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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Tamsyn warns of talent drain if AA concentrates on select disciplines

Tamsyn warns of talent drain if AA concentrates on select disciplines

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Sidelined Tamsyn warns of star drain

By Daniel Lane
Sydney Morning Herald
Date July 8, 2012

"What disappoints me is, in Australia, they don't
seem to understand middle-distance running"
... Manou. Photo: Getty Images

TAMSYN MANOU warned Australia's athletics ranks would continue to be plundered by other sports - including AFL, rugby league and women's basketball - if the high-performance plan to focus on selected disciplines was not reviewed after London.

Manou, better known by her maiden name, Lewis, appealed against her non-selection in the squad despite running a B-standard qualifying time for the 800 metres. Britain's entrant, Lynsey Sharp, who ran a similar time, was named ahead of four British rivals who had posted A-qualifying times after national selectors said she was their best ''racer''.

''What disappoints me is, in Australia, they don't seem to understand middle-distance running,'' Manou, a triple Olympian, said. ''It's not necessarily about chasing a time. Sometimes you can win a world title in 2.02 minutes, as I did at the [2008] world indoors and, while that's not an A or a B-qualifying time, I did beat the Olympic champion. It's about racing and I think [Athletics Australia] don't fully grasp that.''

She chided Athletics Australia for also ignoring sprinter Josh Ross, who ran a B-standard time for the 100m. Briton Dwain Chambers, who has returned to the sport after serving a two-year suspension for using drugs, was considered good enough to compete for the host nation when he posted a B-standard time.

Manou told The Sun-Herald it concerned her there appeared no incentive for Australians to pursue sprints or middle-distance events after Athletics Australia set its sights on winning six Olympic medals in jumps, throws, vaults and, to a lesser degree, the walk. ''We were told three years ago by the high-performance manager [Eric Hollingsworth] they were going to focus more on technical events, and that basically meant if I focus on the 800m, and other athletes the sprints, we're going to be overlooked,'' she said from England.

''Josh Ross has come out of retirement and ran a B qualifying time, which was a great effort, and he could be in the team. It seems we'd rather have an empty lane and no male 100m runner. It seems very silly and I think it's a reason why our sport's numbers are dropping.

''I want to see the sport give hope to people who do mainstream events; the 100, 200, 400 and 800m. Even if you're not Usain Bolt, I think Australians would love to see an Aussie represent them. The IAAF sets standards and, if we have athletes who qualify, well, pick them. If we can support them, support them.''

Manou would undoubtedly have the backing of Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates after he told The Sun-Herald any Australian eligible to attend an Olympics should go. Coates personally intervened to ensure 22-year-old steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze was selected for London after Athletics Australia ruled her ineligible because she qualified shortly after the original June 11 deadline - which was then extended to 2pm today.

''The days, as it was once the case, of us imposing a stricter selection criteria than the international qualification - which are now so strict and severe - are gone,'' Coates said. ''We're happy to have the largest team possible.''

Manou expressed her opinions as Hayden Knowles, a respected high-performance coach in rugby league and other sports, unveiled his self-funded Athletics All Stars talent quest to unearth an Australian capable of winning the gold medal in the 100 metres.

''I have had the privilege to be involved with world champion athletes who made the impossible possible,'' he said. ''Dani Samuels became the youngest world discus champion, Danny Green destroyed the great American boxer Roy Jones jnr, Jake Stein became the world youth decathlon champion and New Zealand beat Australia in the World Cup. I'm managing the 16-year-old who'll box in London [Jai Opetaia] and he could one day be Australia's first Olympic gold medallist for that sport and be the nation's first world professional heavyweight champion.''

Knowles said he was bemused by the calibre of athletes who were being overlooked for scholarships with state sports institutes because they were a fraction of a second off the pace. ''Jarrod Geddes is in my squad and, even though he came sixth in the final of the world youth championships, he wasn't picked up in the talent identification process,'' he said.

''An applicant we're considering, was a world junior semi-finalist, so he obviously has talent. He suffered a bad hamstring tear and was ruled out of his scholarship. I come from a background where athletes are given every assistance but here's a kid on a NSWIS [Institute of Sport] scholarship and gets a letter which, rather than says how can we help, he's told to consider transferring his skills to something else. It's not a good message.''

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