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Anxious wait for Olympic hopefuls as Gemili ponders London decision

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Tom Fordyce | 11:31 UK time, Monday, 25 June 2012

Three days of intense competition at the Aviva 2012 Trials, and we were left with three discrete groups of athletes: the guarantees, the hopefuls and the distinctly nervous.

That first group, the select selected, left the Alexander Stadium knowing their job was done. With both a top-two finish in their event and the 'A' standard to their name, 33 athletes ensured they would be heading to London as part of the British Olympic squad.

The hopefuls were those who failed to compete in their events in Birmingham but whose form and standing make them almost certain of a discretionary place - former world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu, world indoor triple jump champion Yamile Aldama, world 10,000m gold medallist Mo Farah and world 1500m silver medallist Hannah England.

Then we come to the last - and largest - group: those with neither the guaranteed place nor the form or history to be sure the selectors will give them the nod.

For these athletes, the next week will make or break their chances of competing in a home Olympics. And it will be a very anxious seven days indeed.

Dwain Chambers celebrates his 100m victory the Trials.

Dwain Chambers celebrates his 100m victory at the Trials. But will he secure an Olympic spot? Picture: Getty

Some, like Dwain Chambers, 800m man Mohammed Muktar and former world 1500m silver medallist Lisa Dobriskey, have their fate in their own hands. For these two and others who finished in the top two in Birmingham this weekend but without the 'A' standard, they have until 1 July to secure the required mark and guarantee their selection.

The European Championships in Helsinki, which begin on Wednesday, will provide the ideal stage for some.

Others, like long jumper Lorraine Ugen, whose second place on Sunday came with a leap just a single centimetre off the all-important 'A', will be desperately seeking good conditions at a far more low-key meet.

Ugen is one of the more unlucky ones. The 'A' standard for the women's long jump is 6.75 metres, in an event where 6.76m was good enough for a world bronze medal last summer.

With Shara Proctor already nailed on for long jump selection following her Trials win in a new British record of 6.95m, Ugen is up against one of the unshakeable principles of UK Athletics' selection policy: while an athlete who has two 'B' standards can be picked on discretion, it can only happen if no 'A' athletes have also been picked.

Chambers is a little more fortunate. He needs a far more forgiving 10.18 seconds or less to secure a 100m slot, and Helsinki should see him do it comfortably. But even then he, like Dobriskey, has hope; as an athlete with two or more 'A' standards from last summer, he can also benefit from the selectors' discretionary option.

Then there are those who have the 'A' standard but not the top-two finish - European 800m silver medallist Michael Rimmer, 400m hurdler Rhys Williams, 100m man James Dasaolu.

Rimmer will aim to make a convincing case for the discretionary place in Helsinki.

Others - including injured stars like Jenny Meadows - may have to wait with fingers crossed, hoping the selectors both believe that they can improve before London and decide that they can make an impact when they get there.

If that sounds complicated, it reflects the tense, frenetic nature of the entire Trials. Seldom has so much been riding on so many events.

There were athletes who came out of it all with spirits bolstered.

World 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene and reigning 400m Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu showed with their dominant victories that they are getting back towards their best; on-form stars like Shara Proctor, Greg Rutherford and Robbie Grabarz underlined their medal potential in difficult conditions; young stars like Andy Pozzi, Lawrence Okoye and Holly Bleasdale confirmed their burgeoning talents.

In places the quality was high. British records for long jumper Proctor and pole vaulter Bleasdale were all the more impressive for the cold, windy weather.

Adam Gemili drapes the British flag round his shoulders after securing an Olympic spot by finishing second in the 100m.

Adam Gemili drapes the British flag round his shoulders after securing an Olympic spot by finishing second in the 100m. Will he take up the place? Picture: Getty

Elsewhere there was sobering evidence that Olympic qualification is only the first step in a far more difficult process.

A day after Chambers won the 100m in Birmingham in 10.25 secs, Justin Gatlin was winning the US Trials in 9.80 secs. 9.93 secs only got you third. With the Jamaican trials next weekend likely to showcase similar times, British sprinters are, on current form, unlikely to even make the Olympic final.

I said there were three categories. That's not quite true. There is a fourth, as abnormal as it is intriguing: those who have automatic qualification, but aren't yet convinced they should take it up.

Adam Gemili's second place in the 100m, a month after going a tenth of a second under the 'A' standard of 10.18 secs, means he is the sole athlete with this unique decision to make.

Less than a year ago, the 18-year-old former Chelsea trainee's sole aim was to make the relay team for the World Junior championships this summer.

Thanks to a brilliant few months, this rawest of talents (he only switched to athletics full-time at the start of the year) now has an opportunity many far more experienced sprinters would kill for. Whether he will take it is another matter.

