World Athletics Championships: Inspiring the next generation?
Peter Oliver in Budapest
As medals are won, records tumble, and legends are recognised at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, there is also a focus on the next generation for taking interest in a sport that has struggled to attract the same level of attention as football and cricket have done globally.
There's no doubt that all aspiring athletes dream of competing in the World Athletics Championships, currently being held in the Hungarian capital's national athletics center.
On the sidelines of the event, a group of school kids were put through their paces on the track. Their coach Lajos Juhasz told CGTN it was the perfect opportunity for the aspiring athletes and is likely to inspire future champions.
"If children go to such events, they can benefit from it. I'm not sure how much it will sink in right away, but later on, in a few days, they will think about how fantastic it was to be here in the stadium, to get to see up close the way the professionals compete. It is a very good thing that they were here," said the coach.
Tuesday was media race day at the championships, and after a fairly pedestrian performance by some of the participants in the 800 meters, it was evident that not everyone can be a world champion. Running on this track made me realize the level of fitness, strength and endurance required for this event – it is easy to underestimate the length of the track when watching it on television.
Japanese record holder for the Women's 100m and 200m events, Chisato Fukushima, also participated in the media race. She told CGTN that even if you are not bringing home gold, the lesson that it teaches about getting active at a young age is invaluable.
"Of course, there is only one champion, however, the frustration of losing teaches a very important lesson in life. Also, I think that sports is something that you spend your whole life doing."
After winning his third world men's 10,000m gold, Joshua Cheptegei, one of the greatest athletes on the planet, spoke to CGTN about the importance of encouraging the next generation to develop an interest in the sport.
"I started a foundation where we have athletics training especially for young kids, and we have hundreds and hundreds of kids who are always encouraged.
"Most of the athletes (from the foundation) participated last week in the Commonwealth Youth Games and this year, some of them were able to represent their country in the World Cross Country (championship), and so many of them are still studying," he added.
While it is up against some far better-financed sports, an estimated billion people could watch this year's World Athletics Championships on television – and somewhere in that audience is the next generation of record-breakers.