Inside Athletics

Athletics Australia changes their tune on extending selection deadlines

A year ago Athletics Australia was willing to extend their qualifying deadline by 18 days to allow 400m runner Sean Wroe a chance to qualify for the World Championships, but yesterday chose to not to select steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze for the Olympic Games after she actually recorded a qualifying standard two-days outside the deadline.

It is difficult to reconcile the two approaches.

Last year Wroe was already in the Australian team as a member of the 4x400m relay team, but was entered by Athletics Australia into the individual 400m with the IAAF in case he achieved the 45.25 second qualifying time at the World University Games.

Athletics Australia’s qualifying period had closed on 31 July, with the final of the World University Games not held until 18 August. Wroe did not achieve the qualifying time (he finished third in 45.93s) and was subsequently withdrawn before the final confirmation of entries.

These entry lists of the IAAF show Wroe's entry in the 400m.

"He was entered just in case he ran a 45.25 qualifier at world university games," a spokesperson for Athletics Australia said at the time.

"The thought was that he could be added to the individual 400m if that indeed take place (sic) which it didn't. This is because as an athlete already selected this could take place."

To be clear, Athletics Australia made the right decision last year in leaving their options open with Wroe. Sean Wroe is a fine athlete, and any athlete that achieves the qualifying standard for an event should have the opportunity to compete. However, Athletics Australia’s decision to leave the qualifying period open for Wroe for an extra 18 days, sings a completely different tune to the black and white interpretation that Eric Hollingsworth sung yesterday in shunning LaCaze, a move endorsed by Athletics Australia’s Board (although it is understood, not unanimously).

[Ed: It has been revealed since this article was published that Eric Hollingsworth acted without the knowledge or support of the selectors and Board in selecting Wroe]

The only difference in the circumstances, but not a material one, is that Wroe was already a member of the team. However, yesterday Athletics Australia made it clear in their statement that no further athletes would be nominated, so similar opportunities to what Wroe enjoyed will not be provided to dual national champion Steve Solomon or trials winner John Steffensen, who are both already in the Olympic team in the relay.

Why have Athletics Australia changed their position, and why aren’t they doing everything possible to select Genevieve LaCaze or any other world class athlete into the Australian Olympic team, especially when it is what the AOC wants to occur?