Usain Bolt-like Botswana athlete Letsile Tobogo, flamboyantly winning the 100m in a World Under-20 record of 9.91 seconds, definitely worth staying up close to midnight to watch while trying to get on the local time zone once more.
In terms of the usual athletics season after the World Championships, it would normally feel like we are in the autumn of the season when athletes are finding the energy for a few more outings.
Only in 2022 this is not the case, Munich to come one week after the culmination of the Commonwealth Games, which look likely to win the award for best attended athletics event of the year – in some ways putting Eugene to shame when they couldn’t fill a stadium half the size for the first ever World Athletics Championships on US soil.
It’s hard to know if the hangover from the World Championships can be salvaged by US athletes relishing a mini-break and time to reset and recharge. The Commonwealth and European athletes will continue to raise their energy again and again in the championship stadiums where athletics seems to be embraced more by fans desperate to get back out there and enjoy live sport.
It’s not just athletics but the 87,000 fans that turned up last weekend for the final of the Women’s European Football Championships and throughout the event just shows how important sport is across the UK and Europe. It runs through our blood and we just love to have that connection, to feel a part of something that connects so many people on so many levels.
When I arrived back from Eugene to the Teddington hub, a base where athletes could recharge and reset, we were then hit by a wave of Covid spreading through the Australian team as they were all required to test to gain access to the Commonwealth village.
You get the sense that most would not even know, as they had few symptoms, and you wonder with so much of life going on as normal why we are still handicapping athletes who are showing no obvious signs of illness while some athletes who are sick are testing negative.
Now we see the scatter of athletes to different championships, while non-Europeans and Commonwealth athletes are in the holding zone waiting for the Diamond League to resume in Poland this weekend, then Monaco, the field of dreams for fast races.
It will likely have the same results this year, with some tired athletes, some athletes getting ready for Europeans, the fields already look depleted and not quite what we have seen in the past when a slew of athletes get carried along to fast times.
The lucrative Diamond League races still provide opportunities for some athletes while others wilt at the end of the season. It makes you wonder how so many can misalign the early season energy and enthusiasm when the greatest opportunities always arise at the end of each season at the Diamond League final in Zurich.
It’s why the most successful seasons are ideally planned backwards starting in September, including the championships, the late season races sometimes bringing the best and most lasting rewards of all and still championship medals to be won in 2022 .