10th April 2019
FUTURES IN FOCUS: SAM BENNETT
European Under-18 and Commonwealth Youth Games 110m hurdles gold medallist Sam Bennett (coach: Steve Surety; club: Basildon) is not intent on resting on his laurels and is setting his sights on the British team for the European Under-20 Championships in Borås, Sweden.
The Essex teenager announced himself to the rest of the continent at the European U18 Championships in Gyor, Hungary, last year, storming to gold in a new championship record
Heading into the competition, Bennett was not expecting to win a medal based on his form and rankings, but wanted to make sure he let his rivals know he meant business.
He said: “In the heat, I was going to have to prove to some people what I was capable of and I clocked 13.33 in the heats and I was over the moon with that as a PB, never mind as a championship record, but that was broken in the next round by France’s Kenny Fletcher.
“I didn’t realise how fast my time was or that it was a PB, but I quickly used the staff to reflect and ensure I was ready for the next round because I’d never done a three round competition and wanted to make sure I was in prime condition.
“I won my semi-final and then the final was a blur. In the nicest possible way, I won by a margin but even then I dipped on the line and wasn’t certain until it was confirmed. I waited until the board confirmed. I’d just seen some of my friends go out there and win medals as well so it made it sweeter.
“The noise, the atmosphere and having a British flag thrown at me was something that every athlete has thought about, being in that position and it was all quite surreal and didn’t quite realise just how impressive it was at the time.
“This year, European Under-20s is going to be a priority for me. I’ve seen the qualification time and I ran that time last year. I want to be able to better my PB before I get out there and then give a good account of myself.”
The previous year as male team captain, Bennett had shown his metal at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, the Bahamas as he took 110m hurdles gold for his first international medal in the discipline.
Despite already having those accolades to his name, he wants to add accolades on the senior stage to his arsenal and show that he can be one of the best hurdlers in the country in years to come.
He made his debut at the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships in February, finishing third in his heat, and wants to continue to fight it out against some of the biggest names in the country.
“Going to the British Champs for the first time was a really interesting experience, even setting up my stuff in the warm-up area next to someone like David King was pretty impressive. The race itself didn’t quite go to plan and I clattered the first hurdle and it all fell apart from there.
“No one really ever does incredibly on their first time but it’s something to build on and if I do British Champs outdoors, I won’t clatter the first hurdle and things will get better.
“Last year, I decided to have a look at the senior hurdles and l hope I get the chance to have a look at them again more this year. As much as European Under-18s and Commonwealth Youth gold is impressive in itself, the biggest achievements come when you get onto the senior stage.
“I’m trying to transition into that before I have to and being successful in the seniors will benefit me in the Under-20s is my feeling,” he added.
Bennett was inducted into the 2019 British Athletics Futures Academy programme following his excellent 2018 season and admits it has taken a while for the magnitude of what he had achieved to sink in.
The programme identifies athletes that have the potential to medal at future Olympic & Paralympic Games along with world & European Championships.
The 18-year-old admits he didn’t realise the magnitude of what he had accomplished until he saw who else was on the programme and feels that being a part of Futures will continue to aid his long-term development.
Bennett assessed: “It’s a crazy achievement to be on the programme and when I first found out, I didn’t realise how impressive an achievement it was. When I clicked the link on the British Athletics Twitter feed and saw all the people I was surrounded by, that’s when it clicked.
“The people I was around have already accomplished great things and that’s when it started to sink in. Even going to do the Futures Weekends in Loughborough, it makes me feel like someone has acknowledged my achievements and my talent and believes in the work that I’m doing.
“I feel I’m already benefiting from the programme because I’ve already taken away is the importance of coordinating your opportunities and your team. The importance of putting them altogether helps you to come out successful rather than having a really jumbled up lifestyle and I’ll continue to pick up tips to benefit my development.”
Growing up aiming to be a footballer, Bennett admits he never really had any sporting role models, but adds that his parents are the people that inspire him most to continue his progression.
For them to continue doing their regular jobs, studies, and supporting him and their family, makes them the key inspirations behind his success.
“They’re without doubt my role models because they’re people that are able to continue to grow. My mum has just finished her degree and she working and supporting a family of five and doing loads of crazy things in the house as well.
“My dad too, getting new qualifications, people like that are the people that I look up to. The ability to better yourself and do whatever you do makes them the role models that I want to look up to, rather than those within sport,” he added.