Olympic recall for Garcia could snap Britain's bonds

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Great Britain's men booked their tickets for the Sydney Games here at the Olympic qualifying tournament - but their mission was accomplished without the flair and experience of Russell Garcia, and the vexed matter of the veteran's recall is Britain's next hurdle.

Garcia was not considered following his three-month ban for a positive drugs test. However, following his successful appeal against the life ban handed out by the British Olympic Committee, he is now available for selection for Britain's build-up to the Games.

Barry Dancer, the team's coach, said yesterday that no decision had been reached on Garcia's reinstatement. Management and players will be considering his position over the next few days.

It will be a difficult decision. The squad here showed abundant team spirit, digging deep when it looked as if the Sydney dream was fading in the wake of the 5-2 defeat to Poland. But they made a nervous start and often lost their concentration. Whatever the merits of his game, Garcia's return could adversely affect the team's bonding.

Cannock's Ben Sharpe would not be drawn on the subject but summed up Britain's tournament. "We know we have not performed well," he said after the final game. "But we prepared well for the sixth and crucial game and achieved our target. We know we have a lot to learn and a lot to improve on but we are confident. We have bonded together well and succeeded."

There is more certainty about the recall, subject to fitness, of Surbiton's Brett Garrard, who returned home from February's Australian tour for a knee operation. Should Garrard and Garcia return, at least four of the squad who qualified will miss out on the Olympics as only 16 rather than the 18 here can be selected.

Every tournament has its bonuses and Stuart Head and Guy Fordham were two fringe players who in the difficult games here in Osaka showed courage and tenacity.

In the coming months Britain will play in the élite Six Nations Trophy in Amsterdam, a Four Nations tournament in Hamburg in August and probably a two-Test series against the Dutch Olympic champions. The sooner the Garcia situation is resolved, the better for Britain.