Chignell surprising himself

Oli Chignell (20) at the Caledonian Ground yesterday with his three national championship gold medals from this year. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Oli Chignell (20) at the Caledonian Ground yesterday with his three national championship gold medals from this year. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
It has been a big year for Oli Chignell and he now has Europe in his sights. Fresh from claiming his third national title of 2018, the Dunedin runner met  Jeff Cheshire at the Caledonian Ground yesterday.

Oli Chignell has plenty of belief in his ability - but even he has been surprised by his successes this year.

The 20-year-old Hill City-University runner has claimed the senior men's national titles in the 5000m, cross-country and road race.

Not bad for someone in his first year in the senior grade and who had just one age-grade gold medal to his name.

Even he admitted if someone had told him nine months ago how his season would go, it would have been hard to believe.

''No, I probably wouldn't have believed you,'' he said.

''With the training I've been doing and the group I've got down here and my coach, I had faith I was on the general incline and I was going to do well.

''But I think no-one would have believed I was going to get three titles in a year.''

It was one thing to be capable of winning all three, but to execute when it mattered was pleasing for Chignell.

The results showed his versatility, which he feels is important for a distance runner.

He puts much of his success down to his new coach, Auckland-based Chris Pilone, with whom he linked 18 months ago. Pilone has given Chignell more structure to his training, mixing easy days with hard days.

A hard day would be a race, an intense session, or a long run such as to Waitati and back.

On either side of those he would have an easy day, which was 30-70 minutes of jogging, sometimes split into two separate runs.

That enabled his body to recover properly and put emphasis on particular sessions.

He also trained more like a youth athlete, as he was not yet physically developed like others his age.

That meant he was doing around 110km per week, as opposed to over 150km.

Tactics-wise, Pilone had helped him focus on himself during races, allowing him to concentrate on his own plan.

Overall it had left him confident he was as good as any runner in New Zealand - barring the elite group overseas.

''I think I definitely have faith in the fact I am the best runner there. If you were to look at 5km and 10km runners I'd be in the best form.

''I do also think it's good that I know how to race. Doing athletics since I was 6 years old, you learn how to race properly.''

While many would think that could become a grind, it was not something he found hard to get motivated for.

''It is quite a common question I get from people, 'do you actually like it?'

''I think you can never really get tired of winning, because it is fun to win. But I do really enjoy it.

''I've got a really good group of mates. My best mates are the ones I run with.

''I run with them every day and it does make things easier.''

One of those mates, Otago middle-distance runner Sam Bremer, will join him on a trip to Europe next year.

The duo will head to either Belgium or England with Pilone and go chasing fast times for two months.

Chasing times was something Chignell had not done much of and he was looking forward to seeing what he can do.

The standard was high and even the fourth division races posted ''outrageously'' fast times.

His goals were to run 3min 42sec in the 1500m, sub-8min in the 3000m and 13min 50sec in the 5000m.

Those were bordering on the times needed to become a carded athlete.

That would help him take the next step and, while the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were a long shot, the following four-year cycle would be a target.

He will be 26 years old by the Paris 2024 Games, potentially the prime of his career.

By that point he hoped to have progressed to running 5000m and 10,000m. That was the long-term aim, though.

Before that there are still races to run in New Zealand.

The next big event is the road relay national championships next month, in which his Hill City-University team has a good chance of taking the title.

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