Olympics: Kelly Holmes feels for trials hopefuls who fall short
KELLY Holmes was fortunate enough – and talented enough – to win a place in Great Britain’s athletics team every time she had to come up with the goods at the national trials. But the double Olympic gold medallist also had some severe disappointments in an injury-ravaged career. So many, in fact, that she feels it easy to empathise with those competitors who will miss out on a place at London 2012 this weekend.
The AAAs championships, which begin in Birmingham today and double up as the Olympic trials, offer a position in the GB team for an athlete who comes first or second in their event, provided they also have the qualifying mark. The pressure would be tough enough in normal circumstances but, if the bad weather holds, it will be doubly difficult for those still chasing a time or distance.
And Holmes, who was in Glasgow this week to help launch the city’s bid for the 2018 Youth Olympics, warned that, whatever the weather, there will be a lot of deeply disappointed athletes when the action at the Alexander Stadium ends on Sunday evening. “It is always a tough situation, and I think [it’s tough] this year more than ever because the level of competition and the depth across the disciplines is higher,” she said. “And, as we all know, the prize is bigger.
“The pressure is there, because this is the moment when you can actually be selected for London – or not. People do not always see the heartache that happens in sport, and come Sunday night or Monday morning there will be some devastated athletes after all the work and effort they have put in, not just this year but for a number of years.
“Some will be at the right level and have their hearts set on being selected, yet still might not perform on the day in Birmingham. Deep disappointment doesn’t really cover it.
“But that is what happens with trials. I recall being involved in that situation on 12 occasions and each time I won through, because being on Team GB was so important to me. I just had to secure that place. People will be doing all they can this weekend.”
Several Scots are among those whose Olympic hopes are in the balance over the next three days, but Holmes warned that the standard in Great Britain is becoming higher all the time. “The likes of [400m hurdler] Eilidh Child and [steeplechaser] Eilish McColgan have the A standard, and I know Steph Twell is hoping to be there and with Scotland at Glasgow 2014.
“Middle-distance running is improving in Britain and for some it will be one Games too early for them. Maybe the experience of the trials will be good for them and drive them on towards 2014.
“I mentor athletes at 800, 1500 and 5,000 metres and have done so for eight years. Fingers crossed I will have girls at London 2012.
“Lynsey Sharp is up against a few of them in the 800m. She is a very good athlete and she is looking for a time this weekend as well. In the 800 it is heats and then a final, so it will be cut-throat for sure.”
In the field events, hammer-thrower Mark Dry is another Scot in serious contention for a place in the Olympic team. Back on the track, Lee McConnell is all but sure of being selected for London as a member of the 4x400m relay squad but the 33-year-old is also aiming for a first or second in the individual 400m.
For many spectators, however, the highlight of the weekend will be watching someone who has no selection worries when it comes to London – Jessica Ennis. The world No 1 in the heptathlon is taking part in four events, the 100m hurdles and high jump tomorrow and the long jump and 200m on Saturday.
“I want to use the meet to give myself a real physical test over two days,” Ennis said. “Everything is focused on London 2012 for me, and a packed Alexander Stadium will be the closest I’ll come to replicating that tough schedule and environment ahead of the Games.”
UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee is confident that British track and field is heading in the right direction. “There is a depth in the sport that we have not seen for 20 years and we have a number of events where five or six athletes are competing for three places,” he said. “There will be athletes who don’t perform and others who will surprise us, which will make for a fantastic weekend of top-level British sport.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west