Ben Pattison: Britain’s world 800m medallist eyes Paris 2024 Olympic title bid

Home » Ben Pattison: Britain’s world 800m medallist eyes Paris 2024 Olympic title bid

“I reckon there were a few people looking around thinking ‘who is this guy?’,” Ben Pattison says.

“I feel like I did surprise quite a few people. Some of them had probably never even heard of me. Now I know they definitely have.”

It took less than 105 seconds for Pattison, Great Britain’s last-minute 800m qualifier, to propel himself from relative unknown to Olympic medal threat.

At least in the eyes of his competitors, anyway.

Achieving World Championship bronze in August was a moment of wide-mouthed disbelief long in the making for the then 21-year-old, whose setbacks include a potentially life-threatening heart condition.

Nicknamed ‘Fireball’ by team-mate Matthew Hudson-Smith, Paris 2024 has been the target since the red-headed Pattison defied the odds to go agonisingly close to Olympic qualification for Tokyo as a teenager.

A hard-earned, guilt-free off-season in the United States aside, he could not have hoped to set himself up any better for an attempt at becoming Britain’s first Olympic men’s 800m medallist since Sebastian Coe 40 years ago.

“I still don’t think the fact I’m a world medallist has fully sunk in and I don’t think it will until I look back on my career,” Pattison, 22, tells BBC Sport.

“It has given me a lot more confidence in training, and in life really. I can push myself a lot harder now knowing I am one of the best in the world.

“I want to push on by matching or even topping that at the Olympics. There will be a target on my back, because people actually know who I am, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I feel like I can beat anyone on my day.”

The journey to becoming the first British man to win a world 800m medal since Peter Elliott in Rome, 36 years earlier, has been far from smooth for the Loughborough business analytics graduate.

Pattison feared none of this would be possible when he was told to stop running at the age of 18 after being diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, the condition which caused his heart to beat up to 250 beats per minute in training.

Initially annoyed that his brand new heart-rate monitor must be faulty, and having informed doctors that stopping running was not an option, he had successful surgery during the pandemic – which involved burning away a part of his heart.

“I have been fine ever since the operation but it is something that can come back,” says Pattison, who continues to have regular check-ups.

“I remember my first race after the operation, I was pretty emotional because I didn’t know if I’d make it back from that. I didn’t know of anyone having that operation and making it back to the top level before, so it was all new to me.

“A year later I was in the European under-23 final and I came fourth, which I wasn’t very happy with, but that was almost exactly a year on from when I had my operation and I remember thinking ‘OK Ben, think of the bigger picture, you could not be running at all’.”

He has certainly made up for what he perceives as lost time, with a rapid rise to global prominence since.

The whirlwind experience of the World Championships in Budapest, three years after his heart scare, came 12 months after he took Commonwealth Games bronze in Birmingham at his first major championships.

He qualified for the Worlds at the very last opportunity, running a personal best one minute 44.02 seconds on home soil at the London Diamond League, and could barely sleep after reaching the final five weeks later.

Fortunately, Pattison is at ease when things are moving fast.

And the relaxed nature in which he discusses his ambitions for a potentially career-defining date with destiny in Paris suggests little will faze him as he transitions from going under the radar to main contender status.

Having already achieved the Olympic qualifying standard, Pattison’s immediate priority will be to make the top two at the British trials in June to secure his Team GB place. Yet to win a British title, he says that is motivation in itself.

“It’s about putting three or four years of missing out and not making teams into one and hopefully coming out on top,” says Pattison.

“To be on top of the Olympic podium is definitely a goal for the future and I can’t see why I don’t do it this year.

“If I do get a medal, hopefully my parents will be able to stay and watch the podium ceremony this time. They didn’t realise the medal presentation was the next day in Budapest, so their flight home was the evening of the final and they unfortunately didn’t get to see that.

“Hopefully they are planning for that this year.”

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