Athletics: Morris 'amazed' by Olympic selection

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The Independent Online

Tracey Morris began to get a measure of what being an Olympic athlete will involve yesterday after her spectacular effort in Sunday's London Marathon was officially rewarded with a place in the British team for Athens.

Still dazed from the blizzard of media attention she had so unexpectedly run into - "It still seems like someone else," she murmured yesterday, "I don't think this will sink in for a while" - the 36-year-old Leeds optician was given a series of tips by the man who was fourth in the last Olympic marathon, Jon Brown, also named in the team after finishing first Briton home.

Invited to pass on some of his experience, Brown's central point was one to which Morris should be ideally receptive given her profession - the need to focus.

"She will be at the British Olympic Association's camp beforehand to prepare, so there's being away from home for a long time before the event," Brown said. "You have to focus on training for weeks beforehand. Also, just preparing for the Olympic Games takes a lot of mental energy because it is such a huge event.

"When you get into the Olympic village, the pressure of the event hits you. It can be overwhelming. But you've got to try and treat it like any other race. You've got to be able to forget about the exterior things and focus on the job in hand.

"You get some people who have been internationals for a long time, but they kind of wilt as much as anyone that's a newcomer. It's just down to the individual concerned."

It was a typically honest assessment from Brown, who has settled his differences with the London organisers after complaining in midweek that he was being offered no appearance money. Yesterday, the race organiser, Dave Bedford, announced that the event was funding all three athletes who clinched selection on Sunday - Morris, Brown and Dan Robinson - with training grants of $7,500 (£4,100), an award which will also go to the pacemaker Liz Yelling, who was named along with last year's champion Paula Radcliffe.

Morris looked suitably grave as she contemplated what her new life as an Olympic athlete would involve. "I have always watched the Olympics, but I certainly never thought I would be going there," she said. "You were in awe of people who were taking part in it. They are the élite athletes. So this is just amazing."

She and her husband Paul, who completed Sunday's race in 4hr 45min, more than two hours slower than his wife, had celebrated modestly the previous night - "I had a few glasses of wine," she said brightly - and were setting off back home on the train yesterday afternoon.

Mr Morris was finding the fuss over Mrs Morris as bemusing as she was, having been made aware of her performance on his mobile phone in the second half of his race. "It has been fantastic," he said. "But there's a lot of hard work to be done now. She needs to get herself acclimatised to the Athens heat, so she'll be going to the BOA camp in Cyprus."

Morris admitted that since she began serious training six months ago - up to 86 miles a week - she had found it increasingly hard to fit the running in around full-time work.

But she has already spoken to her employers and the prospects of sympathetic treatment appear good. "He said they will support me and I think I will get some time off," she said. She has certainly earned it.