Proud Hemery misses day of the rising son

Sydney 2000
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The Independent Online

At the age of 56, David Hemery hasfinally encountered one barrier he simply cannot surmount. The man who hurdled so memorably to Olympic gold in Mexico City in 1968 has no chance of being in two places at one time next weekend.

At the age of 56, David Hemery hasfinally encountered one barrier he simply cannot surmount. The man who hurdled so memorably to Olympic gold in Mexico City in 1968 has no chance of being in two places at one time next weekend.

As president of UK Athletics, he needs to be in Birmingham, attending the Olympic trials on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As a proud father, though, he would rather be in France, where Adrian Hemery makes his Great Britain debut as a member of the under-20 decathlon team competing in a combined-events international against France and Germany in Val de Reuil on Saturday and Sunday.

"It's been a very, very tough decision, but I will be at the trials," Hemery senior said. "I am chairman of the selection committee and my head and the people around me say it would be nice if I was in Birmingham. My heart will be as good as in France, because obviously my youngster's first Great Britain international would be lovely to see. My wife, Vivian, will go out in my stead and I will keep in touch by phone.

"Adrian understands. He's a very balanced lad and this is just the start, we hope. If he still enjoys it in a few years' time I'm sure there'll be bigger things for him."

There could even be a family decathlon record for Adrian, who celebrates his 18th birthday today. His father was 25 when, in the wake of his world-record 400m hurdles win in Mexico, he temporarily turned to the 10-event challenge and rattled up an impressive score of 6,893 points. Adrian improved his personal best to 6,302 points in winning the under-20 title at the Gateshead invitation meeting a fortnight ago and, having joined Ian Grant's multi-events group at Swindon Athletics Club only last year, is still a relative decathlon novice.

He also happens to be something of a whizz-kid statistician (with a place reading mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, pending his A-level results) and, as such, might like to calculate the probability of two chips off the old international sporting block making it into the same Great Britain under- 20 team. Fiona Harrison, who competes in the heptathlon in Val de Reuil, is the daughter of Mike Harrison, who captained England in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.

Harrowing trial

No british athlete knows more about the tribulations of Britain's Olympic track-and-field trials than Peter Elliott. He beat Sebastian Coe to win the 1500m trial at Crystal Palace in 1984 but still lost a team place in the event to the reigning Olympic champion. He won the 1500m trial again in Birmingham in 1988 and was then scandalously vilified in some sections of the press for denying Coe, who failed to reach the final, a place. The Daily Mirror printed "Coe Must Go" badges and published a cartoon depicting Coe as a thoroughbred and Elliott as a carthorse.

The memory will no doubt be painfully fresh in Elliott's mind when he returns to the Alexander Stadium for this year's trials - to work among the reporting fraternity who once did him such a disservice. His role with Nova International, principally as a race organiser, has expanded to include a journalistic sideline with the athletics website

"I'll be doing a bit of writing at the trials and doing audio interviews with the athletes," Elliott said. "I hope none of them have to go through what I did, especially in 1988. The worst thing was the knock-on effect of the Daily Mirror campaign. I received hate mail from people and in all honesty I had done nothing wrong. I was just the scapegoat.

"Of the three athletes who boarded the plane to run the 1500m in Seoul, I had earned the right to go because I had won the trial. Steve Crabb finished second and Steve Cram was pre-selected, so I couldn't see how I had stopped Seb Coe being in the team for the 1500. The people who sent the hate mail knew nothing about athletics. They just said, 'Seb Coe's not going because of Peter Elliott'. It was just this roller-coaster effect. It was horrendous."

It ended with a silver lining forElliott, though. Despite suffering from a groin injury which required pain-killing injections, he won thesilver medal behind Peter Rono of Kenya. He also won a printedapology from the Mirror. "I'm looking at it now, actually," the pedigree racer said. "It's framed here on my office wall."

Behind the times

Mike Stember might have finished in the 1500m frame at the United States Olympic trials a fortnight ago, but his place in the team for Sydney is still far from assured. The contentious first-three-past-the-post selection policy in practice in America comes with the proviso thatathletes must achieve the Olympic qualifying standard and Stember, despite finishing third in Sacramento, has yet to beat 3min 36.80sec.

He has until 11 September to win his race against the clock and will have two attempts on the European circuit this week, in Malmö tomorrow night and in Zurich on Friday. Should he fail, the third US 1500m place would go to Jason Lunn, who was fourth in the trial - provided he achieved the Olympic standard.

As things stand, the man in pole position is Steve Holman. He finished fifth in Sacramento, but his early-season qualifying time could prove to be an insurance ticket to Sydney.

Osoro's sorrow

And finally... Ondoro Osoro has been forced to vacate his marathon place in Kenya's Olympic team after being shot on his way home from his country's trials in Nairobi a fortnight ago. The 1998 Chicago marathon winner suffered a gunshot wound to the neck in a car-jacking incident.