Golden girl Williams spurns Lottery help
Sprinter opts to remain free from control of UK Athletics – but it will not affect her Olympic hopes
You pays your money and you takes your chances. It was not exactly a wheel of fortune spin but after several weeks of consideration UK Athletics yesterday announced the names of the athletes who will be supported on the road to the home Olympics next year on the domestic governing body's Lottery-funded World Class Performance Programme. There are some athletes with Olympic medals already in the locker who have missed out – high jumper Germaine Mason and heptathlete-turned-400m runner Kelly Sotherton. Then there is Jodie Williams, the hottest young property in British athletics, who has opted out of the programme voluntarily.
It is the second year in succession Williams, the reigning world junior 100m champion, has chosen to avoid contractual control by UK Athletics to pursue her own path. The Hertfordshire schoolgirl, who turned 18 last month, remains on the 'Futures' programme, which provides basic support for junior athletes, and is one of several British athletes who receive funding from the sports foundation run by the financial services entrepreneur Barrie Wells.
Going her own way in 2011 allowed Williams the freedom to miss the World Championships in Daegu in August, much to the chagrin of Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, who wanted to integrate her into the 4x100m relay team a year ahead of the London Olympics. Williams and her coach Mike McFarlane felt that an end of season trip to South Korea, on the back of her 100m and 200m victories at the European Junior Championships in Tallinn, would not be beneficial to her long-term development and would also clash with the start of her second year A level studies.
Despite the teenager's decision to continue operating outside of the orbit of UK Athletics, Van Commenee insisted yesterday it would not affect her Olympic selection prospects. Asked whether Williams would be training as a member of the relay squad this winter, the Dutchman replied: "Oh yes, absolutely. Athletes always have the option to sign or not to sign. It doesn't mean we're going to turn our back on her. It would concern me if she were developing in the wrong direction but she obviously isn't. She and her coach are doing a good job and we'll be there just in case. I'll be flexible.
"When you are a member of the World Class Performance Programme you have duties in terms of commercial activities and appearances which may take time from you. Jodie and her father simply don't want to commit to those duties. They prefer to be on the Futures programme."
Mason, winner of the Olympic high jump silver medal in Beijing in 2008, and Sotherton, who took bronze in the heptathlon in Athens in 2004, would prefer to be on one of the three tiers of the World Class Performance Programme: Podium, Podium Relay and Development. However, in Mason's case a lack of form since early 2009 has cost him a place. Sotherton, who was formerly coached by Van Commenee, hasn't shown sufficient promise in her first year as a 400m specialist.
In contrast, Van Commenee has invested faith in Tasha Danvers, who has been plagued by injury since her surprise 400m hurdles bronze in Beijing.
There is no place for Preston Harrier Helen Clitheroe, who found the form of her life at the age of 37 this year, winning the European indoor 3,000m title in Paris in March. Having finished in the top eight at the World Championships, Tiffany Porter (100m hurdles) and Yamile Aldama (triple jump) automatically qualify for Podium support. Sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis drops from Podium to Podium Relay level.
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