Phillips Idowu, one of Britain’s best Olympic medal hopes, has withdrawn from the UK trials in Birmingham this weekend for the second year running.
Britain’s head coach, Charles van Commenee, said he was unable to discuss the situation, but underlined Idowu’s status as a “strong medal hope” ahead of the Games. “As you know sometimes there is a fine line with medical confidentiality,” said van Commenee. “It’s not a worry.”
The world triple jump silver medallist had raised concerns over his fitness after the 33-year-old landed awkwardly following his third-round leap at the Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon earlier this month. The Londoner then withdrew from competing in Oslo, but with just five weeks until the Games no official announcement has been made by his camp.
When it was put to van Commenee that it was highly unusual for so many question marks to surround a British medal contender the Dutchman said simply: “I don’t know what his coach says, I just tell you what the situation is… This is all I have to say. I’m sure you can ask him yourself, maybe he twitters.”
The Hackney-born triple jumper, who was at loggerheads with van Commenee over his use of the social messaging site just last year, indeed tweeted on Friday night replying to a message from the former 400m runner Alison Curbishley who wrote, “sorry not to c u in Brum big man, hope all OK! U better not be sneaking off to the hackney weekender instead,got my spies out!” Idowu replied: “lol, tell yr spies to come say hi.” Idowu is an ambassador for the music festival. His best jump of 17.31m this season leaves him trailing the world rankings in ninth place. Last year Idowu withdrew from the trials after claiming it would be disrespectful to compete in front of a paying crowd when he was not on form.
In his first senior trials appearance, the 18-year-old Adam Gemili blew away the rest of the field as the fastest qualifier in the 100m heats with a time of 10.27seconds. The teenager, who tops the UK rankings this season with a personal best of 10.08sec, was given special exemption from competing at the world junior trials in Bedford last weekend so that he could run in Birmingham but insisted that he did not feel any expectation to perform here. “I don’t feel any pressure, I’m just coming here to have fun. It’s a good experience, it’s Olympic trials they come round every four years so it’s a good experience to race against the top men and see how I get on.”
Sixteen years separate Gemili from Dwain Chambers, but while the young pup is enjoying the ride the older statesman is desperately in need of an A qualifying standard time – along with a top two finish in the final todayon Saturday – to secure his automatic place in the British team. “I’m trying not to pressurise myself at all,” said the 34-year-old who is currently ranked eighth in the UK. “It’s going to be tough with the young boy there.”
Chambers comfortably won his heat in 10.34sec. When asked if he feels he has the capacity to make the A qualifying time of 10.18secs, Chambers said: “I bloody hope so. Normally I’m on top [of the rankings] so it is a bit daunting that I’m lower down but I’ve just got to take each day as it comes. Things have happened that have not enabled me to have a smooth journey but I’ve got to put that to one side and do a good job this weekend. I’ve been thriving on situations like this for the last nine years.”
The sight of Gemili – who looked like a slip of a kid next to the hulking frame of Chambers – brought back memories for the world indoor bronze medallist who holds the British junior record. “It’s like deja vu. I was once his age running in 10.06sec. We seniors need a kick up our butt to get ourselves going and he’s presented that.”
Mo Farah breezed through the 1500m heats, but stayed to watch world record holder Kenenisa Bekele demolish the field in the 10,000m, posting a new stadium record – and the third fastest time in the world this year – in 27min 02.59sec. Younger brother Tariku finished in second place. The 29-year-old British Olympic medal hope is competing over the shorter distance to work on his pace. “I want to keep my legs ticking away doing a good speed,” said Farah. The Briton is still unsure as to whether he will be defending his 5,000m title at the European Championships next week. “I haven’t decided, it all depends on how it goes this weekend.”
In the women’s 100m Anyika Onuora was the fastest qualifier in 11.47sec, while the 18-year-old world junior champion Jodie Williams won her heat in 11.70sec, despite wearing heavy strapping on both legs. “I’m struggling with a few problems this year. It’s a precautionary thing,” said the A-Level student.
Christine Ohuruogu progressed as the fastest qualifier in the 400m, while Marilyn Okoro was the fastest qualifier in the 800m with 17-year-old Jessica Judd, who looks to be a talent for the future, finishing third overall.
This weekend promises to be the most tightly contested national trials in 20 years. A number of stars will turn out to compete in their events from Britain’s No1 high jumper Robbie Grabarz, hoping to win his first ever British senior title following his meteoric rise to world no3, to Mo Farah running in the 1500m final, and Jessica Ennis, who competes in the 100m hurdles, the high jump, the long jump and the 200m. In the men’s 200m Britain’s newest recruit, 18-year-old Delano Williams from the Turks and Caicos islands, will make his national debut.
Five key battles
Men’s discus Lawrence Okoye, the national record holder, is on form again this season, having improved his personal best to 68.24m last month to lift him up to fourth in the world rankings, but the 20-year-old, above, was on fire last year only to capitulate under pressure at the trials. In his way stands Carl Myerscough, who also holds the A standard, and Abdul Bukhari and Brett Morse, both with B standards only.
Women’s 400m Britain’s only defending Olympic champion, Christine Ohuruogu will take on training partner Shana Cox, a recent recruit to the team through her British parents. The pair also helped win 4x400m relay gold at the World Indoor championships in Istanbul in March. Ohuruogu, above, tops the UK rankings after running 50.69seconds in New York, her fastest time since 2009, while Cox sits third in the rankings with 51.54sec. The 2007 world silver medallist, Nicola Sanders, still needs an A standard to make it to London.
Women’s 110m hurdles Although not a battle for an Olympic place as such – both the heptathlete Jessica Ennis and the hurdler Tiffany Porter are assured of a place – this will be an interesting contest all the same. The head-to-head stands at two wins apiece. Ennis, above, had hoped to take on Porter in Oslo this month but had a false start in the final. Porter holds the better time this season – 12.65sec compared with Ennis’s 12.81sec.
Men’s 100m Dwain Chambers, above, is in danger of throwing away his Olympic dream if he cannot post an A standard time before 1 July. The only man in the line-up to have run under 10sec, the 33-year-old will be desperate to recover his form and secure a fast time in Birmingham. Only two sprinters currently hold the A standard: the 18-year-old footballer-turned-athlete Adam Gemili and the injury-prone 24-year-old James Dasaolu.
Men’s 110m hurdles All four of Britain’s top hurdlers are eligible for selection, so the importance of a top-two finish cannot be underestimated. Andy Turner, above, the Commonwealth and European champion, is the established name but Lawrence Clarke and Andy Pozzi have performed better this season to top the UK rankings. William Sharman has not run the A standard but qualifies through his fifth-place finish in Daegu last year.
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