Gemili himself seemed unsure at the weekend. His coach Michael Afilaka, wary of the problems experienced by other young sprint talents like Asha Philip and Ashleigh Nelson, says the decision is no more than "51-49" in favour of London.

"If you throw him into the cauldron of Olympics and he gets burned then he might never recover," Afilaka says.

"I'm very clear what that competition is and it's brutal - from getting kitted out to walking into the Olympic Stadium. I've been there, seen it, trust me. He's not just a young kid, he's young to athletics. I'm not saying no, but it really has to be a day-by-day decision."

Should he stay, or should he go? London might be calling, but this is one man who may yet not answer.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    A couple of clarifications for you after the announcement of the final GB squad for the Europeans in Helsinki. Dwain's omission from the individual 100m means he's almost certainly been picked for the 100m in London, on the basis of his many 'A' standards last summer. James Dasaolu must surely be getting the third 100m Olympic spot too (has the 'A' standard this year), while the absence of Michael Rimmer, Andy Turner, Lisa Dobriskey etc indicates they too will be off to London.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm not sure if you are right regarding Lorraine Ugen, it isn't just UK policy that B standard athletes aren't selectable together with athletes that have achieved the A standard it's IAAF policy.

    The only way anyone from any country can be accepted with a B standard is if there aren't any selected athletes with an A standard. I'm not sure if I can post a link but I got this from the IAAF website here; http://www.iaaf.org/mm/Document/Statistics/Standards/05/90/83/20110119112034_httppostedfile_QualificationSystem-Athletics-IAAF-21112010_23249.pdf

  • Comment number 3.

    With Adam Gemili, maybe we should take a page from Kirani James' or David Rudisha's book. Rudisha only made the semis of the 2009 worlds, but look what happened after that. There are many examples of others too. Perhaps the UK is over-protective of young, talented athletes. Keeping them to the safety of their under 23s, junior champs, etc., might be a recipe for them to wig out when they are deemed "ready" for senior champs. Just look how Gemili rose to the occasion on the weekend recording what was the fastest time in the semi. You got the same sense of hunger from another teenager, Jessica Judd, who was pipped into third in the 800.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think Gemili should compete at the Olympics. Although he is young he will never again have the opportunity to take part in a home Olympics and there is always the possibilty that injury could rob him of the opportunity to compete at future games.

  • Comment number 5.

    I really think Adam Gemili should go to the Olympics. A semi-final appearance could be a real possibility (after all the USA and Jamaica can only send three competitors each). Who knows, depending on the 'speed' of the track and the intensity of the occasion he may be able to improve on the 10.08 clocking he made earlier in the year. I doubt he would be able to achieve this at the World Junior Championships.

    The trails was the first occasion I have seen him on TV, and the general impression is that in the long run (excuse the pun) he has the making of a 200m competitor. Sound technique with a more lithe frame makes him ideal for the longer distance. Not sure what you all think about this?

  • Comment number 6.

    @bohemian73 Yeah Gemili definitely has potential to be a great 200m runner too. He ran 20.61 into a 1.1 m/s head wind in the semi finals of the junior trials two weeks ago with no one pushing him. I reckon he would have taken the UK 200m crown on Sunday had he been racing; he that good. Think he is planning on running the 200m at the World Juniors so we'll see how he gets on!

  • Comment number 7.

    @everysport I can't remember many British juniors having run around the 20.6 mark in the past. In an equivalent performance, with a 2.0 m/s tailwind you're taking around a 20.3 clocking - I think the British junior record is 20.29 (Christian Malcolm). I'll keep an eye on the World Juniors to see how he goes!

  • Comment number 8.

    I think the selectors are hoping Aikines-Aryeetey and Lewis-Francis will get the A standard in Helsinki, giving them the dilemma of who to pick. The squad for Helsinki has a "prove yourself for the olympics" feel to it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Not sure Dwain's ommission guarantees his place. Lets not forget the trials were the British Champs so why would you not send the GB champ (Dwain) to the Euros. Think its UKA's last chance to hope the two nominated get the A standard because then that way the A standard wil trump Dwain's 1st place in the trials. If they don't, then almost by default they have to send DC because there will be at least 1 place left without an A standard athlete and the 1st place at the trials then has to nominated. Still think DC will breath easier by Thursday.

  • Comment number 10.

    Why wasn't Lorraine Ugen picked for the Euro championship for her to try and get the A standard. The selectors picked Abigail Irozuru who was well behind her at the trials.

  • Comment number 11.

    @Norm, not sure why Lorraine Ugen was not picked for Euro Championship, could be because selection is done prior to these trials. I am 100% sure that Ugen will make the 'A' standard, especially since she has jumped 6.83 earlier this year although it was windy and in the US where she is based.

 

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