Athletics: Later trials a move in right direction, says Martin

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The Independent Online

Eamonn Martin, the last British man to win the London Marathon, is delighted to see Great Britain's World Cross-Country Championship selection strategy change.

Last year Martin complained that British trial races for the championships took place too early to select the best squad, a point made for him by an all-round disappointing display in Zurich last March. Last year the trials were held seven weeks before the world championships, but Martin is happier to see just a fortnight separate the two events this time around.

The Inter-Counties Championships in Nottingham on 6 March acts as the British trials this year and Martin said: "It's taken a long time to get it right but now thankfully progress has been made. Now they've finally got it right. They asked myself, and other top British distance runners many years ago, what was the ideal time to have the trial race. We all suggested it was two to three [weeks before] but it fell on deaf ears. Some said I was outspoken when I complained it was time to get it right last year.

"But others thanked me for speaking out, feeling it was time to change things for the better. Ultimately, of course, everything depends on how the teams perform in Brussels, but I still feel it is a very positive move in the right direction."

Martin, in Belfast for the International Cross-Country where he managed England's team, admits there is still a lot of hard work to be done by the British men before success returns. But he is pleased at the standard of the British women. He had more than a passing interest after watching Scotland's Kathy Butler finish third behind Canada's Emilie Mondor and Susan Chepkemei of Kenya in the IAAF permit meeting. Placing sixth in only her second race as a senior was former European junior cross-country champion Charlotte Dale, who Martin is now coaching.

The five-time world cross-country champion Paul Tergat eased himself to victory in the men's race with runner-up, teenager Fabian Joseph, only a second behind. Daniel Gachara was a distance back in third.