UK Athletics Diary: The British Trials for London 2017, what they really mean, by Paul Halford


DSCN0153.JPGShara Proctor, Long Jump leader in UK, photo by Stuart Weir

The British Trials, held in Birmingham, UK this weekend, July 1 and 2, will have some fascinating events. Paul Halford, in his UK Athletics Diary, exclusively for RunBlogRun, explains the system and provides his thoughts on the major events!

The British trials may not be as cut-throat as the US equivalent with its strict first-three policy, but the national championships for the London 2017 home nation nevertheless holds the prospect of some exciting clashes.

For those seeking Worlds selection, appearance at the trials in Birmingham on July 1-2 is compulsory unless special exemption is given. Those missing will include the already selected defending double world champion Mo Farah and 2016 1500m Diamond League winner Laura Muir. Also absent and in a race against time because of injury will be 2012 Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford.

Subject to having achieved the qualification standard by July 9, the first two home will guarantee their slots.

Here's our pick of 10 events to watch out for this weekend:

Men's 5000m

Mo Farah is giving this a miss, of course, leaving a more open race, although Andrew Butchart - the only athlete with the qualifying standard - will be a strong favourite. The Scot was a surprise sixth in the Olympic final last year. The pace in this championship race is usually tactical rather than on target for standards, although Andrew Vernon and Chris Thompson - who failed with their attempts to make the grade at 10,000m and marathon respectively, plus Tom Farrell - have been in that territory before.

Women's 1500m

Laura Muir is missing as she comes back from recent injury, but six other women have the standard. Laura Weightman leads the way, but she could face a strong challenge from the resurgent Jessica Judd and Katie Snowden. Former world silver medallist Hannah England hopes to return to top form, while Steph Twell's best chances lie over 5000m.

Men's 100m

With five in the line-up who have the standard, the final promises to be 10 seconds of high drama. CJ Ujah, who has run 10.02 this year, may start favourite but he is sure to have tough opposition, perhaps most likely from the double-chasing Adam Gemili, Reece Prescod, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Richard Kilty.

Women's 5000m

With GB No.1 Laura Muir not lining up, Steph Twell and Eilish McColgan are the two with the standard looking to secure the two automatic places. Others who are capable of joining them are Jessica Judd - also down for the 1500m, the final of which is 65 minutes before this one, Calli Thackery and Katrina Wootton.

Men's 400m

Matthew Hudson-Smith will have plenty of home support as he competes on his home training track, while European champion Martyn Rooney looks for top form after two 46-second runs this year, although as European champion he is classed as already having the standard. Rising stars Dwayne Cowan and George Caddick also have the qualifying mark.

Men's 800m

Andrew Osagie, the final finisher in the epic London 2012 final, is back nearing his best form after years blighted by injury. He will go against the experienced multiple national champion Michael Rimmer and rising star Elliot Giles, who are both still chasing the standard. European junior champion Kyle Langford is just a hundredth outside the mark as he also returns from injury.

Men's 1500m

Jake Wightman's shock victory at the Bislett Games makes him the man to beat, but three others also have the qualifying standard and should challenge. Chris O'Hare finished within two tenths of Mo Farah in Los Angeles early in the season so will be in the mix, as will Olympic finalist Charlie Grice. European junior champion Josh Kerr is also in the form of his life. Andrew Butchart, the 5000m specialist, is also entered.

Women's 200m

Olympic fifth-placer Dina Asher-Smith makes her comeback after breaking her foot in February, anxious to prove herself fit to the selectors. Desiree Henry is the fastest this year, but a host of others have the selection standard. Jodie and Bianca Williams, Ama Pipi and Shannon Hylton will also be among those chasing the two guaranteed slots.

Men's 200m

One of the most anticipated events of the weekend sees three men who have clocked below 20.1 lining up. Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake has shown good early-season form again, but can he - unlike last year - keep it going? Zharnel Hughes, a training partner of Usain Bolt, and Olympic fourth-placer Adam Gemili are the other two. However, the consistent Dan Talbot is not to be ruled out.

Women's long jump

This event is usually a high-standard one in British terms, although only Shara Proctor and Lorraine Ugen have the qualifying mark. Jazmin Sawyers, who recorded 6.71m - four centimetres shy of the standard - in the indoor season is the only one likely to be capable of joining them.

Comment - selection systems

The British selection system, with its automatic berths for the first two , provides a decent balance between making the trials crucial and allowing for on-the-day mishaps.

That is not to say that British selectors aren't often presented with headaches, especially when injuries or other occurrences mean the best athletes aren't in the top two. Further, barely a year goes by without a major selection controversy when it comes to the major championships.

The US system, in which the first three athletes with the standards are guaranteed to be on the team, allows no room for human subjective analysis. This is a good thing in that all the athletes know exactly where they stand and there can be no claims of bias or human error. However, it can often mean the best team isn't picked and that the athletes in that squad may have peaked too soon.

For a nation like the US with medal-worthy athletes in virtually every event, that doesn't make too much difference to the medal table.

However, for other countries, including Britain, the more flexible policy is essential in my view.

Besides, most of the controversies from the British selectors are as a result of their policy of not sending full teams, choosing to leave athletes with the IAAF minimum standards at home. This can be soul-destroying for athletes, who might be the best in their event in the country and better than some at the international championships in question.

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