Athletics News

Oliver Dustin hits the comeback trail with Paris in his sights

800m win in Nice

The British 800m runner is focused on reaching the top again after injuries, illness and a strange anti-doping incident blighted his progress

Oliver Dustin has just finished detailing that 800m race, which took place in the setting sun of southern France in mid-June 2021: the stillness of the pre-race wind, his concern at falling “way too far back” in eighth place at the bell, the astonishing finishing speed that blitzed his rivals, and the disbelief when he crossed the line in 1:43.82 to break Seb Coe’s longstanding British under-23 record.

“It is a good memory,” he summarises, before hastily adding: “But I don’t want it to be the defining point of my career.”

Dustin’s story is one that might appear horribly familiar from the outside; the promising talent who began to crack the big time at a young age, only for setbacks to start mounting. Approaching three years ago, he competed at his debut Olympics in Tokyo – a short-lived campaign that ended when he crashed out of the 800m heats. In no small part that was due to a horribly disrupted build-up dominated by a strange anti-doping incident which, much to Dustin’s chagrin, was detailed in the national media.

Since then, one part of his body or another has let him down, restricting him to just six 800m races in the two full outdoor seasons that have followed. Last October, he was dropped from British Athletics funding. In December, he underwent surgery on his nose and sinuses in a bid to clear up a succession of issues.

It has all been brutally hard to endure. In a British middle-distance cohort that increasingly warrants the often wrongly used description of a golden generation, Dustin is in danger of being a forgotten footnote. So it is a pleasant surprise to hear nothing but contemplative positivity from the 23-year-old after what he describes as “by far the toughest couple of years of my athletics career”.

The former European under-20 champion says: “Until 2021 my progression was linear, going through the age groups, doing well nationally and then internationally. These last couple of years have really, really tested me but made me so much better as an athlete and a person, physically and mentally.

“It has undeniably been really tough, but it’s caused me to look elsewhere to see how I can better myself in the pursuit of perfection.”

Dustin’s ailments have been multiple. There was the glandular fever that struck in early 2022 and an extended period of post-viral…

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