London not calling for Ottey and relay team


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The Independent Online

Sadly, there will be no Olympic Games for the grand dame of sprinting, Merlene Ottey – nor for the great underperformers of the Great Britain women's 4 x 100m relay team. Both fell off the London 2012 selection radar in the relay semi-finals at the European Championships in Helsinki yesterday.

It was always going to be a long shot for the 52-year-old Ottey to make the qualifying grade for an eighth Olympic appearance. Already out of the equation in the individual 100m (she has fallen to 261st place in the world rankings with 11.82sec), she and the Slovenian 4 x 100m squad needed to climb from 21st to 16th in the world rankings. They failed to do so, Ottey anchoring them home in a disappointing sixth place in the opening semi-final.

The British quartet were also in borderline territory heading into the European Championships, ranked 15th in the world, and were knocked down to 17th by Poland and Switzerland yesterday. They might have had another chance in today's final but after finishing second to Germany in the second semi-final they were disqualified, with third leg runner Hayley Jones adjudged to have run out of her lane by officials.

"In my eyes it was already an accident waiting to happen," Charles van Commenee, Britain's head coach, said. "We've been underperforming in that area for 10 years. There's a point where you pay the price and that happens to be just before the Games. It's a true reflection of where we are."

For Ottey – who won a 200m silver for her native Jamaica in Moscow in 1980, and who holds a record nine Olympic track and field medals and three World Championship golds – at least there was the satisfaction of rolling back the years on the track where she competed in the inaugural World Championship in 1983. She won silver in the 200m back then behind Marita Koch of East Germany, ahead of an American sprinter called Florence Griffith Joyner.

"I love the sport," Ottey said. "That's why I'm still on the track. It feels good to be here in Helsinki again."

There was a fifth medal of the championships for the British team last night, Danny Talbot sneaking bronze in the 200m. The young Wiltshire sprinter was outside the Olympic standard qualifying time.