Team GB: Trials and tribulations

Team GB's Olympic trials begin tonight, so has Ennis already qualified and what about Idowu? Simon Turnbull answers your questions

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The Independent Online

According to UK Athletics, the governing body of track and field in these shores, we are about to witness "the most competitive" Olympic trials since 1992.

"There is a depth in the sport that we have not seen for 20 years and we have a number of events where five or six athletes are competing for three places," head coach Charles van Commenee said yesterday, looking ahead to the Aviva 2012 Trials, which open at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham tonight and continue until Sunday evening.

"I expect athletes to rise to the occasion and give the selectors some selection headaches."

Q Is there any chance of the selectors being left with a migraine on the scale of the 1988 one, when Seb Coe failed to get beyond the 1500m heats in front of a stunned Alexander Stadium crowd and was overlooked for the Seoul Olympics, prompting the Daily Mirror to launch a "Coe Must Go" campaign?

A No. For two reasons. First, the selection system that is in place these days.

The first two athletes in each event this weekend will claim automatic selection provided they have achieved an A standard qualifying mark this year. A third place in each event is at the discretion of the selectors and is open to athletes who have achieved the A standard in 2012 or 2011, or who placed in the top eight at the World Championships in Daegu last year. Hence Mo Farah is free to compete in the 1500m as a test of speed, safe in the knowledge that his times and performances (gold and silver in Daegu) will secure his selection for the 5,000m and 10,000m. Secondly, in the events in which Britain have current – or recent – global medallists there is not the kind of depth that there was on the men's middle distance front in the 1980s.

Jessica Ennis has already effectively secured her selection for the heptathlon, courtesy of her British record performance at Götzis in Austria last month, and will be competing in four events this weekend (100m hurdles, 200m, long jump and high jump – intriguingly against Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the Liverpool girl whom she has earmarked as her successor) purely as preparation for London.

Phillips Idowu has not competed since landing awkwardly at the Eugene Diamond League meeting on 3 June but the former world triple jump champion could afford to skip this weekend, or even perform poorly, and still be sure of selection.

Q So where is the drama likely to come from?

A There is a chance of an upset in the men's 400m hurdles. Dai Greene is the reigning world champion but his early-season form has been undermined by illness and by his recovery from pre-Christmas knee surgery (which he kept quiet until last week). The Welshman's 20-year-old training partner Jack Green is a burgeoning talent and could capitalise on any home-straight weakness.

The event promises to be one of the most hotly contested. Rick Yates, Nathan Woodward and Rhys Williams also have current A standard times, so there are five men battling for three places. Even if Greene finishes fifth or worse, though, as world champion he could bank on the discretionary third place.

The 110m hurdles, the last event on the programme on Sunday, promises to be equally hot. Lawrence Clarke and Andrew Pozzi are the men in form but Andy Turner is a World Championship bronze medallist and William Sharman finished fourth in the 2009 World Championships. The two young bucks are likely to push one of the elder statesmen out of the frame.

Q What about the traditional blue riband event, the men's 100m?

A There could be a changing of the guard here, too, if not quite an upset. Going by the form book, the 10.08sec clocked by 18-year-old Adam Gemili a fortnight ago makes him the boy (if not quite the man) to beat. Only the young Dartford flyer and Croydon's James Dasaolu have achieved the 10.18sec A standard this summer. Dwain Chambers has clocked 10.28sec and has struggled for form since the lifting of the BOA byelaw against the selection of former doping offenders. The 34-year-old will have some cobwebs to blow off in the heats tonight.

Q What about those whose tribulations will keep them out of the trials?

A The emerging young Cumbrian 5,000m runner Tom Farrell has a stress fracture that will keep him out of the trials and the Games, while triple jumper Nathan Douglas will miss the trials and is likely to miss the Games. Others who will be absent this weekend but who are still hopeful of making the Games include Hannah England (1500m) and Jenny Meadows (800m).

Q What about those who finish in the first two this weekend but still need qualifying standards?

A They will have until midnight on Sunday week. The selectors will hole up in a Heathrow hotel the next day, en route from the European Championships, to finalise the team, which will be announced on Tuesday 3 July.

Q So which athletes are already selected for London 2012?

A Only the men's and women's marathon runners – among them Paula Radcliffe, who narrowly missed selection as an 18-year-old in the trials of 1992, finishing fourth in the 3,000m. Cathy Freeman won the 400m as a guest at those trials and the men's 10,000m tonight will feature the guesting Kenenisa Bekele. Despite being the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder, he is under pressure to produce a fast time to secure selection for the Ethiopian team for London 2012.