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What next for Thomas Keen, the new U20 1500m British record holder who is faster than Seb Coe at the same age?

‘I’m in the history books, that’s a special feeling,’ says the new British Under-20 1500m record holder, whose new personal best is faster than IAAF president Seb Coe at the same age.

Thomas Keen, at just 18-years-old, still has plenty of time to improve the time further and looks set to do that having improved his PB by at least two seconds each season so far.

His time of the three minutes and 41.44 seconds – achieved at the Vienna Indoor Classic in February – takes him to the top of the nation’s junior list, beating the previous best of 3:42.87 set in 2013.

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)

It surpasses both Coe and Steve Ovett at the same age, to leave the West Wickham-resident knocking on the door of senior athletics and a career in the event.

Keen, who is in his first year at Birmingham University, is fast becoming a seasoned athlete at international youth events having won gold in the 3000m event at the European U18 Championships in Hungary in 2018 before his first taste of U20 competition with last year’s European U20 Championships in Sweden.

He is currently ranked seventh in the senior event with his new record-breaking time.

Keen said: “To beat the times of great British athletes of the past is a special feeling, I’m now in the history books I wasn’t expecting it to happen but I knew the record was there and did think I was in with a shot.

“I ran a great race in Sheffield (BMC Sheffield Grand Prix in January) and moved up to fourth on the British all-time list (for U20) so I was aware of the time and the record.

“I never set out to achieve it although midway through the race it became clear it was on and so I just went for it.

“It’s really encouraging for the season ahead and the outdoor season.

“It felt amazing to achieve it, and to know I’m on the right track and going in the right direction too.

“I do think it’s important to have achievements like this to keep me motivated.

“We’re approaching the track season and I’m just excited to see what I can do.”

The outbreak of the coronavirus looks set to scupper his future plans for the season, with the first port of call a flight to the USA next month to compete against runners in the collegiate system.

It may even, depending on the length of the hiatus on sporting occasions, see his chance to compete in the World Athletics U20 Championships due to take place in Nairobi, Kenya in July (7-12).

“The time provided me with the qualifying time which is great, I was not expecting to get that during the indoors season,” he said.

“But I still have to win the (English) National Championships in June to secure a place in the team.

“So that’s the focus now regardless of everything else.”

The England U20/U23 Track & Field Championships are set for June 6-7 in Bedford.

But England Athletics this week released a statement, in light of the coronavirus outbreak,stating that: “England Athletics advises that all face-to-face activity such as club training sessions, events, competitions, club committee and face-to-face meetings, athlete camps, running groups and social events should be suspended until at least the end of April.”

And the first three Wanda Diamond League events – due to take place on April 17, May 9 and May 16 – have all been postponed, while the summer’s international race meetings – including the Olympics in Tokyo – are in doubt, to suggest numerous sports events will not go ahead in the summer as planned.

But, in the ideal world, Keen’s plan are to ‘run a couple of 800 metre races to get my legs used to that extra-speed’.

He added: “Race experience is very important at a big championship, they’re often much slower and less about your time than tactics; I still don’t feel like I have the hang of the event yet.

“The access to the American college system will be a great opportunity to learn and progress in my racing knowledge.

“Some races are so slow before a final sprint finish and it’s not my best feature so it’s definitely something I need to work on in training.”

Keen, who is in his first year of a foundation course, added that he has spent the past six months or so focusing on his speed over the final lap and this, he believes, is behind his new personal best performance.

“Since I came (to Birmingham University) I have been working on the last lap and it’s paying off massively.

“I have had to find the right balance between training and enjoying university but I feel it’s going really well.

“It’s actually comforting to know I am still getting better and faster, and more consistency in training is also being proved on the track. I have to keep pushing myself though or the improvements won’t continue.

“But I’m really pleased with my progress and how my times are improving.”

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