Despite being the European Under 18 champion at 1500m, Falkirk’s Kane Elliott had only competed on a track outside of Scotland once before 2018.
In fact before then, the 16-year-old was unsure if he would even get to compete for continental gold, with both he and his coach Willie Sharp never having any experience that level of athletics before.
Therefore, while Kane was packing his spikes and shorts for the Europeans in July, Sharp was instead packing his speedos and sunglasses, with Kane’s European final clashing with a holiday that his coach had already booked.
“We never even thought I would be trying to go for the Europeans in 2018,” says Kane, “all we were really thinking about was running all these races, chasing PBs and trying to get my time faster, we weren’t looking at any of these big competitions.
“But even though he wasn’t there at the Europeans he could still tell I was nervous because I was contacting him and asking him a lot of questions. But he told me to just do what I feel and treat it like a normal race.”
This honest, no holds barred style of approaching a race has served Elliott well, not just at the Europeans but other times during his season as well.
In fact it was through this method that he was officially able to secure his spot on the British Under 18 team, when he stormed to a huge 3.46.84 PB at the Trafford BMC.
“It’s kind of crazy to think I got that time,” says Kane, “my coach told me before the race that it was my last chance to seal my qualification (for Europeans) so I might as well just go for it. But I just thought, well I could maybe get around 3:50′, I was never expecting to get 3:46.
“It also gave me a lot more confidence because that’s when I started to think it would be possible for me to actually get a medal at the Europeans.”
Now, far from being just a face in the crowd, Elliott was now the fastest ever under 17 in Scottish history, soon becoming the favourite to take gold in Europe.
This label could quite easily be a very heavily load to bear for someone not used to being the favourite at such a high profile event. But for Kane however, it had the opposite effect.
“I think if I’d have gone into it with the eighth-fastest PB I probably wouldn’t have took the race on like I did,” says Kane, “but since I knew I was the fastest there I knew that I was capable of beating most of them, so the BMC race definitely made a big difference.”
It was a race that truly tested the Under 17 record holder, with Kane leading for most of the race before having to produce a huge final surge to overtake three other men in the home straight. And while Elliott certainly rose to the challenge, the competition still proved to be a very tough introduction to life on the big stage.
“I felt really dehydrated during that competition,” says Elliott, “I don’t think I prepared too well and I was just really nervous. Also I found it hard adapting at that point because I didn’t have any of my family there so I felt a bit lost for a couple of days.
“But I made friends with a lot of my team-mates and I experienced a lot of new things there. Some were good and some weren’t so good but overall I’d say it was definitely a good experience.”
What a crazy finish to the 1500m at the European U18 Championships! 😱
Kane Elliott produced this brilliant sprint finish to pip Hungary's Bence Apati for the title. pic.twitter.com/vw4ripNE5J
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) July 7, 2018
However, from the beginning Elliott has always learnt to be adaptable to multiple situations. Ever since he met his current coach the young international distance runner has virtually competed as a multi-eventer, trying out all sorts of different disciplines from cross country, 60m and even some shot put.
It definitely isn’t the typical method to form an athlete who specialises in long distance. But for Kane, it seems to have helped him form one of his biggest strengths when competing.
“My coach used to just teach long distance before he met me,” says Kane, “but he ended up stopping and instead he just fed athletes from different disciplines through. So that’s why I did all those different events because he would be there teaching me all these different events so that’s how I found out I was good at endurance.
“But it’s been good because we’ve both sort of learnt together and found out what works and what doesn’t work which means we can keep adapting and trying out new things.”
Aside from helping him out on the track, the multi-event lifestyle also made life quite interesting for Kane when he was still a young athlete competing purely for fun.
“It was a little bit hectic back then,” says Kane, “normally I’d do one throw in the shot put, go do a 200 and then go back to the shot put to get my last throw in. But back then in under 13s and under 15s I was just having fun really and trying to get points for my club.
“Then I think it was 2016 I was around fourth in Scotland, which I was surprised about because I knew I had a lot more to come. Then after that I went from 4:18 down to 3:50 and that’s when I started to think ‘this is becoming more serious’.”
Now with 2019 well underway, Elliott’s main focus is the European Under 20s as he aims to once again take continental gold. With his eclectic approach to competitions serving him well so far, Kane and his coach are more than happy to take on 2019 in their own way.
“I had a good 800 before Christmas and then a PB at 3000m in January,” says Elliott, “so after those races my 1500 should be on par for a PB hopefully.
“I tend not to focus too much on all-time records because at under 17s it doesn’t really matter too much. So now really it’s just a case of leaving the under 17 age group behind and just trying to focus on the next step.”