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Max Burgin comes of age with 1:43.52 for 800m

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Published in Athletics
Wednesday, 15 June 2022 02:01
With a stunning victory in Turku the 20-year-old goes No.4 on the UK all-time 800m rankings

Last year Max Burgin opened his season with a world lead of 1:44.14 in Ostrava. Sadly it proved to be his only track race of the year, though. So when he started his summer campaign in the same city last month with a similar time of 1:44.54, some wondered whether injury would strike again and if his season would splutter to a premature end.

No such chance. Racing at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland, on Tuesday (June 14) – a meeting which is part of the Continental Tour Gold series – Burgin blasted to victory in 1:43.52. Not only is it a world-leading mark for 2022 but it places him fourth on the UK all-time rankings behind Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Peter Elliott. The Halifax Harrier only turned 20 last month too.

During a stellar teenage career he became known for his fearless front running style and he once again demonstrated it in Turku by following the pacemaker through 400m in 49.22 before taking the lead after 500m. Maintaining his form into the final 150m, Tony van Diepen – a Dutch runner who beat, among others, Jakob Ingebrigtsen over 800m in Bergen a few days earlier – appeared to be closing, but Burgin strode away over the final 100m to win convincingly.

“I suffered today, but I’m happy to set a PB,” said Burgin. “This was only my second race of the season, but I’m now feeling very confident for the British Championships and the World Championships after that.”

There are natural comparisons with British women’s 800m record-holder Keely Hodgkinson. Both athletes are from the North of England, have a background of getting stuck into cross-country racing and recently turned 20. In addition they are pals who have occasionally trained together and have sometimes enjoyed successes on the same night.

Max Burgin and Keely Hodgkinson (Caroline Feith)

In Ostrava last year, for example, they both won their respective 800m races at the meeting. But while Hodgkinson went on to make the Olympic podium in Tokyo, Burgin went back to the gym with endless and mind-numbing strength and conditioning sessions in an attempt to put his injuries behind him.

The duo also won European under-18 titles in Györ in 2018 – performances that marked them out as outstanding talents. Burgin maintained his brilliant teenage results too despite a nagging injury in his groin.

Max Burgin (Mark Shearman)

In 2019, for example, after having just turned 17 he ran 1:45.36 to break David Sharpe’s long-standing British under-20 800m record although injury forced him to miss the European Under-20 Championships in Borås. The GB team barely missed him, however, as Ollie Dustin, Ben Pattison and Finley Mclear swept the medals in the 800m.

With the early part of the 2020 disrupted by the pandemic, he emerged in August of that year and improved the British under-20 mark to 1:44.75 at Stretford just three months after his 18th birthday. What’s more, that time put him No.20 on the British all-time senior rankings ahead of athletes like Kyle Langford, Curtis Robb and Matt Yates.

Before the pandemic began, too, Burgin, who is coached by his father, decided to take a gap year out of his studies before starting a history degree in Leeds. Then came 2021 where he began spectacularly in Ostrava with a European under-20 record of 1:44.14 but was then forced to sit out the season due to injury.

Max Burgin (Getty)

During 2022, though, he has made it to his second race of the season. The UK Athletics Championships begin in just over a week’s time, too, where he will be battling for World Championships selection with old junior rivals Pattison, Dustin and Mclear, plus Kyle Langford, Dan Rowden, Jamie Webb and Thomas Staines.

Britain already has one global 800m medallist in the shape of Hodgkinson. So could we now see Burgin similarly fulfil his rich talent by making his mark on the world stage in Eugene next month?

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