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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Selector Dion Russell comfortable with stitching up Josh Ross

Selector Dion Russell comfortable with stitching up Josh Ross

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Athletics chairman 'comfortable' with decision not to pick Ross and Steffensen

By Michael Gleeson in Tonbridge
Sydney Morning Herald
July 26, 2012

John Steffensen, left, and Josh Ross, centre right, follow athletics coach Eric Hollingsworth, front right, to a team press conference. Photo: Pat Scala

Australian Athletics chairman of selectors Dion Russell has defended the decision not to select recalcitrant relay sprinters Josh Ross and John Steffensen to run individual races.

The sprint pair yesterday said they would run their relay races despite their open contempt for the authorities who refused to select them to run individual races

Russell said athletics competitors had been given longer than other those in other sports to qualify for the Olympics, but still his hand had been forced by an earlier than normal time to finalise teams imposed by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. Ordinarily the discretionary picks promoting relay runners to individual races can happen as late as once athletes arrive in the Olympic village, but this year the lists had to be finalised sooner.

"The calls had to be made earlier than would normally be the case," he said.

Russell rejected Ross's claims of a lack of communication saying he had been in constant contact with his coach throughout the process and said that as a 31-year-old runner Ross did not qualify for the discretionary emerging athlete provision, that had benefited two B-qualifying athletes, even though the six-time national champion was still hoping to run on until Rio in 2016.

"I am very comfortable with [the decisions] knowing they have had a 14-month qualifying period and knowing that of all the sports they have probably had a longer qualifying period than a lot of other sports and teams so they have had a fair chance to run at the time," said Russell, the chairman of the four-person selection committee also comprising Melinda Gainsford-Taylor, Steve Moneghetti and Peter Fitzgerald.

Russell said that while Ross had recorded a good time at the nationals, the selectors had hoped that he would rediscover the sort of form of 2007 when he was regularly running under 10.18.

Steffensen yesterday called on the federal government to hold an independent review of selection in Australia after the Olympics and criticised Athletics Australia for its selection policy. He added he had recently decided to speak due to his frustration at the selection process and of a lack of a "no tolerance for racism policy" in athletics.

Ross, who worked as among other things a topless waiter at a men's strip club when he had some time out of the sport in recent years, said he was in career best form and was gutted that he had not been chosen as a discretionary pick.

"Now I am making them look like fools, I have just run 10.23sec a couple of days ago in Italy in cold, 14 degree weather in the rain - -puddles on the track," Ross said.

"I believe I have the potential right now to make a semi-final or an Olympic final in the form that I am in. I believe I am in 10.0 10.1 shape right now and that time can make an Olympic final. Why not give me the opportunity? It makes no sense."

Head coach Eric Hollingsworth said the latest dramas were not a distraction to the team and in fact Steffensen would be captain of the 4x400m team.

"The [selection] process is complete. We're not going back and looking at this process again. This is just athletes venting and having their opinions on where they're at," Hollingsworth said.

"I've got another 25 high profile athletes who are as happy as Larry and are getting on the with the job and training and focusing on what they need to do."

Steffensen and Ross were criticised by Australia's chef de mission Nick Green who told both athletes to stop complaining and get on with the job of representing their country.

"If any athlete feels they don't want to be a part of this team and the honour of representing this country, I'll have that conversation with them," the agitated Green said at Wednesday's team press briefing.

"My suggestion would be that you get in the village, put your head down and your bum up and just concentrate on your job and that is to run and compete for this country."

This upset Steffensen who said he was "disappointed" in the comments from an athlete he had respected.

Green said he could not understand why Ross had chosen the eve of the Olympics to challenge his non-inclusion for the 100m sprint and had not taken up the earlier opportunity to formally appeal.

"By the time I found out I thought it was too late to appeal," Ross said.

Hollingsworth said the selection policy gave the selectors "absolute discretion when deciding on these matters and that's the key point. That actually means their four opinions mean more than yours or anyone else's. It's there in black and white and it's been published for over a year and half".

"I don't always agree with the selectors. It's up to those guys to make their decisions ... [but] from my point of view there was a clear and transparent process involved in all the selections," said Hollingsworth, who has throughout pushed a very strict line on selection.

Russell said while Hollingsworth was not on the selection panel he had been involved in drafting the selection policy, which included discretion to be given to emerging athletes - such as the only two B-qualifying athletes to be given leeway, youngsters Melissa Breen and Steve Solomon.

Running Man

ProTrack Star
ProTrack Star
Admin wrote: just concentrate on your job

Oh lord the irony. I'm in disbelief that we people in such high rankings positions that care so little about the athletes that represent our country to simply cite rules and regulations when challenged.

So far it seems they will only use their discretionary abilities to select the athletes that may prove useful in the future aswell but the 'experienced' crowd on the edge of selection are being told "we don't care what you've done for us in the past". It's not as though Manou, Steffensen and Ross are out of shape slobs trying to get something for nothing, standing on the shoulders of their former careers, they're still contenders. Ross especially, I can't imagine how disappointed and let down he must feel.


There is always a danger in reacting to quotes in a newspaper. What seems clear from the last day and a bit though, is that Ross is being criticised for not appealing and "following the process".

There is plenty to criticise about the process, but it is irrelevant and a distraction. What is available in "the process" is the opportunity to select a runner who is likely to do well at these Olympics and the selectors have not taken that opportunity.

They have with other B qualified athletes though.

So far, the explanation for this appears to be that Ross is too old. That, notwithstanding that Ross is a strong likelihood to make an Olympic semi final. That is the top 16 in his event, which happens to be the biggest event at the Games.

To not select that athlete is a failure that is not answered by saying "you didn't follow the process". The process of what? Getting you to exercise discretion the obvious way? Why is it the athlete's responsibility to get you to do that?

The "process" argument might be available if it had been applied to all athletes, but it hasn't. Ross is entitled to an explanation.



Good call RM & BG.

Dion "Captain Comfortable" Russell - what a hypocrite. If this bozo is still the chairman of selectors after the Olympics, god help us.

Russell has absolutely no idea about track events nor the level of competitiveness in the 100m. The bloke was a '20k/50k walker, it's like - why not choose the most boring of athletic pursuits and make a career of it.

For every 20k walker that competes in the world there's about a thousand sprinters. The only reason anyone ever takes it up is because they can't run.

Captain Comfortable went to two Olympic Games and was a fizzer at both. By the standards he's imposing on Josh Ross, Mr Comfortable would never have been at the Olympics.

At the 1996 Oympics he was in the 20k walk and finished 47 of 61. That's right - 78% of the field finished ahead of him.

At the 2000 Olympics he had two goes at it. In the 20k walk he finished 25th of 48 - the bottom half of the field. He only slightly improved in the 50k walk - finishing 27th out of 56.

So in three starts at two Olympics he had a best performance of 25th.

Compare this to Josh Ross's overall finish of 19th out 84 in his only Olympic appearance to date at Athens in 2004 in the most competitive event on the planet.

Being a previous Olympian should not be a prerequisite to being a selector. One should have an appreciation of the event and an understanding of the degree of difficulty & competitiveness in the discipline. And you will only get that by doing your research.

Pisses me off (and many others) that Capt. Comfortable gets to make a judgement on a bloke's career when he obviously lacks the knowledge or the credentials.

He should go for a walk in Josh Ross's shoes....

Last edited by youngy on Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:56 pm; edited 1 time in total

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