Selection baffles coaches

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The Independent Online
A dispute over team selection broke out before today's Half-marathon World Championships, with some of Britain's top coaches claiming bias by selectors.

Gary Staines, Ian Hudspith, Eamonn Martin and Carl Thackery are among the world-class runners missing from Great Britain's team for this morning's 13.1-mile race along the esplanade, with at least three of them available to represent their country but never asked by officials if they wanted to compete. In the three-to-score team event, a full-strength British squad might have won medals. But according to one coach - who preferred not to be named for fear of his athletes being further ostracised by selectors - today's team "is far from being the best that could have been selected".

Britain's team last won medals in 1993, with Thackery also taking individual bronze, a best-yet performance by a British man. Today, the British team is made up of those less famous: the Border Harrier Dave Swanston is the best of the bunch, having run 63min 48sec this year, while Dave Tune is making his international debut on the basis of a moderate 64min 48sec.

While the Half-marathon World Championship is hardly the most sought after prize on the international circuit for an athlete such as Hudspith, who has run nearly two minutes faster than Tune this year, a Great Britain vest is potentially worth hard cash in endorsements.

Some coaches believe that the selectors are less than impartial. "They seem to have their favourite runners," said one. "It means they've picked slow runners." According to Mel Batty, who is training Eamonn Martin towards next month's Chicago Marathon, "the selectors have hived off-road running to a little clique".

There was nothing controversial about the selection of Liz McColgan. The inaugural world champion in 1992 sees the race as a stepping stone towards her marathon goals in Tokyo in November and London next April.

The battle with one of her rivals today could be a revealing preview of the London race, for South Africa's Zola Pieterse is widely expected to make her marathon debut in the capital in seven months' time. The former Zola Budd, who set her first British all-comers' record when a tabloid newspaper acquired a British passport for her in time to run in the 1984 Olympics, is now 30 years old and looking to relaunch her running career on the roads.

l Roger Black hailed as "magnificent" the decision to set up a company to run the commercial activities of British athletics. The company, a subsidary of, and actively involving the British Athletic Federation and its athletes, will target the securing of a new television deal as its main priority. "British athletics can now move forward into a new, golden era," Black said.