Athletics: Lee McConnell survives two false starts to reach Aviva final
LEE McConnell had to endure a nervewracking start to her 400 metres heat at the Aviva 2012 Trials last night, with two false starts producing two disqualifications, but she stayed composed to pull off a confidence-boosting victory in 53.21seconds. The Glaswegian held off a challenge from her relay team-mate Nicola Sanders, with both women qualifying by right for today’s final here in Birmingham.
“I didn’t enjoy the two false starts,” McConnell said. “Sitting in the blocks I was a bit wary. I know I’ve just got to stay calm and not worry about it but it’s tough, especially when it is such a cold night and an athletics kit doesn’t exactly keep you warm.
“In the past I would have got frustrated or agitated. But I realise there is nothing you can do about it and you just need to keep focused.” McConnell and the many other athletes chasing qualifying times for the Olympic Games will hope for better conditions when the trials continue today and tomorrow. She will be joined in this afternoon’s final by Fife’s Gemma Nicol, who shocked herself with the strength she showed to hold on to claim second in her heat.
“I’ve been carrying a foot injury and haven’t run at all since last Wednesday,” Nicol said. “I’m quite surprised, to be honest, to get automatic qualification for the final.”
It was a similar success story for Scotland’s women in the 800m, with Lynsey Sharp and Emily Dudgeon both qualifying automatically for their final. Sharp’s race was a slow and tactical one, which did not suit her, but she put in a composed performance to finish a comfortable second behind Jemma Simpson.
“I don’t really like running slow,” Sharp said. “I feel better at full speed, so I just wanted to get it out the way.
“Tonight was about getting through. I knew it wasn’t going to be fast and the conditions aren’t great.
“I’m not chasing the time – I’m just going to run. If I put pressure on myself it’s not going to happen.” Dudgeon, who has already qualified for the world junior championships, came second in her 800 heat to qualify for the final behind Marilyn Okoro. Dudgeon’s preparations have been hampered by injury, but she ran confidently to track the more experienced Okoro.
“This week I felt ready, so I decided to be aggressive and I got through,” she said. “I came here thinking if I got to the final I’d be really happy.”
In the 100m, Stacey Downie of Edinburgh AC ran a season’s best of 12.51, coming sixth in her heat. Having just returned to action following an ankle injury, Downie - who can be seen in the new film Fast Girls running in the New Zealand relay team – came to the trials with the aim of using the 100m as a warm-up for the 200, the event in which she is a former Scottish champion. Kathryn Christie from Banchory, making her debut in the trials, was fifth in her heat in 12.17.
In the men’s 100m heats, Scot Ryan Oswald, a former AAAs Under-23 200m champion, came sixth in his heat. The two fastest qualifiers for the semi-finals were 18-year-old rising star Adam Gemili in 10.27sec, and, from the other end of the competitive age range, 34-year-old Dwain Chambers in a comfortable 10.34.
Gemili and James Dasaolu – another heat winner in 10.45 – are the only two Britons to have ‘A’ standard qualifying times. Gemili has yet to announce whether he will compete at the Olympics or go to the world juniors instead, but the pressure is growing on him to opt for the former.
In the 400m hurdles David Martin from Victoria Park/Glasgow was third in heat one, from which only the winner was guaranteed a place in today’s final. Welshman Rhys Williams was a comfortable victor in heat two, but he has some way to go if he is to trouble compatriot Dai Greene in the final. Greene, the world champion, was in imperious form in heat three, strolling round to win in 50.80.
Meanwhile, former world triple-jump champion Phillips Idowu pulled out of the trials yesterday with an unspecified injury, fuelling fears about his fitness for the Olympics. The 33-year-old has only competed three times this year, and was injured in his last outing at the start of the month.
UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee cited “medical confidentiality” when refusing to discuss Idowu’s injury, but said the triple-jumper’s absence would not affect his chances of selection. “It’s not a worry,” the Dutchman said. “He is selectable.” Idowu and two other big-name absentees, women’s triple-jump indoor champion Yamile Aldama, and world 1,500m silver medallist Hannah England, all aim to compete at the London Grand Prix in the middle of next month, according to Van Commenee. All three are almost certain to be selected for the British team provided they prove their fitness.
For athletes in events where the strength in depth is greater, however, this weekend remains a critical juncture in their bid to make it to the Olympics. A top-two place in an event guarantees selection provided the athlete concerned has also gained the A standard.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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