Breen backs 'B' team to help young athletes
By Jon Tuxworth
Date November 1, 2012
Melissa Breen trains at the AIS on Wednesday.
Photo: Colleen Petch
Canberra sprinter Melissa Breen has backed calls for B-qualified athletes to be selected for the next Olympics, insisting it will prevent more youngsters from quitting the sport.
Breen endured an agonising wait to win selection for this year's Olympics when she fell short of the 100 metres A-qualifying time by just 0.002 seconds at a meeting in Japan.
Despite her near miss, Athletics Australia used its discretionary power to give her the nod.
The governing body recently announced B-qualified athletes would be chosen for next year's world championships in Russia, and the policy could be retained for the 2016 Olympics.
While the month-long wait for that phone call confirming her Olympic place was torture, Breen said the policy was not only in her best interests, but that of the sport.
''For the younger ones coming through, the juniors looking to make their first open team, it can seem daunting having to make that one [A-qualifier] time,'' the 22-year-old Breen said. ''The 'B' is still quick, but it's not as overwhelming and hopefully that will keep the kids in the sport a bit longer.
''I think it's great because it bridges the gap a bit more. You go from a junior into any other track or field events and they see these 'A' qualifiers that are beyond what they think they can do at that stage.''
Breen believes this will help counter the lure of bigger money in other sports. Olympics shot putter Dale Stevenson quit athletics earlier this month to join Super Rugby club Melbourne Rebels.
''It's sad to see someone leave because our team's not massive; we had only about 50  in the team for the Olympics. I was down at my old club, Tuggeranong Little Athletics, the other morning helping out. There's so many in the younger age groups but when you get up to under-14s there's really not that many.
''There's so many options for them, maybe with team sports they'd rather go and play with their friends than run track.''
Breen, her coach, Matt Beckenham, and training partner Lauren Boden spread the gospel at local clubs to keep youngsters involved in athletics. The Olympics card is the ace in their pack.
''The Olympics are [only] for certain sports,'' Breen said.
She said athletes would not become complacent knowing B-qualifications could be enough to realise their Olympics dream. She did concede her own Olympics preparation would have changed had the policy been in place.
''Had they selected B-qualifiers they would have done so after the trials in February,'' Breen said. ''That would have changed things completely because I would have been named in the team then, rather than thinking I had to keep chasing.
''I don't think people will get complacent … say two athletes have a B time. You can't take two, so you're always striving for more.''