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West Wickham GB runner Thomas Keen is eager to make up for lost time on the track ahead of big test at European Under-23 Championships in Norway




Thomas Keen is looking to take a step up in age category this year in his stride.

The West Wickham-based GB track runner made the most of his limited opportunities to compete in 2020 by heading into 2021 second in the World Under-20 rankings for 1500m and second in the British standings for 3,000m.

It is almost a year on since the former Linton Village College pupil broke the British U20 1500m record at the Vienna Indoor Classic. His time of three minutes and 41:44 seconds was faster than Seb Coe and Steve Ovett at the same age and was soon followed by silver in the British Indoor Championships at 1500m.

Thomas Keen has been unable to train at Cambridge University Athletics Track during the current lockdown Picture: Keith Heppell
Thomas Keen has been unable to train at Cambridge University Athletics Track during the current lockdown Picture: Keith Heppell

But this year presents a sterner test for the 19-year-old with a tougher pool of older talent to go up against as he enters the U23 category.

With time on his side though Keen, who won 3,000m gold at the European U18 Championships in Hungary in 2018, is hopeful of continuing his strong progress.

“I was speaking to my coach yesterday and I think the aim is going to be the European U23s which is happening in Norway in mid-July,” he said. “Hopefully that will go ahead and we can get out and qualify and then see what I can do in the final.

Thomas Keen wins European Under-18 Championships gold. Picture: European Athletics. (28408489)
Thomas Keen wins European Under-18 Championships gold. Picture: European Athletics. (28408489)

“I don’t have massive expectations for it as I will be the youngest in the field and in two years’ time when the U23s are held again I will also be able to compete in those, so I will get two stabs at that one.”

Covid-19 saw all but a handful of events, including all the major ones, cancelled from March 2020. But the Cambridge & Coleridge AC member spent most of the summer unable to run anyway, due to an inflammatory knee issue which eventually led to him having to alter his style to allow him to return.

“I managed to get one race in, in mid-September (in Wimbledon), I did a 3,000m off four weeks training,” he said. “I did manage to run a pb though in around 8:13 but it was nothing to set the world alight. It was quite bad conditions; it was windy and rainy.”

A hastily arranged event, by Bryggn Sports, at Manchester’s Sportcity saw him get a 3,000m indoor race in earlier this month to kick off his 2021 campaign.

Thomas Keen wins the European Under-18 Championship 3,000m gold medal. Picture: Laszlo Zsigmond. (31732262)
Thomas Keen wins the European Under-18 Championship 3,000m gold medal. Picture: Laszlo Zsigmond. (31732262)

But he is hoping for much better if his event at the Olympic Park at Lea Valley Indoor Centre goes ahead this weekend, having come sixth out of six in an elite field in which he was the only under-23.

Having run it in 8:15:90, in an event won by Mark Pearce in 7.52.36, he said: “We didn’t have much time to prepare and it didn’t really go to plan to be honest, but it was a good experience just to get back and get some racing in.”

Ahead of this weekend, the Birmingham University first-year student, who has been left doing his biochemistry course from his home in West Wickham, said: “I feel I’ve been training really well, just as good as I was (at this point) last year so I would be disappointed if I didn’t come away with something near 3:41, so something around there but maybe not a pb.’

Thomas Keen wins European Under-18 Championships gold. Picture: European Athletics. (31732240)
Thomas Keen wins European Under-18 Championships gold. Picture: European Athletics. (31732240)

Planning for any races with the ongoing Covid situation is proving tough but he is set to head out to New York in the next few weeks for another big moment in his fledgling career.

“They have cancelled the British (Indoor) Championships that is meant to be happening at the end of February,” he said, “but I have just got the go-ahead for a race in New York at the beginning of February, indoors again, so I am really looking forward to that.

“It will be my first race outside of Europe. It is a New Balance-run event for their sponsored athletes.

“I signed a two-year contract with them in February last year and it’s been really good (for me).”

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