Idowu withdraws and Porter winces to shake British hopes
Concerns arise over medal hopes but Sayers extends UK record and Ohuruogu beats world champion
Sunday 15 July 2012
On a cruise down the Thames last week to promote his scheduled return to action in the Aviva London Grand Prix, Phillips Idowu turned up wearing a Batman T-shirt but proclaimed to the media: "I'm the Invisible Man." He certainly was yesterday.
Out of competitive commission since the Eugene Diamond League meeting on 2 June, but denying reports of an injury, the former world triple jump champion performed a disappearing trick after suffering a hip problem in his warm-up. The question now is whether the Hackney man's hopes of home Olympic glory have vanished too.
In keeping with Idowu's reputation, nobody could say for sure. There is certainly a big question mark, though - as there is about another great British medal hope.
On a painful afternoon for the British track and field team - eased by a UK record javelin throw by Goldie Sayers and a stunning return to form by Christine Ohuruogu - Tiffany Porter left the track in tears. The American-born 100 metres hurdler winced as she negotiated the seventh flight in her heat, jogging in eighth and last with a back problem.
It was the announcement of Idowu's late withdrawal that caused the biggest stir, prompting a collective gasp from the 17,000 sell-out crowd. The 33-year-old insisted on Wednesday that his recent absence from competition was not due to an injury, contradicting the words of Charles van Commenee, the British team coach with whom he has a non-speaking relationship.
Idowu's agent, Ricky Simms, insisted that the problem yesterday was fresh. The Belgrave Harrier felt a tightness in his oblique muscle leading into his hip while limbering up and with the London Olympics less than two weeks away, decided on the cotton wool approach.
"Hey guys, sorry to pull out," he later tweeted. "Slight bit of muscle tightness. I'll be fine in a day or 2."
The triple jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards, on BBC television duty yesterday, said it was no grounds for undue concern, pointing to the rainy weather.
"When I turned up at the track this morning, I asked myself 'Would I have wanted to jump today?' and the answer was no," Edwards said. "Phillips probably didn't fancy it, but there is nothing to worry about [regarding the injury]. It's cold, damp and he doesn't want to take any risks. We will forgive him everything if he jumps well in London."
Only time will tell.
Clearly, Porter would have been better off giving the meeting a miss. Apparently, she was nursing the back problem going into her race. It remains to be seen whether the damage will threaten her appearance at the Games, where her husband, Jeff Porter, will be competing for the USA in the 110m hurdles.
The American Danielle Carruthers comforted Porter on the track and said: "She's a little worried because the pressure of competing well and getting a medal in your home town is big. It's hard to get past it when you have some pain but last year at the World Championships my Achilles was hurting me bad. A week before I was crying just like her, thinking I was out of it, but we taped me up, had acupuncture, pieced me together and I got a medal."
It took a mighty first-round effort from Sayers to lift the gathering gloom on the home front. In the pouring rain, the Cambridgeshire woman hurled her javelin out to 66.17m. In doing so, she claimed the scalp of Barbora Spotakova, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder from the Czech Republic. It was an advancement of 42cm on the British record Sayers threw when finishing fourth in the 2008 Olympic final in Beijing, earning a tidy bonus two days before her 30th birthday.
"I think the drinks are on me," Sayers said. "It's one of the best days of my athletics career but I know I will definitely have to throw further to get an Olympic medal. I do think it would be to my benefit if it rained. My coach keeps saying it's going to miserable, and the more miserable the better."
Heaven knows Ohuruogu has had reason to be miserable in the past three years. Injury has blunted the form that took her to Olympic 400m gold in Beijing but there have been signs of it returning this year and in the final event yesterday that old eye of the tiger look was back as she entered the home straight with Amantle Montsho, the world champion from Botswana, in her sights.
The Stratford woman surged past to win by 0.14sec in 50.42s, her fastest time for three years.
"It's been a really long road since 2008, really tough," Ohuruogu said. "It's good to know I'm fit and healthy." And in shape to get back on an Olympic podium, she might have added.
