Mixed emotions as Rutherford books his place

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The Independent Online

Contrary to popular perception in the wider world, the men's 100m was not the only show in town yesterday. Before the latest edition of the Chambers soap opera unfolded on the second day of the British Olympic trials, Greg Rutherford returned to form following 12 months of injury trouble to book a berth to Beijing in the long jump.

The European Championships silver medallist in Gothenburg two years ago could hardly have judged his re-emergence with better timing, hitting the Olympic A standard qualifying mark, 8.20m, right on the button with his fifth- round effort. The following wind was also preciselyon the allowable limit, two metres a second.

"I've just had the worst week and a half of my life and for this to happen to me is massive," an emo-tional Rutherford said. "I found out last Thursday that my granddad, James Pearce, has terminal cancer. I wasn't going to come here. I've done no training this week. It was my granddad who said, 'Just go out there and make me proud and do it.' It's all for him."

The British record holderChris Tomlinson finished in fifth place with 7.76m but is still likely to make the qualifying cut for Beijing, having achieved the A standard last year and claimed a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in March, meeting the requirement of two items listed in UK Athletics' stipulated Olympic Selection Criteria.

The crowds at the Alex-ander Stadium yesterday could not exactly be des-cribed as madding, but far from the band of aficionados who turned up, Dean Macey was making his last-ditch attempt to qualify for the decathlon in Beijing. On day one of the Hexham Combined Events International, the injury-dogged Commonwealth champion opened with 11.33sec in the 100m, long jumped 7.21m, putted the shot 15.40m, high jumped 2.07m and looked strong in the 400m, clocking 49.40sec.

All of which added up to a first-day score of 4,176 points, putting the Canvey Islander on course for anA standard score of 8,000 points, if not another unlikely challenge for an Olympic medal.

In 2004, Macey made the team for Athens by the seat of his Lycra shorts, emerging from three years on the injured list with a B standard score of 7,842 points in Hexham. Four weeks later, against all the odds, he finished just shy of the podium in the Olympic arena, placing fourth for the second successive Games.

Sadly, on the women's programme in Birmingham yesterday, the 400m final was minus both of the Britons who finished on the rostrum at the World Championships last summer. Christine Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders are due to cross competitive swords for the first time this summer in the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace on 25 and 26 July, but the latter, having twice postponed the opening to her season because of a "niggling knee problem", was back on the treatment table, having withdrawn from the heats of the 400m on Friday after feeling the tightening of a quadriceps muscle on the warm-up track.

Sanders suffered similar travails throughout last summer before emerging fit and healthy and in medal- winning shape in Osaka, and UK Athletics will be praying she can do so again, because the Buckingham-shire woman is one of less than a handful of British contenders for a top-three finish in Beijing.

Given her absence from the final yesterday, and that of Ohuruogu, who has chosen to contest the 200m instead at the trials, it was just as well that the domestic governing body had taken the precaution of adding "terms and conditions" clauses to their selection criteria, not automatically guaranteeing places to the first two past the post provided they were in possession of A standard Olympic qualifying times, but also taking into consideration top-eight placings in past global champion-ships plus an athlete'sability to make a "podium appearance".

As it happened, none of the 400m finalists managed to finish inside the A mark yesterday, Lee McConnell emerging a clear victor in 52.32sec. The Scot, how-ever, has the standard from last summer, making the selection of the three places available in the event a formality for the powers that be. There are also 4 x 400m relay spots to be resolved, though, and Kelly Sotherton, the Athens heptathlon bronze medallist, has a claim to one of those,having recorded a highly impressive 51.05sec split on the anchor leg for Britain at the European Cup in Annecy last month.

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