Ankier sweats as Olympic place hangs in balance

Jo Ankier will find out tomorrow whether or not she has made the British Olympics squad competing at the Beijing Games next month.

The 25-year-old finished third in the 3,000 metres steeplechase at the Aviva National Championships at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.

Before the race she believed that a top-three finish would cement her place in the team for the only major competition she has not taken part in, but this may not now be the case.

Ankier, who achieved the qualifying standard in May, finished 12 seconds behind winner Helen Clitheroe, who set a new British record of 9:36:98, and eight seconds off runner-up Barbara Parker. She crossed the line 22 seconds clear of the fourth-placed runner.

Before the start, one of her rivals, Hattie Dean, withdrew due to a stress fracture and Ankier’s top three
finish was expected to see her make the grade.

Mid-race, Ankier was criticised for showing a “poor technique” and a “lack of power” over the hurdles by former Olympic silver medallist and BBC commentator Steve Cram.

Ankier now believes she is “currently in line to be GB’s third entrant in the steeplechase but was unsure if the selectors would take two or three runners”.

Clitheroe and Parker’s places in the squad have been confirmed.

In a bid to further improve her chances, Ankier was in action again in Switzerland on Wednesday attempting to achieve a second A-standard finishing time. She has also achieved B-standard and general Olympic standard several times. Dean has claimed more than one A-standard. Ankier was unavailable for comment as she prepared for the race in Switzerland, but her mother, Loretta, said: “Jo has done everything she can and only time will tell.”

Unlike some of her rivals, Ankier has had to make many sacrifices as she looks to realise her ambition.

“She has had to pay for all her physio and travel herself, and gave up her job for this,” said Loretta. “She did not know at the time that they would stick to the criteria so rigidly. She has so much in her favour and ticked all the boxes.”

Michael Kolganov will be the Israeli flag bearer at the Olympic opener.

The 33-year-old canoeist, who made aliya from Uzbekistan in 1995, will compete at the Games for the  third time. He is one of only five Israeli athletes to win an Olympic medal after taking bronze in the men’s 500 metres K1 in Sydney in 2000 Sydney.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “It’s a massive honour for me to lead out the delegation. I hope to fill the hearts of all the citizens of Israel with pride.”

    Last updated: 12:15pm, July 17 2008