Keeping up with the Captains – Lee Thompson and Hannah Kelly

The outdoor season has well and truly landed, and it is an important one for Great Britain’s elite athletes as they face selection battles for the upcoming European Championships, Olympics and Paralympic Games. At Loughborough International, we were lucky to catch up with relay superstars and competition team captains Lee Thompson (Sheffield & Dearne, John Henson) and Hannah Kelly (Bolton, Les Hall) to see what being named captain meant to them and their big goals for the season.

Leading the pack

In recent years, the British 4x400m quartets have been making podiums and finals at major championships around the globe with Hannah and Lee frequently being part of those squads.

Their team camaraderie, motivational spirit and vast international experience made them the perfect candidate to lead the England team. “It was a bit of a surprise,” expressed Lee on his selection as captain.

“In the team meeting I was asked to give a speech and it felt like imposter syndrome. There’s some world class athletes on this team and so to pick me as team captain felt crazy but an honour. I took a step back and thought I have ten years of experience, I’ve been to the World Championships and Tokyo Olympics so I wanted to inspire the people on this team to fight for as many points as possible.”

“It means so much to me,” added Hannah. “I was talking to my friends and I said I wanted to be a team captain before I retire. I hope I don’t retire for a long time but to have been selected at Loughborough means a lot. It is a huge honour to lead England and such a great team.”

Loughborough International 2024 men's 4x400m team

Firing up the team

One thing that team captains are renowned for are their pre-championship speeches, something which Lee called upon his own team experience to deliver:

“I have listened to a lot of captain’s speeches in my time so I tried to take a bit from each of them. All have been unique in their own way but special to listen to. I wanted to tell the athletes to believe in themselves, they have out the hard graft in all winter to enjoy this moment. They have been selected for the team for a reason, and deserve to be here and so run, jump, and throw like you deserve to be here and really enjoy it. Hopefully what I shared had inspired the team some way.

“It can be overwhelming when you get selected for the first time but to get selected for your debut at a home international where you have the crowds shouting for Team England and can have friends and family here, is amazing.”

“In my speech I said to the team have confidence in yourself.” Added Hannah. “These vests are not just given, you have earned them, and you are here because you belong here. A lot of the time a competition goes so quick so just enjoy every moment. For the new athletes I wanted to make sure that they know I am there for them, whether they need a friendly face or have a question, I am there to help out.”

Women's 4x400m relay at Loughborough International 2024

From World Relays to Olympic aspirations

Whether an athlete is winning their first sports day or representing Great Britain at the World Championships, the Olympic Games is a shared dream. With the Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon, we asked the captains about their key goals for the summer.

“The World relays were amazing, the team atmosphere between peers and with coaches was great. We qualified all five relay spots for the Olympics so I just have to make sure I am on that squad now. I try to enjoy all moments in my career as it won’t last forever, it’s important to have fun whilst still getting the job done. Looking at my run today, I had hoped to run a little faster but I go to Belgium next week to try and run a time to get me onto the Europeans squad and off the back of that try and make it to Paris. I have already ticked off World Relays this year, so it would be nice to try and complete the set.”

Europeans was also on the horizon for Hannah. “I really loved World Relays and I ran some fast splits there so hopefully I can get selected for Europeans as the big aim in the next couple of months.”

Want more behind the scenes content?

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