Neil Black, the UK Athletics performance director, has called on the public to believe in Britain and, in particular, James Dasaolu after he was selected to spearhead the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team’s sprint ambitions at next month’s World Championships in Moscow.
Dasaolu’s stunning run of 9.91 seconds for those championships on Saturday, the second fastest ever by a Briton, was quickly followed by failed drugs tests for Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, leading to inevitable insinuations about the Briton’s performance a mere 24 hours earlier.
But Black, when asked if supporters were right to trust the legality of the London-born sprinter, said: “Without question. I’ve not got the slightest question whatsoever. I understand that it’s inherent and human nature almost to be suspicious. But I think ‘excitement’ is the word and we can see it hugely positively.”
Dasaolu’s cause in the 100m, for which he has been selected for Moscow, has been aided by the absence of Gay, the fastest man this year, for his positive test for a still unnamed substance, and Black has set the 25-year-old the target to “make that final and, if at all possible, win a medal”.
Even without Gay, there is still a strong American and Jamaican contingent to contend with, including the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt, and Dasaolu has yet to show if his previously frail body – he has suffered a litany of injury problems in his career – can hold up to the rounds in Moscow and whether he can back up that stunning Birmingham performance.
Injuries remain a key talking point in the British squad. Olympic heptathlon winner Jessica Ennis-Hill has been included despite not competing since last summer’s Games because of an ankle injury.
She is scheduled to appear at the annual Loughborough European Athletics Permit meeting on Tuesday and the event has habitually been one of her pre-championship warm-ups each season. According to Ennis-Hill’s team, her progress over the past week has been very good, although Black insisted “it is hard to be 100 per cent confident” that she will line up in Moscow, although he was upbeat about her chances of doing so.
He added that even if the Olympic champion failed to compete before the Worlds she had every chance of winning back the world title she lost to Russia’s Tatyana Chernova in Daegu two years ago. “I think Jess is one of the few people that can come and do that having not competed in individual events,” he said.
Pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale and 1500m runner Lisa Dobriskey, both potential medallists at world level, were ruled out because of injury. Bleasdale is nursing back and achilles complaints while Dobriskey, who pulled out of the 1500m final at the national trials with two laps remaining, revealed she has a leg injury. “Sadly, the scan picked up a grade three tear so I have no choice but to end my season here,” she wrote on Twitter.
There are also injury doubts over Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford, who has had a succession of problems during his career to date. A hamstring problem caused him to miss the trials but he has been given special dispensation to prove his fitness until 30 July and, should he do so, looks certain to be added. “Greg is a unique individual and he’s recovered from some ailments and injuries in that past in a way that I’ve rarely seen so we’ve decided to give him the opportunity to see if that can happen again,” added Black.
UKA have opted against the previous policy of Charles van Commenee, head coach from 2008 to 2012, of setting medal targets for major championships. But there is a sense of excitement for the first time in ages about the sprint potential of the team, with Harry Aikines-Aryeetey selected alongside Dasaolu and Dwain Chambers in the 100m at the expense of Adam Gemili.
After Aikines-Aryeetey achieved the qualifying ‘A’ standard in finishing second behind Chambers in the trials, Black insisted that selecting him over Gemili, who narrowly missed out on a place in last summer’s Olympic final, was not that difficult a decision in Monday’s near four-hour selection panel meeting.
Five golden hopes: Britain’s best chances
1. Jessica Ennis-Hill (heptathlon)
2. Mo Farah (5000m/10000m)
3. Christine Ohuruogu (400m)
4. Perri Shakes-Drayton (400m hurdles)
5. Dai Greene (400m hurdles)
Team GB: World Championship line-up
100m H Aikines-Aryeetey, D Chambers, J Dasaolu; 200m J Ellington, A Gemili, D Williams; 400m N Levine; 800m A Osagie, M Rimmer; 1,500m C O’Hare; 5,000m M Farah; 10,000m Farah; 110mH W Sharman; 400mH D Greene, S Rodger, R Williams; 3,000mSC J Wilkinson; Long Jump tbc; High Jump R Grabarz; Pole Vault S Lewis; Discus B Morse; Decathlon A Bryant; 4x100m Aikines-Aryeetey, Chambers, Dasaolu, Ellington, Gemili, R Kilty, A Robertson, D Tobais; 4x400m M Bingham, J Bowie, L L Ford, Levine, M Rooney, C Williams, D Williams.
100m A Philip; 200m A Onuora, J Williams; 400m C Ohuruogu; 800m J Judd, L Muir, M Okoro; 1,500m H England, L Weightman; 100mH T Porter; 400mH M Beesley, E Child, P Shakes-Drayton; 3,000mSC E McColgan; Long Jump S Proctor, L Ugen; Hammer S Hitchon; Heptathlon J Ennis-Hill, K Johnson-Thompson; Marathon S Samuels, S Partridge; 4x100m Philip, H Jones, A Lewis, A Nelson, B Williams, D A Smith, J Williams; 4x400m M Adeoye, Child, S Cox, K McAslan, K Massey, C Ohuruogu, V Ohuruogu, Onuora, Shakes-Drayton.