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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Selection policy blamed for early athletic team deadline

Selection policy blamed for early athletic team deadline

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Selection policy blamed for early team deadline

By Daniel Lane
Brisbane Times
June 11, 2012

AUSTRALIAN Athletics chairman of selectors Dion Russell has blamed the Australian Olympic Committee's selection policy as the reason the London Games squad will be named in-house this week - almost a month before the IAAF and London Olympic Committee's deadline.

European nations will not lodge their teams until after their championships finish on July 1. The deadline for the top 16 national relay teams to qualify is July 2, while the names of those contesting individual events must be lodged by July 8.

Australian athletes have been scrambling for competition to try to post a qualifying time.

Sprinters Josh Ross and Melissa Breen, 800 metres runner Tamsyn Manou (nee Lewis), 400 runners John Steffensen and Steven Solomon were among a long list of athletes at risk of missing the cut after posting B qualifying times.

But rather than provide their athletes a chance to qualify at the death, the Australian selectors are expected to nominate the team today and send it to the AOC for ratification by June 22.

The reason for the break between selection and ratification is to allow for anticipated appeals by athletes who are overlooked.

Russell says his organisation is bound by the procedure set down by the AOC.

''We have to give our final nominations to the Australian Olympic Committee by the 22nd of June,'' he said. ''That's an example of how the AOC has set the framework for the nomination process and we have to fit in with that.''

Australia held its Olympic trials in March, five months before the opening ceremony.

While that move was criticised because it placed athletes in the position where they needed to peak, rest and then peak again in London, Russell said it was staged after consultation with coaches and athletes who said they wanted to get qualifying out of the way to focus on their preparation.

Athens Olympian Pat Dwyer, who won a silver medal in the 4 x 400 metres relay, said the plight of the athletes fighting the clock for selection proved that Australians did it tougher than their rivals in the northern hemisphere.

''I don't want to sit on the fence, but I think they all seem to try one or the other [picking Olympic squads] and no solution is perfect,'' he said. '

''The real problem is they expect an Australian athlete to peak twice a year and it's not possible, especially when I was running, my teammates and I were clean athletes and there was no hint of any untoward cheating.

''The body can't be expected to run in the northern hemisphere - where the sport exists - and then come back to [Australia for] a domestic season and produce medals. Football teams don't play 12 months a year and there's a reason for that.''

Adding to the tension was that athletes selected will need to hold their collective breath.

The world's top-16 relay teams gain a lane at London and while Australia's men's 4 x 400 metres relay team is ranked 12th and the women's 4 x 100 15th, that could change if European teams leapfrog them.

While the relay teams will be named this week - subject to qualification - Dwyer said he was amazed the 400 metres team had not been considered a ''priority'' in the Games lead-up

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