Marathon deadline moved

Sat, May 5, 2012, 01:00

ATHLETICS:COMMON SENSE has prevailed and Athletics Ireland has now agreed a new marathon selection deadline with the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) – declaring May 21st as D-Day for the four women with A-standards for London.

Linda Byrne, Maria McCambridge, Caitriona Jennings and Ava Hutchinson have all run under the necessary 2:37.00, yet only three of them can be sent to London – same as every other country – which inevitably means one missing out. Athletics Ireland originally set June 12th as their marathon and 50km walk selection date, but concerns were raised this week about the needlessly anxious wait.

“We had to address a few issues first, but we are now in a position to cut the original deadline, and bring forward our selection date,” explained Patsy McGonagle, the Athletics Ireland team manager for London. “What we’ve agreed is to make May 20th the last day for qualification in the women’s marathon, and progress with our selection immediately after that. That means making our decision on May 21st, and with that informing the athletes, within a day or two. We’ve notified all the relevant athletes of the decision, asking them to agree to that.

“What has to be remembered here is that athletes had already signed up to the original agreement, not just those in the women’s marathon, but also our 50km walkers. There is still the chance we could have more than three qualifiers in that event, as both Colin Griffin and Jamie Costin will compete next weekend, with Rob Heffernan and Brendan Boyce already qualified. But the reality is there aren’t any viable qualifying opportunities after that.”

Part of the Athletics Ireland revised thinking is that the last potential qualifier in the women’s marathon would appear to be Barbara Sanchez, who holds dual Irish-French citizenship, and is scheduled to run in Copenhagen on May 20th. Current form suggests she’ll have to produce something special, and that ultimately Athletics Ireland will have to decide between Byrne, McCambridge, Jennings and Hutchinson, who have all run similar times, are frequent training partners, and to top it all good friends.

Athletics Ireland selection criteria for all events where more than three athletes achieve the A-standard is based on the following five guidelines: consistency and repeatability of performances in 2011/’12; relevant statistical data/rankings; athletes “on-demand” performances at previous championships; competitive record of athletes against one another; and athletes “final phase” readiness – and bringing forward the selection date won’t make that task any easier.