GB women's 4x100m relay team will miss out at London 2012 after being disqualified
Saturday, 30 June 2012
June 30 - Britain's women's 4x100 metres relay team saw their prospects of appearing at the London Olympics disappear here at the European Championships today as they were disqualified from their semi-final, thus failing to satisfy the international criteria for qualification at the summer Games.
Britain's chief coach Charles Van Commenee (pictured below) described the turn of events in the Olympic Stadium, where Hayley Jones was adjudged to have run out of her lane during a changeover, as "a low point" for British female sprinting.
Under the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), only the top 16 nations qualify for the Olympic relay based on the average of their best times in 2011 and 2012, and the British quartet of Anyika Onuora, Montell Douglas, Hayley Jones and Ashleigh Nelson cannot now reach that position.
Jones, the third-leg runner, was adjudged to have run out of her lane on the top bend which has caused so many runners to come to grief here over the last few days.
Since the World Championships were held here in 2005 the football pitch at the centre of the 1952 Olympic Stadium has hosted Finland matches, which has required a lengthening of the pitch under FIFA rules.
As a consequence the bends have become less gentle, causing 11 athletes to be disqualified on the opening day of the competition, largely in the 400m.
The British women had entered the European Championships, the final event before the deadline next Tuesday (July 3), in danger of missing out in 15th position but, unable to improve their average due to their disqualification, they found themselves overtaken yesterday by Poland and Switzerland.
It meant they dropped into 17th place and out of the Games.
The British quartet believed they had progressed to tomorrow's final after finishing second, only to find 15 minutes later that they were disqualified.
The British team did not appeal Jones's infringement.
Van Commenee said the women were "speechless" and "emotional" after hearing the news.
Of the four, only Liverpool's Harrier Onuora will go to the Olympics after sealing her place in the 200m at last week's trials.
The other three will miss out.
The Dutchman refused to put the blame on Jones and said it was "an accident waiting to happen".
He added: "We have been underperforming in that area for probably 10 years.
"At some point, you don't get away with it, so we are not surprised.
"That is the reason why I stopped the programme two years ago.
"I decided after [tbe European Championshihps in] Barcelona [in 2010] not to support the female relay athletes financially any longer because I did not think that they were going to be dangerous in London."
But Jones used her Twitter page to criticise UK Athletics for not giving the team sufficient race opportunities during the qualification period and leaving it until the very last minute to seal their Olympic place.
"Qualification should have been done and dusted way before this weekend," she said, adding: "I know today was my fault but not going to Olympics is the result of people not doing their jobs.
"I will take all the blame in the world for us not reaching the European final, but I won't take any for two years of missed opportunities."
Britain's cause was not helped by injuries to Beijing 100m finalist Jeanette Kwakye, who has an Achilles tendon problem, and junior world champion Jodie Williams, though Van Commenee said there would be an investigation into female sprinting after the Olympics.
"Obviously, I have not been able to turn it around in this cycle," he said.
"There were 100 things to do and this one has not been turned around successfully."
Churandy Martina of the Netherlands (pictured above, centre), denied a 200m silver medal at the last Olympics for running out of his lane – albeit that the man who subsequently inherited that medal, Shawn Crawford of the United States, offered it to him as a present – safely negotiated the tightly curved top bend to secure his first major international title in a time of 20.42 on a night when the wind was constant and the rain, at times, reminiscent of the 2005 World Championships here which were all but washed out.
Martina's controlled performance, ahead of Patrick Van Luijk of the Netherlands, who clocked 20.87, and Daniel Talbot, who earned Britain's only medal of the fourth evening session in 20.95, indicated that he will be a force not to be dismissed in the 200m at the Olympic Stadium later this summer.
Martina might have been in the same position as the British women's sprint team in London had it not been for his switch to represent the Netherlands after the Netherlands Antilles, which he had previously represented, ceased to be an autonomous country.
Meanwhile Mo Farah's undefended European 10,000m title passed to the man who had taken bronze behind him four nights earlier as he had become the first man to retain the European 5000m title.
Polat Kemboi Arikan of Turkey – formerly Paul Kipkosgei Kemboi of Kenya (pictured below) – won in a time of 28min 22.27sec after spending much of the race leading a group of eight others before sprinting clear down the final straight.
Elsewhere, two field events of world class quality saw Italy's 35-year-old Fabrizio Donato, who has earned himself more of a reputation as an indoor specialist, win the triple jump in a personal best of 17.63m, which would have been a 2012 world best but for the following wind of +2.8 metres per second, not invalidated it for record purposes.
Germany's double world champion Robert Harting underlined his Olympic ambitions as he defeated a field which included the reigning Olympic champion, Gerd Kanter of Estonia, and the 2004 Olympic silver medallist Zoltan Kovago of Hungary with a best effort of 68.30m.