Macey in need of luck and judgement

Mike Rowbottom talks to a decathlete, who is competing for the first time in three years, as he aims for Olympic qualification

Spectators At the multi-events competition taking place in the Northumbrian market town of Hexham this weekend will be guaranteed a sight never before witnessed in British athletics - that of Dean Macey trying not to try too hard.

Spectators At the multi-events competition taking place in the Northumbrian market town of Hexham this weekend will be guaranteed a sight never before witnessed in British athletics - that of Dean Macey trying not to try too hard.

If one thing has become obvious since he blazed into public consciousness five years ago by earning an unexpected world decathlon silver medal, it is this: Macey doesn't do caution.

That is both his glory, and his weakness. Today, however, Canvey Island's favourite son will go to the line in the first of his 10 events, the 100 metres, knowing that he cannot afford to give full expression to a competitive spirit that has been excruciatingly curbed by injury for the last three years.

In what will be not just his first decathlon, but his first competition since winning bronze at the 2001 World Championships, the 26-year-old Newham and Essex Beagle needs to score at least 7,700 points, the Olympic B standard qualifier if he is to go to the Games which start in less than four weeks from now.

But he toes the line praying that the hamstring he pulled at the start of May will allow him to complete the course and arrive in Athens fit to compete.

It is a big ask.

"What can I say?" commented Charles van Commenee, head coach for jumps and multi-events at UK Athletics. "I wouldn't guarantee anything. What I do know is there is no one with stronger willpower than Dean Macey, in competition especially. But the fact is that he hasn't competed for quite a long time and it's not easy."

The historical omens are not good. Twelve years ago, Daley Thompson found himself in a similar position, and after dropping out of a decathlon in Trondheim during the first day, he injured himself in the first event of a decathlon at Crystal Palace a few days later on the eve of the Olympic selection deadline.

As of yesterday, after a week in which he had successfully completed two hurdles drills and a long jump practice, Macey was officially described by Van Commenee as being "moderately positive" about his prospects.

The man who coached Denise Lewis to the Olympic heptathlon four years ago added: "Dean is a bit worried, naturally. But we have discussed the weekend in great detail and he knows exactly what he has to do in each event. He has got to hold back in every area except the throws."

Macey maintains he has been a changed man this year. "I've seen the mistakes I've made in the last two years," he said. "Going hell for leather as soon as I started getting fit. Now I'm listening more." Asked to assess his prospects in May, a couple of weeks after his season had been jolted out of joint by his latest injury, Macey responded with characteristic optimism, saying that he was "100 per cent confident" of making the Games.

"It's only three events I need to work on - the 100m, the 400m and the hurdles," he said. "The other seven events, I'm sweet." Mention of his television promise to the British nation after the last Olympics, where he finished fourth, gives him pause for thought.

"Well, yeah," he said. "But I need a bit of luck. If a couple of the others fell over on the hurdles, and a couple of them got lost on the way ...

"I've got to be honest. I can't see myself winning it, although stranger things have happened because I won silver in Seville at my first World Championships and I wasn't supposed to. You know, the sun shines on a dog's arse some days, as they say.

"But I can't see myself winning it. And things would have to go pretty well for me to win a medal as well. I've had my fair share of bad luck, though. Why can't I expect to get a little bit of good luck?"

What Macey needs this year, apart from good luck, is a score of 8,400 points, without which he will lose his Lottery funding. What happens, you wonder, if he can't manage it? "Don't know. I haven't got a plan B," he said. "But to be honest I don't expect to need one."

Fingers, and anything else, crossed ...

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