Perfecting the art of Championship running – Seamus Derbyshire on the Commonwealth Youth Games

The Commonwealth Youth Games are almost underway in Trinidad and Tobago, as the future superstars of English athletics are putting together their final preparations.

Someone who has walked in their footsteps at the 2017 Bahamas Commonwealth Youth Games is Seamus Derbyshire (Nick Dakin, City of Stoke)! Now setting his sights on the Paris Olympic Games, his international success started at the Commonwealth Youth Games where he earned his very first international vest and silver medal over the 400m hurdles.

Making the team and arriving in the Bahamas

Many young athletes dream of obtaining their first international vest, and for Seamus this brought an enormous sense of pride to be chosen.

“There were so many people who had run the standard who sadly didn’t make it into the team. When I was selected, I felt very honoured that their trust had been put into me to represent England, it was very surreal.

“I had never flown as far as the Bahamas in my life. I had only been on a plane maybe twice so I thought it would be strange to travel with the team but we were so excited to get there. Everyone came with such a good mentality, wanting to do their best but were also excited for everyone else. Being 16-17, it was the first international for many of the team, so everyone was going in with fresh eyes ready for a new experience. It was comforting to know everyone was in the same boat.”

It wasn’t just travelling further to compete which Seamus and the team had to get used to, it was also the dramatic change in climate, leaving behind a rainy England for the beautiful sunshine of the Bahamas.

“I had never trained or competed in such humid weather in my entire life, and never experienced anything like it,” explained the boy from Stoke. “Once we were out there training, it was something I took a lot of lessons from. I needed to learn to adapt and cope with the conditions and still produce as good a performance as I was capable of in the UK.”

Seamus Derbyshire hurdling at 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games

Heading into competition

After training at a holding camp ahead of the competition starting, there was a long wait for Seamus with the 400m hurdles being the final individual event of the championships!

“I was ranked 6th going into the competition and was on the cusp of being able to make a final, but I wanted to just take the competition step by step. A lot of the team were wanting to medal or win, but I was in the mindset of breaking it down to stages and I didn’t think about the final until I made it there.

“During the heat I remember thinking I was far off the pace, but I had never raced against these people before, all of which had different race tactics to me. I stuck to my guns and tried to execute my own plan which gave me a big PB in the heat of 0.7 seconds. In the final I wanted to continue to ignore distractions and focus on myself which I managed to replicate from the heat to PB again and secure the silver medal.

“I had almost taken one whole second off my time since going to the Bahamas. I had gone from being ranked 6th to getting a silver medal. It was beyond my wildest dreams, making the team was such a big thing for me and to experience the high of also getting a medal was mind-blowing. I remember speaking to my dad after and they were all having champagne, so excited for me at home. We didn’t know what to expect as it was my first international and I blew all expectations of my coach and family away, it was just crazy.”

Learning the art of championships

English Schools provides a fantastic flavour of championship athletics for our young athletes, however, competing at an international level is that extra step.

“It is such a unique experience going to a championships because you race people you often don’t and in an unfamiliar setting from your training track. Travelling and competing at the Games taught me patience and focus. Other athletes went to watch teammates competing and I was the only person to stay in the hotel and watch the livestream as I knew in a couple of days my job would start and I wanted to do what was best for me.

“Staying focused and seeing the reward that has come from it, I have taken into other competitions. I try and prioritise myself because at the end of the day I didn’t want to leave the competition with any regrets.”

Advice to the Commonwealth Youth Games athletes

“As cliché as it sounds, just enjoy the experience. I look back on my Commonwealth Youth Games with the fondest of memories. I used to get very nervous to compete and it was so weird because in the Bahamas it was the biggest stage I had been on, and I remember feeling calm because the whole experience had provided me with so much joy. Where I was, the people I was meeting I really tried to make the most of it. You don’t want to leave with any regrets, enjoy all the moments.”

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