Hickey: Olympics is just for ‘A’ team

THE Olympic Council of Ireland has moved quickly to dispel suggestions they will accept ‘B’ standard athletes for next year’s London Olympics.

In a statement issued yesterday, the OCI confirmed that only athletes achieving ‘A’ standards will be selected for the 2012 Games.

OCI president Pat Hickey insisted: “As previously announced, the OCI has a binding and mutually agreed contract with the athletics federation, AAI, to solely select ‘A’ standard athletes for London and this will not change in any way, shape or form We are both absolutely and totally committed to ‘A’ standards only. Our chef de mission for London, Sonia O’Sullivan, is fully behind this approach and the new high performance director for athletics, Kevin Ankrom, is also in full agreement. We are all working closely together to ensure that Ireland has a strong team of the best ‘A’ track and field athletes in the nation representing us in London.”

Last March, Ireland team manager Patsy McGonagle insisted this policy was agreed to by all parties involved and while admitting the standards for London 2012 were stiff he warned that there will be no U-turns.

“We go for ‘A’ standards and only ‘A’ standard people will survive at the Olympic Games,” he said.

“There is no good in having a debate about it. There’s no good in even creating doubts in athletes’ minds that they might go on a ‘B’ standard or there might be a last minute change of heart.

“Athletes have got to understand that this is set in stone — it’s an ‘A’ standard and you either hit it or you don’t hit it and there is no other game in town. Debating it is only putting doubts in the minds of coaches and athletes.”

Top Irish racewalkers Olive Loughnane and Robert Heffernan have both achieved their 20km ‘A’ standards for London and now Heffernan is all set to chase the qualifying standard at 50km.

He finished fourth over both distances at the European championships in Barcelona this time last year but his planned doubling up in London was in doubt until last week and, indeed, his participation in the world championships in Daegu later this month was also in jeopardy as he struggled with a troublesome hamstring.

That, however, has cleared up and he is now back in Spain preparing to double up in Daegu, where he expects to add the 50km standard to his 20km success.

“It was not looking good initially,” he revealed. “I was keeping the training up all along — cross-training in the pool — and getting a lot of treatment on it (hamstring). I came around last weekend, it loosened out and I got some good work in.

“I came back to Dublin this week to get three injections into my back because that’s apparently where much of the problem stems from. As it recovered my first reaction was to go to Daegu and just race one event but now that has all changed. I have a bit of catching up to do but if I get a solid three weeks, I’ll be back on track for the world championships and a double up at 20k and 50k.”


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