Not that Ohuruogu is the sort to get carried away - even by what was her best performance, if not her fastest, since she struck gold in the Beijing Bird's Nest.
When the suggestion of another gold was put to her, Britain's one reigning Olympic track and field champion positively bridled.
"I don't hear that talk," Ohuruogu said. "I just focus on my race plan, don't get involved in all the noise and hype. I just make sure I am in a good frame of mind and do what I have to do on the track."
How our top medal hopes are shaping up
Mo Farah; 5,000m and 10,000m
How is he looking? As sharp as last year, when he won 5,000m gold and 10,000m silver at the World Championships.
Who does he have to beat? Anyone in an Ethiopian and Kenyan vest, plus Bernard Lagat of the US at 5,000m.
Best/worst of the year? At 5,000m 12min 56.98sec/13:29.91. Has yet to run a 10,000m on the track in 2012.
Gold medal chances? ****
Perri Shakes-Drayton; 400m hurdles
How is she looking? Suddenly shot into medal contention with her stunning win at Crystal Palace on Friday.
Who does she have to beat? Natalya Antyukh of Russia tops the world rankings with 53.40sec. Lashinda Demus of the US is the world champion.
Best/worst of the year? 53.77sec/57.81.
Gold medal chances? **
Dai Greene; 400m hurdles
How is he looking? In lifetime best shape and gaining form with every race after an unspectacular start to the season. Finished second at Crystal Palace on Friday.
Who does he have to beat? Javier Culson of Puerto Rico finished ahead of him in Paris and London and is unbeaten in 2012.
Best/worst of the year? 47.84sec/50.80.
Gold medal chances? ***
Phillips Idowu: Triple jump
How is he looking? Invisible. Has not competed since 2 June and withdrew from the Crystal Palace meeting yesterday because of injury
Who does he have to beat? With Teddy Tamgho, the world indoor record holder, out injured, American Christian Taylor - the world champion and the winner yesterday - is the favourite.
Best/worst of the year? 17.31m/17.05.
Gold medal chances? **
Yamile Aldama; Triple jump
How is she looking? Not quite as good as in March when she won the world indoor title, but a 14.37m jump for third place yesterday was an encouraging return after shoulder injury.
Who does she have to beat? Olga Saladukha of Ukraine and Katerina Ibarguen of Colombia, who both finished above her yesterday.
Best/worst of the year? 14.82m (indoors)/13.03.
Gold medal chances? **
Robbie Grabarz; High jump
How is he looking? Third top in the world rankings but not at his best yesterday, managing only 2.22m for second place.
Who does he have to beat? Ivan Ukhov is the marginal favourite but and Andrei Silnov, another Russian, and world champion Jesse Williams of the US are also strong contenders.
Best/worst of the year? 2.36m/2.22.
Gold medal chances? **
Christine Ohuruogu; 400m
How is she looking? Pretty, pretty good after her rousing victory over world champion Amantle Montsho yesterday.
Who does she have to beat? Antonina Krivoshapka of Russia leads the world rankings with 49.16sec but world indoor champion Sanya Richards-Ross of the US could be the big threat.
Best/worst of the year? 50.42sec/52.14.
Gold medal chances? ***
Tiffany Porter; 100m hurdles
How is she looking? Not too good after jogging across the line injured in her heat yesterday. May struggle to even make the Games.
Who does she have to beat? Her battered body, plus world champion Sally Pearson.
Best/worst times of the year? 12.47sec/14.19.
Gold medal chances? *
And what about the Palace absentees?
Having wrapped up her competitive preparations for the Games at Loughborough last weekend, Jessica Ennis is sitting pretty at the top of the world heptathlon rankings. After her victory over world champion Tatyana Chernova at Gotzis in May, breaking Denise Lewis' British record, she will start as favourite in London.
Greg Rutherford, who missed the London Grand Prix because of cramp, remains joint top of the men's long jump rankings. In an open event, his British team-mate Chris Tomlinson jumped into medal contention with an 8.26m leap on Friday. Pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale, meanwhile, is regaining the form that took her to a world indoor bronze medal in March.
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