English and Power to miss national championships over self-isolation requirements

Athletes will miss out despite travelling to green list countries to compete recently

European 800m medal winners Mark English and Nadia Power won't get to run in the National Track and Field Championships at Santry over the coming two weekends due to the self-isolation requirements being imposed by Athletics Ireland.

English, a three-time European medal winner between indoors and outdoors, was seeking a record eighth Irish outdoor title, 15th in all, while Power, who last summer won 800m bronze at the European Under-23 Championships in Sweden, is also the reigning Irish indoor champion.

After being postponed from their original June date due to Covid-19, the 2020 Championships are being staged over two successive weekends, with nine separate sessions, at the Morton Stadium, beginning this weekend, followed by another two days of two sessions each on Saturday, August 29th and Sunday, August 30th.

It was announced any athlete travelling from overseas to compete would be required to have done 14 days of self-isolation prior to their event, with proof of travel details; and whether or not they were coming from a so-called green list country, which under Government guidelines, such restriction of movement does not apply.

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English did travel to green list country Italy earlier this week, running 1:48.42 in Lignano on Monday, under the impression this wouldn’t prevent from running at the nationals. Likewise with Power, who raced twice in green list country Finland earlier this month, returning on August 13th, again under the assumption this wouldn’t impinge on her participation.

However, Hamish Adams, chief executive of Athletics Ireland, told The Irish Times this information had been communicated to all athletes, and the 14-day self-isolation period would apply – no matter what country they had visited.

“That information was on our website, going back to May,” said Adams, “that anyone travelling off the island of Ireland had to complete the 14-day isolation, which has been the advice from the HSE, etc. So that’s been our stance all along, and has been communicated with the athletes, there were aware of it, and that it also included the green list countries.

“Primarily it is a health and safety concern, to make sure we put in the strictest possible conditions for everyone, to make sure we could get everything over the line. We don’t like to exclude any athletes, obviously, but these are the trying times that we have to operate in, and that was best practice advice.”

Other sports are using the Government guidelines around green list countries (Dundalk FC, for example, playing their Champions League qualifying game in Hungary midweek, thereby free to play again this weekend): “I don’t think you can compare the professional teams to our amateur teams,” said Adams.

“And I don’t want to talk on individual cases, I don’t think that’s fair, all I can say was it was clearly communicated to the athlete groups, so they were aware of this.

“The primary Government advice is not to travel, unless it’s essential. Unfortunately, athletics is not considered essential at this point in time. We’re trying to make decisions to suit everyone, and there are always individual cases that do present themselves, but it’s very hard to do a U-turn for an individual. But it’s been a hugely positive effort from all concerned to get these championships over the line, given everything that’s been thrown at us.”

Power did appeal this decision midweek, but her case was declined, and only now self-isolating can't take her place the following weekend either. English was due to race the following weekend, but won't now be eligible to race at home again until September 1st. Ciara Mageen won't be in Santry either as she races in the Stockholm Diamond League on Sunday, while Thomas Barr has also decided against competing in the 400m hurdles.

Given the strict limits around outdoor events, there will be no coaches, spectators or media allowed at any of the sessions, all of which will be streamed live on the Athletics Ireland streaming channel, with RTÉ showing live coverage this Sunday evening from 5.30pm to 7.55pm.