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Matt Elias ends with a pb

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Matt Elias has finally decided to hang up his spikes. The last race of a fine athletic career was for the club's BAL team on 31 July when Matt ran a personal best time in the 110m Hurdles (actually, it was the first time he had tried this event!) of 15.29 - not bad. Primarily a 400m hurdler, Matt has gathered an enviable collection of medals from the European Championships and Commonwealth Games and narrowly missed an Olympic medal in Athens in 2004.

Matt was also an outstanding 400m relay runner, an automatic choice for Great Britain's team, and perhaps best remembered for his dramatic last leg for Wales in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester when he was beaten to the line by the thickness of his vest by Britain's number one 400m specialist, Daniel Caines. Matt clocked an astonishing 44.2 seconds for his relay leg, missing gold by a mere one hundredth of a second.

Earlier in the Commonwealth Games, Matt had taken the silver medal in the individual 400m hurdles behind England's Chris Rawlinson and set a new Welsh record time of 49.11 seconds.

As a compensation for the narrow miss in Manchester, Matt travelled to Munich a few weeks later and was a member of Great Britain's gold medal winning 4x400m relay team at the European Championships.

Matt discovered athletics in school where he played rugby but also ran cross country and his first Welsh international vest was for the schools' cross country team. As both his father (John) and mother (Kath) were themselves good athletes, he had obviously inherited the right genes.

He joined Cardiff AAC at 15 and quickly decided that athletics was for him. He competed for the club's Young Athletes League team and discovered the 400m hurdles when team manager Walter Thomas asked for a volunteer to fill a gap in the team. Needless to say, Matt won his race - and was hooked.

Coached firstly by Dave Williams and then by Derek Fishwick (himself a 400m hurdler), Matt improved rapidly and received his first Great Britain vest in 1997 as a junior, setting a new Welsh Junior record of 51.71 in his debut race. Matt won selection for the European Junior Championships in 1997, finishing 8th in the final.

In 1998, only 19, Matt was a member of the Welsh team at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and returned with a bronze medal in the 4x400m relay. Matt was to go on to take part in three Commonwealth Games, culminating in the 2006 Games in Melbourne.

Steadily improving, Matt was, at 20, one of the youngest in the Great Britain team at the 1999 European Under 23 Championships in Gothenburg but returned with his first individual medal, the bronze in the 400m Hurdles. Two years later, in 2001, Matt was still young enough to take part again in these championships but this time he excelled himself, taking gold medals in both the individual 400m Hurdles and in the 4x400m relay.

Having joined the Linford Christie coaching group, 2002 was arguably Matt's most successful year with successes at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. His season culminated at the World Cup in athletics in Madrid as a member of Britain's 4x400m relay team that finished fourth.

From 2003 onwards, Matt was plagued with injury and illness but came back to form and was selected for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Once again running his favourite fourth leg of the relay, Matt made an all out bid to get amongst the medals but could not manage to close the gap on the leaders and the team finished fifth.

Matt can look back with pride on a career that saw him establish himself as an ever present in Welsh and British teams, as one of Britain's finest ever 400m relay runners and as a popular athlete, characterised by his flamboyant and colourful hairstyles.

Matt has recently taken up a position with Welsh Athletics as the Development Officer for South East Wales where he will be able to put his vast experience to good use.

Cardiff AAC is proud that Matt has been a distinguished member and we congratulate him on his achievements and wish him every success in the future.