Derval in Olympics jeopardy

Derval O’Rourke’s participation in next month’s London Olympics is in doubt after she pulled out of yesterday’s defence of her 100m hurdles title at the Woodies DIY national championships in Morton Stadium.

The double European silver medallist and former world indoor champion was forced to withdraw after her back went into spasm 42 minutes into her warm-up.

The Leevale star had raced in Loughborough on Saturday when she won both her races, albeit in modest times of 13.27 and 13.20, and was going for her 10th national senior title before jetting off to France today for a competition on Tuesday.

Instead she will be having what could prove to be a troublesome if not serious injury assessed with her third Olympic appearance hanging on the result of that assessment.

Her coach, Sean Cahill, admitted he was worried but said, after treatment by physiotherapist, Paul O’Neill, she was showing some improvement.

“She came out here, really looking forward to racing, and everything going to plan,” he said. “She was doing her warm-up, and had done 42 minutes of her 45-minute warm-up and was about go over one last hurdle flat out. Suddenly her back went into spasm.”

He said she complained of pain around her hips, hamstrings and right down to her Achilles.

“To be honest it did not look good but, like I said, she appeared to be a little bit better after treatment. She will now be assessed and our best hope is that it’s something neural, a trapped nerve. It there’s a muscle pull or tear in there then obviously that’s not good.

“We just don’t know. It’s fingers crossed, but she’ll be back with the physio first thing in the morning, and we’ll see what’s the assessment then.

“All she was can do is go home and have an ice bath, and take some anti-inflammatory tablets.”

Meanwhile Catriona Cuddihy (Kilkenny City Harriers) has appealed the decision of an Athletics Ireland Appeals Board to replace her on the Irish women’s Olympic 4 x 400m team with Joanna Mills.

The bombshell was dropped as the Woodies DIY National track and field championships were about to get underway on Saturday with the Ballymena teenager setting off for the World junior championships in Barcelona.

It came as a stunning blow to the young Kilkenny athlete who was getting ready to compete. Her older sister, Joanne, is the Irish record holder at the distance and has booked her place in London 2012 as an individual.

Joanna Mills, with a time of 54.41 secs is ranked sixth, one place above Catriona Cuddihy, 54.59 secs, and her coach Ian Neely said he was delighted but admitted he felt sympathy for Cuddihy.

“It was never a personal issue with anybody. Our problem was that they hadn’t followed the correct procedures for their selection process,” he said.

The Appeal Panel consisted of President Ciarán O Catháin, President of Athletics Ireland, ex-President Liam Hennessy, John Foley, Chief Executive Athletics Ireland, and Jerry Kiernan, who was ninth in the Olympic marathon in 1984 and is now a respected TV pundit.

Catriona Cuddihy, after finishing fifth behind her sister, Joanne, in yesterday’s 400m final, said she had instigated an appeal with the Olympic Council of Ireland.

“All I’ve done is inform them that I would like to make an appeal, and I’m waiting for them to get back to me,” she said.

After a big 200m/400m double which earned her the award for the Athlete of the Meet, Joanne Cuddihy stood by her younger sister. “It’s not nice, it’s heart-wrenching, and it’s been a very, very difficult weekend for everybody involved, and for every one of us on the team,” she said.

“It’s just been unfair. I for one am just glad to get this weekend over with.

“It’s been very, very messy. I suppose I’ve tried to stay a little bit away from it, and concentrate on my own races, but whatever I can do I will.

“What everyone does seem to agree on is the decision to announce the team last Tuesday, when Sunday was the deadline, was premature and the national championships would have been the perfect platform for athletes to demonstrate the form before the selection was made.

“When we were told in Helsinki, last weekend that the team was being named on Tuesday we all said, ‘what?’ Catriona, especially, thought that was crazy, because all summer she’s been preparing for nationals, her coach saying it was the time to be running fast.”

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