Athletics: Denmark goes on the attack: Commonwealth Games: Frustration and criticism on the track and in the ring

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The Independent Online
AS HE crossed the line to win the Commonwealth Games 5,000 metres title here, Rob Denmark's face initially had relief written all over it; then joy; but finally, and most of all, anger.

The 'up yours' gesture was the final coup de grace to all the people who have jumped on the bandwagon lambasting the 'poor' state of British distance running in the wake of Coe, Cram and Ovett. 'I've taken a lot of criticism and there was a lot of fury and a lot of anger there,' Denmark said. 'I'm sorry now I did it, but it just came out.'

Denmark is the Mr Angry of British athletics. He has regularly used his victories as a platform to launch scathing attacks on the establishment's lack of interest in distance running. But it has all been to little effect, and this gold medal was achieved in spite of the British Athletic Federation.

There was also a bronze medal for Preston's John Nuttall, who ran 13min 23.54sec behind Denmark's 13:23.00 and the 13:23.20 of the Zimbabwean Philemon Hanneck. Jon Brown, of Sheffield, finished fourth.

'I hope the BAF now give us the respect we deserve,' Denmark, from Basildon, said. 'They don't talk to us, back us or get us races. We get rammed down our throat how great the stars of yesterday were. They were superb but we are treated like second-class citizens and I see a lot of despondency among my peers.

'There's a lot of discontent among the distance runners and if they are not careful there will be a boycott of the World Cup final at Crystal Palace next month. Sheffield was the final straw.'

The McDonald Games at the Don Valley stadium on 4 September is a traditional end-of-season welcome home party for Britain's medalists. For a man who has run five non-revenue-earning races this summer, it would also have been a deserved pay-day. But there is nothing scheduled for longer than 1500m.

Denmark is even more upset because the former European 5,000m champion, Ian Stewart, the man who replaced Andy Norman as promotions officer of the BAF, had promised at the start of the season the situation would change.

'It's a snub to all of us. This year I've been earning half as much as I did last year. I've never been motivated by money but I would like a little in return. It's worse for John Nuttall because he only gets half of what I get. And I don't get a lot.'

Nuttall has had to rely on the support of his parents this year. He was injured at the start of the winter and missed two months' training. 'No one from the BAF ever contacted me,' he said. 'As far as they are concerned, that could have been the last they would have seen of me. They wouldn't have cared.'

(Photograph omitted)

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