Jo Ankier fails Olympic bid

By Danny Caro, July 25, 2008

Ankier feels ‘cheated' as selectors tell her that she was four seconds too slow

Jo Ankier has spoken of her pain and devastation after missing out on selection for the Great Britain squad competing at next month's Beijing Games.

The 25-year-old from Edgware, Middlesex, was pipped to the post by Hattie Dean, who will team up with Helen Clitheroe and Barbara Parker in the Team GB 3,000 metres steeplechase squad.

Ankier, who achieved one A-standard GB Olympics qualifying time, has lodged an appeal over her exclusion as Dean, who ran qualifying times in 2007 and 2008, is currently out with a stress fracture of the tibia.

The Barnet Shaftesbury Harrier is particularly perplexed by the selection of Dean. "It upsets me as I know how close I came. I was OK with it at first but the blow hit me a lot harder.

"I feel cheated as she didn't race at the trial. She turned up on crutches and her coach told mine that she would be out for the rest of the season.

"Stress fractures don't heal in three weeks. I believed she was out of the equation and I had done enough to make the squad. It's very complicated. She ran very well in 2007 and achieved several qualifying times but has performed very badly this year with the exception of the Bislett Games in Oslo.

"I can't believe they're basing their selection on one race. I've been pretty consistent in 2008, achieved one A-standard time, ran an Olympic B qualifying time at the trials and ran well all winter. An Olympic A-standard is very tough. Had they not taken a full team or given me the chance to run against her, then perhaps I wouldn't have felt so hard done by. The fact that I'm one of two or three athletes to miss out is quite heartbreaking.

"The qualifying standard for other countries for the steeplechase is 9:46 which I've run twice. A lot of the athletes who only had one qualifying time were asked to try again but didn't achieve it."

To Ankier's amazement, Dean's condition was assessed last week and Ankier was told by selectors that "they believed she has a good chance of being fit".

Ankier was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Dave Segal, the last reported British Jewish runner who won bronze in the 4x100 metres relay in Rome in 1960. She has lodged an appeal based on the fact that she has achieved one qualifying time and is "a fit and healthy athlete". She does not expect to be named as a reserve and said: "I don't fancy my chances. I have asked to be named a team member or as a replacement so that in the case that she is too injured I can replace her. But I think I'll have to move on and deal with it."

Another scenario which Ankier believes counts against her is that Dean, who was also selected ahead of her for the 2006 European Championships, is a lottery-funded athlete. She said: "It looks a lot better to pick a funded athlete in the team ahead of a non-funded one. When a decision is borderline they'll choose a funded athlete every time. I'll have to figure out what to do now. I feel that there's quite a lot of politics in the sport and if I don't get funded I'll have some big decisions to make. I want to keep pursuing my dream but can't put my whole life on hold like this. I feel I've had too many decisions go against me too many times.

Four days after the Olympic trial, where she came third, Ankier raced in Switzerland in a hastily arranged bid to claim a second British Olympic A standard time. "The race felt fast," she said, "but I was forced to run wide and didn't see the inside of the track for seven and a half laps. Half way through I realised that we were 10 seconds off the pace and gave up on the last lap."

A spokesman for UK Athletics said: "It was purely a statistical decision. Hattie Dean has run four seconds faster than Jo this year and has run our Olympic standard qualifying time twice compared to Jo's once. Her medical problems were discussed by the medics but the diagnosis is that she will be fit for the Games. Had Jo run a second qualifying time last week it would have made things more straightforward. The only reserve we are taking is for Paula Radcliffe due to serious concerns over her injury but we can't take reserves for every sport."

Putting things into perspective, Ankier, who was friends with the Dalah family involved in last week's tragic car accident, said: "At the same time there are worse things that can happen. I believe I have a lot of good times ahead of me." She admitted to "drowning her sorrows" following the announcement of the final squad list and said: "I've really dedicated a whole year to this and have hardly socialised. I need a holiday and want to party a bit but on the other hand I need to think about my future in athletics and how seriously I want to think about things athletics-wise. I've made really good progress this year indoor and outdoor so maybe I should keep the ball rolling. I was so involved with the 2012 Olympics bid and it would be a dream to be involved. I definitely see myself being involved one way or another. But I definitely want to pursue other career aspirations and maybe go back to North London for a bit and be a normal girl again."

She plans to run at the IAAF Norwich Union London Grand Prix, Crystal Palace today.

Last updated: 12:14pm, July 25 2008