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Athletes Face Sydney Showdown

Coventry and Warwickshire’s brightest Olympic hopes must wait until the final minutes of qualifying before they know if they are on the plane to Sydney.

Coventry athlete Marlon Devonish will be running in the final race of the AAA Championships at Birmingham’s Alexander stadium on Sunday.

And strong Olympic medal prospect Katharine Merry will be competing in the women’s 400m in one of the last disciplines.

This year’s contest has an added bite to it as the annual competition is doubling up as the Olympic trials.

Devonish, who runs for Coventry Godiva Harriers, will be competing in the men’s 200m on Sunday shortly before 6pm.

He faces a stern test to make sure of his place as he has to finish in the top two to be sure of qualifying.

To get on the plane to Sydney, athletes have to have reached a certain standard in their discipline this season.

The first two finishers at the weekend will be guaranteed a place – if they have reached the standard.

The third place in the team will be open to the discretion of UK Athletics.

The selection panel will bear Sunday’s performance in mind, but also an athlete’s experience, whether they have reached the standard and any mitigating factors.

This allows top athletes to be selected if they suffer an injury this weekend and cannot compete.

Devonish is one of four runners to achieve the 200m standard of 20.70 secs this season, along with Christian Malcolm, Julian Golding and Marcus Adam.

He suffered a drugs scare earlier this year when he tested positive for nandrolone, but the reading was a tiny fraction over the permitted level and the IAAF decided not to take further action.

UK Athletics Technical Director for Sprints, Hurdles and Relays Graham Knight, said Devonish was also in contention for the 4x100m relay team following a strong performance last year.

He said on the UK Athletics website:

"At the European Cup in Paris in 1999, Marlon Devonish spent some time with me after the running four were announced in an attempt to come to terms with the news that he had not been selected. To his credit he accepted the decision with courtesy and dignity.

“On the following day when a tight hamstring forced Dwain Chambers to withdraw 20 minutes before call-up, Marlon was able to step in because he had put aside his personal disappointment and had prepared with the rest of the squad as if there was never any doubt that he was going to run.

“This professional attitude enabled him to run an excellent third leg, which he duly made his own for the rest of the summer.”

Katharine Merry, aged 25, who comes from Dunchurch and has already had a string of successes at junior level, is the strongest prospect for women’s medal on the track in Sydney and will be running at her home stadium this weekend as she is a member of Birchfield Harriers.

Wearing a distinctive body suit in some competitions this season she has set personal best times of 50.05 secs in the 400m and 22.76 secs in the 200m.

Commonwealth long jump champion Jo Wise, who jumps for Coventry Godiva Harriers, is facing an uphill battle to get the Olympic standard.

She set her personal best of  6.76m last year but this year has only managed 6.45m - 20cm below the standard.

She is currently the AAA champion, but this year will up against an in-form Denise Lewis. The heptathlete is competing in four disciplines as preparation for the Olympics and is the only woman to have reached the long jump standard.

Coventry walker Andi Drake will be defending his title in the 10km walk on Saturday morning.

800m runner Andy Hart is among a clutch of runners hoping to get the qualifying time, as is 5000m candidate Glynn Tromans.

Among the hopefuls in the women’s competitions are 100m runners Zoe Wilson, who was born in Coventry but belongs to Birchfield Harriers, and Rugby and District AC sprinter Ellena Ruddock, who will compete in both 100m and 200m.

Coventry Godiva newcomer Victoria Shipman will also go in the 200m and Maxine Baker will try to improve on last year’s 8th place in the 1500m.

Clare Raven runs in the 800m against former champion Kelly Holmes on her latest comeback from injury.

In the field events Rebecca Roles from Rugby will be throwing in the discus, and Jo Jennings-Steele will be defending her high jump title. She needs to improve on her season’s best of 1.87m by 6cm to get to Sydney.

The Norwich Union Olympic trials run from Friday until Sunday. Ticket details from 0870 4444440 or from the UK Athletics shop website.
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CWN / Sport / Athletics / 9 Aug 00

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM