Thomas 'let down' as Davis wins place on plane to Athens

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Max Jones, the UK Athletics performance director, yesterday defended the decision to offer Malachi Davis, the American who gained a British passport less than a fortnight ago, an Olympic place at the expense of athletes such as Du'aine Ladejo and Iwan Thomas, both former European 400 metres champions.

Max Jones, the UK Athletics performance director, yesterday defended the decision to offer Malachi Davis, the American who gained a British passport less than a fortnight ago, an Olympic place at the expense of athletes such as Du'aine Ladejo and Iwan Thomas, both former European 400 metres champions.

Davis, from Sacramento, was among 11 athletes added to the British team before today's deadline, earning the third remaining individual 400m place and joining the 4x400m relay squad, to which Welshman Matt Elias was also added.

That means no trip to Athens for Ladejo or Thomas, and the latter athlete - who has not got an A qualifying mark for the individual event but felt he was a genuine contender for a relay spot - says he feels badly treated. "I'm gobsmacked," said Thomas, who only returned to full-time training a fortnight ago after injury. "It wasn't what I expected to hear. I thought I would have been a very good member of the team."

Having run a time of 46.14sec in Madrid on Saturday, shortly after Davis had run 46.30 in Loughborough, Thomas - whose career has been plagued by injury since he won the European, Commonwealth and World Cup titles in 1998 - believed he was in contention to seek a second Olympic relay medal following the silver he picked up in Atlanta eight years ago.

"There's no point in having a slanging match," the 30-year-old added. "But I've been through hell these last five years. I love this sport and now look what they've done to me. I feel really let down by the sport, particularly after Madrid. I knew I had turned around a big corner and am in shape to run much faster. I thought they would have respected my past record and given me a chance."

Jones accepted that the late contention of Davis, who was not a realistic contender for a place in the US team, had upset some other runners, but added that he was fully entitled to run.

"The selectors have got to be objective about it," he said. "If he's eligible, he's eligible."

Davis was the only runner eligible to take the last available individual place as only he had achieved the Olympic A qualifying standard of 45.55. And under new International Olympic Committee rules, if all three individual places are taken up, only three more athletes may be added to make up a relay squad.

Davis, meanwhile, said he had his "heart set" on winning a medal. Earlier, in an interview for BBC Radio Five Live, he spoke of "representing England" before being reminded it was a British squad by his Scottish interviewer. "Britain it is!" responded Davis, who qualifies for a British passport through his mother, Ava.

Asked whether he felt what he had done was fair, he said: "I was just looking at opportunities to possibly run for another country and to reach my ultimate goal which is the Olympics.

"There are a lot of athletes, I was told, that were upset with my decision because that could possibly take away their chances of making the squad. But like any athlete around the world there's a certain standard that you have to get, and I got it with about a month and a half to go."

As expected, Chris Tomlinson was chosen for the long jump despite the fact that he only had an Olympic B qualifying standard of 8.05m, which meant there was no leeway to pick the Commonwealth champion, Nathan Morgan, despite the fact that he has an A qualifier from last season.

"I'm very happy to be in the team," said Tomlinson, whose jump of 8.28m to win last month's European Cup was wind-assisted. "But I am also quite sorry for Nathan."

Morgan, who made a late start to the season after having his appendix out on 10 May, achieved a jump of 8.04m in Crete last week, and jumped 7.98m in Madrid on Saturday. But his coach, Ted King, accepted yesterday that he had left himself too much to do.

"It's not a comfortable feeling right now," he said. "Deep down Nathan will be disappointed he's not been able to get to the Games, and it will probably be a few days before he gets his head round it properly. But there's no sense in getting annoyed.We knew he would have to get the A standard of 8.19 to be named."

Dean Macey has confirmed his fitness to compete after achieving the B qualifying mark at Hexham at the weekend in what was his first decathlon since winning the 2001 world bronze medal. Ricky Soos has been picked for the 800m, Emeka Udechuku is in the discus while Dwayne Grant and Scotland's Nick Smith have been added to the 4x100m relay squad. Jo Pavey, a finalist over 5,000m at the last Olympic Games, has also been added to the 1,500m, giving her a chance to pick which event she feels she is fit enough for after injury.

Comments