Basingstoke runner emulates Peter Elliott’s World Champs podium achievement despite having undergone surgery for a heart defect three years ago
Until Budapest 2023 the last British man to make the podium in the 800m at the World Championships was Peter Elliott in 1987 when he won silver behind Billy Konchellah of Kenya. Since that sultry night in Rome there have been 36 years of pain, but on Saturday (Aug 26) the stars aligned as Ben Pattison enjoyed the race of his life to win bronze.
Like Elliott, Pattison is a red-head too. “There’s something in it,” he grinned, speaking moments after his race with a Union flag around his shoulders. “Matt Hudson-Smith was nicknaming all the people in this GB team and he called me “Fireball”. I like to think that’s how I am. If I get to the last straight and anyone gets in my way, I try to go through them.”
In Budapest, Pattison did it in style too. In a cagey race he found himself leading briefly after 200m and he was placed nicely in second close behind Emmanuel Wanyonyi of Kenya at the bell in a slow 52.68. Staying on the kerb, at 600m he found himself getting swallowed up a little and a little boxed and he fell back to sixth. But he rallied to fourth around the final bend and then powered down the home straight to move into third in 1:44.83 behind runner-up Wanyonyi (1:44.53) and the winner Marco Arop of Canada (1:44.24).
Amazingly, Pattison’s success came just three years after having surgery for a heart problem. Despite already having competed in athletics for a number of years, he was found to have Wolff-Parkinson-White, a condition where the heart beats abnormally fast, which required an operation.
“I went to the doctors when I was about 10 years old as I could feel something was wrong, but tests didn’t show anything as it was happening too randomly,” he explains. “So a few years later I got a heart rate monitor to go to altitude training and I was doing a track session and it was showing 246 beats per minute. I thought ‘220 minus your age!? That doesn’t work out’, so I just thought the heart rate monitor was broken!
“But I saw a doctor (who identified the problem) and they asked me ‘do you have to run?’ I told them ‘yes, it’s my career’. So they told me I had to (temporarily) stop all exercise, which was weird to me as I’d survived 18 years of my life working hard. I then had to have three or…