'Hands up if you're going to Delhi!' Clitheroe's tweet rallies English

After three high-profile withdrawals, the Preston runner has led the way in committing to the Games
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The Independent Online

It might not go down in history alongside King Harry's celebrated call to arms at Harfleur but it was with England and St George in mind that Helen Clitheroe issued her rallying call yesterday. Or rather her rallying tweet.

Amid the removal of the big guns from the England track and field team – Phillips Idowu having confirmed yesterday that he would be joining Christine Ohuruogu and Lisa Dobriskey in withdrawing from the Commonwealth Games – Clitheroe used her Twitter account to urge her fellow athletes to remain faithful to the cause. "Hands up if you're going to Delhi," she tweeted. "I'm still in. Come on, let's get some positive vibes going."

The 36-year-old Preston Harrier was a 1500m bronze medalist in Manchester in 2002 and is preparing for her fourth Commonwealth Games. She soon had some defiant vibrations reverberating through the Twittersphere. "I will be there with brass knobs on," Andrew Steele, one of England's 400m runners, tweeted. "I've been training my ass off for this." Greg Rutherford, the British long jump record holder, also rallied to the call. "I shall be going," he tweeted on his account. "I have things to win."

If it was difficult to keep up with events out in Delhi yesterday – with crisis talks and the roof falling in on the XIX Commonwealth Games (well, on part of the weightlifting arena at least) – Twitter was the place to follow the comings and goings of England's finest, or those who remained from a squad already shorn of such luminaries as Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah.

On Tuesday tea-time Dobriskey, the reigning 1500m champion, and Ohuruogu, winner of the 400m at the last Games in Melbourne four years ago, had announced their withdrawals from the England team because of injuries. Ohuruogu did so with a tweet: "Sad 2 say, I'm out of th CWG. Followin discussions wit coach and medical team I decided 2 gve it a miss. C www.chrissyo.com 4 press release."

Idowu, the reigning world and Commonwealth triple jump champion, confirmed his withdrawal on Twitter late on Tuesday night. "Sorry people, but I have children to think about," he wrote on his account. "My safety is more important to them than a medal."

Yesterday morning the Belgrave Harrier tweeted an extended explanation. "I understand people will be disappointed that I will not be competing," he wrote. "I am disappointed. If you know me as an athlete you will know these games mean a lot to me. It's the champs in which I won my 1st medal. And four years ago won my 1st gold, which kicked off the success I have in my career to date.

"All the press about bridges collapsing and 23+ people being hurt, floods and unhabitable [sic] living conditions, getting my daughter ready for school this morning and seeing all of that put me off. I can't afford to risk my safety in the slightest."

Idowu's decision will doubtless be supported by Kelly Sotherton. Winner of the heptathlon four years ago, the 33-year-old has been out of action with a back injury that will cause her to concentrate on the 400m in future. On Tuesday she tweeted: "I'm quite relieved that I'm not going! It's enough to worry about performing but worry where you sleep and walk is another thing."

Yesterday, when news broke of the partial crumbling of a false ceiling at the weightlifting arena, the day after the collapse of a footbridge outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, she tweeted: "Would you go to work where the conditions were not up to scratch like sanitation and building was unstable? No, nor would us athletes!"

England's athletes on Twitter yesterday

Phillips Idowu (Triple jumper)

I understand people will be disappointed that I will not be competing. I am disappointed. If you know me as an athlete you will know these games mean alot to me. It's the champs in which I won my 1st medal. And four years ago won my 1st gold, which kicked off the success I have in my career to date.

All the press about bridges collapsing and 23+ people being hurt, floods and unhabitable living conditions, getting my daughter ready for school this morning and seeing all of that put me off.

I can't afford to risk my safety in the slightest. Sorry people, but I have children to think about. My safety is more important to them than a medal.

Helen Clitheroe (1,500m runner)

Hands up if you're going to Delhi. I'm still in. Come on let's get some positive vibes going.

Andrew Steele (400m runner)

I will be there with brass knobs on. I've been training my ass off for this.

Greg Rutherford (Long jumper)

I shall be going. I have things to win.

Kelly Sotherton (Injured heptathlete)

Would you go to work where the conditions were not up to scratch like sanitation and building was unstable? No, nor would us athletes!

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