Athletics: Farce and fury as Martin and Yates are omitted: Selectors close door on British 10,000m record-holder after altered plans leave it too late to qualify for European Championship

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The Independent Online
EAMONN MARTIN and Matthew Yates were left out of the British team for next month's European Championship announced yesterday. While Yates's omission was half expected after a cancelled flight prevented him running in Wednesday night's international at Gateshead, Martin's predicament is contentious, bordering on farcical.

The selectors had allowed the former London Marathon winner two days' grace beyond the 20 July deadline so that he could gain a 10,000 metres qualifying time in tonight's Oslo Grand Prix. Up until yesterday afternoon, Martin had not been accepted into the Oslo event, despite requests from the British Athletic Federation and ITV, who are televising the event.

The Oslo promoter, Sven Arne Hansen, said he had wanted to keep the field to 15 in the 10,000m because of a world record attempt involving Kenya's William Sigei. Yesterday he relented and offered Martin a place - but by then the British record holder had already altered his plans and training to run at the Goodwill Games on Sunday.

Martin has had a last-minute invitation for the event in St Petersburg and he booked the last seat on a plane out. Now he starts a race for a visa.

But Tony Ward, the BAF spokesman, said: 'If we accept times from the Goodwill Games then we are getting back to the old problem of athletes competing and looking for standards too close to the championships. Unless someone does something exceptional in the 10,000m in Oslo, the door is now closed.'

The door to the Commonwealth Games, which follow the European Championships next month, may still be ajar. Freda Clarke, chairman of the English selectors, said yesterday that a good performance from Martin, who holds the Commonwealth title, would at least be considered.

Martin's coach, Mel Batty, was trying manfully to curb his feelings of frustration last night. The 10,000m trial in June came too early for Martin, who was still recovering from finishing seventh in the London Marathon the previous month. He planned to go for a qualifying time at the Stockholm Grand Prix on 12 July, but the 10,000m was cancelled. That left Oslo, where Martin set the British record of 27min 23.06sec in his debut at the event six years ago.

Two weeks ago ITV faxed Hansen requesting that Martin be put in the race. They had no response. On Monday Batty faxed Ian Stewart, head of the BAF promotions department, expressing his astonishment that Martin had not been allowed into the Oslo meeting, particularly in the light of the withdrawal of the only Briton on the starting list, Jon Brown. On Monday afternoon Batty received a reply from Peter Radford, the BAF's executive chairman, saying the BAF had contacted the Norwegian Federation and Hansen on his behalf.

Yates, a Commonwealth bronze medallist at 800m and European indoor champion at 1500m two years ago, ran his first major race of the season in Nice on Monday after a succession of minor injuries. His time was 3:36.47, the second fastest by a Briton this season, but it was only enough for seventh place. Having already chosen Kevin McKay, the selectors have added Gary Lough, who performed nobly in the European Cup, and David Strang, who succeeded Yates as European indoor champion this year.

Yates, who also missed out on a Commonwealth place when England's team was announced yesterday, was seemingly resigned to his fate. 'The Federation didn't want to pick me because I didn't run the European Cup, and because I said that athletes should be paid to do it,' he said.

Steeplechaser Mark Rowland had his reward for defying medical advice to quit after four Achilles tendon operations by being selected for his first major championships since winning silver at the last Europeans in 1990. At 800m, Martin Steele, second fastest in the world last year, missed out after a poor run of form.

Tonight's Oslo meeting also features Colin Jackson racing against the Olympic 110m hurdles champion, Mark McKoy, and a women's mile in which Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan may provide more interest than the Dream Mile.

Roger Black has pulled out of England's Commonwealth Games team to concentrate on his attempt at a third successive European 400m title.

Teams, Sporting Digest, page 39