WHEN the London Olympics explodes into life on Friday, there will be one Wiganer who won’t be able to resist wondering ‘What if?’
Jenny Meadows’ omission proved the biggest headline-grabber when the Team GB track and field squad was announced – with some claiming it was the biggest controversy since Sebastian Coe was overlooked for the 1,500m at the 1988 Games in Seoul.
It’s not an over-statement to say the Wigan athlete has been the British trailblazer on the international stage in the women’s 800m since her appearance at the Beijing Games in 2008, where she reached the semi-finals.
She won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in 2010 and a silver at the European Indoor Championships in Paris last year. By the most ironic of timing, that last medal was upgraded to gold on the same day of her Team GB snub when race winner Yevgenia Zinurovz was hit with a doping ban.
So it’s little surprise that many expected the 31-year-old to earn a Team GB call despite an Achilles tendon problem which has prevented her competing this season.
But now, on the eve of the London Games, Meadows has conceded that selectors were right not to pick her.
“It was a major injury – the first of my career – and when it happened, I had that Bulldog spirit of, ‘I can do it’,” she told the Observer. “I had to do it and give myself every chance, but in reality...
“I don’t know what the percentage was of getting back in time, probably less than five per cent, but I told myself I had 100 per cent chance.
“I know that if I didn’t do the best I could I would have regretted it. It’s a bold statement, but I honestly don’t think anyone could have got back from that injury in the same time-frame.
“So I gave myself the chance – but ultimately I couldn’t put in a performance before the selection deadline.”
In the days before the Team GB announcement, Meadows indicated she would appeal if she was left out. But the shock selection of unheralded Scot Lynsey Sharp came out of the blue.
Meadows is one of five 800m runners who have achieved the Olympic A standard time of 1min 59.90sec on multiple occasions in the past two years. But under international selection criteria, countries can only pick three athletes in each event only if they all have A standards. As Sharp only had the lesser B standard, she was the only athlete chosen in the 800m after an impressive outing at the trials, in which Meadows was unable to compete in because of injury.
“I’m not too upset, because the reason I’m not there isn’t because I wasn’t good enough – it’s because of my Achilles,” the Abram-based athlete said.
“I never felt bitterness because, as I’ve got older and I’ve put myself in the selectors’ shoes, I thought what would I do?
“You can’t pick an athlete who hasn’t competed this year. I’ve got a good relationship with Charles van Commenee (head coach), he’s a tough task master but he’s always been really good with me. He knows I’m Britain’s best medal hope in the 800m, and he wanted me to get there. “But I had to give him a reason to pick me, and I didn’t compete. It was in my hands and I couldn’t do it.”
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