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Local Athletes Must Wait On Sydney

Top athletes from Coventry and Rugby face an anxious wait to see if they will be going to the Olympic Games after mixed results at the weekend’s trials.

All of the Sydney hopefuls from the two clubs put in good performances at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, but none quite managed to clinch an automatic spot on the plane.

Coventry Godiva Harrier’s Jo Wise and Rugby AC’s Jo Jennings-Steele had the most success, as they won the women’s long jump and high jump respectively.

But the pair both came in slightly under the mark set as the Olympic qualifying standard. If either of them can find the extra centimetres necessary at a competition in the next week then they will get in the team by right.

Wise, who has had another season hit by injury, pulled out a jump of 6.44m in the dying stages of the competition to win gold. She now has to jump 6.65m before the team is finalised next week.

Jo Jennings-Steele, competing on Saturday, beat off a host of challengers to win the high jump with 1.91m – 2cm short of the Olympic qualifying height. If she can make the grade it would be a new personal best for her.

Coventry sprinter Marlon Devonish must also wait to see if he is going to Sydney. He eased past the qualifying time in winning his semi-final, but was given a fairly tough lane draw for the final, running in lane three.

In drizzling conditions that didn’t help the sprinters or the jumpers find top form, Devonish was beaten into third place by Darren Campbell, who moved up from the 100m to score a surprise gold, and Christian Malcolm.

Only the athletes who finished in the first two places are guaranteed a place in the GB team. The third place is down to the selectors.

If Campbell opts to take his place in the 200m it will leave the selectors with a tricky decision. Devonish has shown consistent form, but Julian Golding, who had an abysmal race in his semi-final, has won medals and also has made the qualifying mark this year.

Another Coventry athlete hoping to find a little extra something in the next week is 800m runner Andy Hart.

He pushed winner James McIlroy all the way to the line, finishing in second place, but is short of the qualifying time, and needs to take several seconds off yesterday’s 1m 50:09.

Clare Raven of Coventry also came home in second place in the 800m behind a resurgent Kelly Holmes, but needs to take five seconds off her time of 2m 05.12 to qualify.

Katharine Merry, who is from Rugby, should be given the discretionary third place in the 400m after pulling out of this weekend’s trials, which were also the AAA championship, as she is easily the best female British sprinter.

It was disappointing that the few big names in the women’s events didn’t appear, and the long jump in particular would have benefited from an appearance by Ashia Hansen and Denise Lewis.

The strength in depth in the men’s sprints attracts the crowds, but there was support for all the athletes to do well in the race against the clock.

There’s always a lot going on at the athletics, and the large crowd was kept occupied by the field events going on all over stadium.

Even if some of the contests lacked a big name or genuinely classy distances, there was a keen interest, and the audience was always quick to spot and appreciate a good throw or jump.

Athletics is becoming more and more popular, and even if the seats get uncomfortable after a few hours, it makes for excellent entertainment.

Now Coventry’s athletes must try and stretch a little bit further to make the leap from respected domestic athletes into international representatives.

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CWN / Sport / Athletics / 14 Aug 00

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