Saturday 25 May 2019

Athletics: Britton blasts lack of AAI Worlds plan

Cliona Foley

FIONNUALA Britton has reiterated her desire to have an Irish team running with her at the World Cross-Country Championships in March, but that now looks a non-runner.

Athletics Ireland's high performance director Kevin Ankrom said that AAI is "still open to the idea, but we would want to send our best team, which is the team that won the European title."

As revealed in the Irish Independent last week, competing in Poland in March is not a priority for three of Ireland's top four finishers in Budapest in December.

They confirmed this when they met up to formally enter and launch the Spar Great Ireland Run on April 14, which also doubles up as the national 10km road championships.

Olympic marathon runner Linda Byrne said she is willing to go to the World Cross-Country, but only if a strong team is being sent.

Fellow Olympian Ava Hutchinson said AAI had not yet contacted her about it, but it is not currently part of her plans as she is focused on next autumn's Berlin Marathon.

And Leevale's Lizzie Lee, whose focus is to qualify for the marathon at next summer's World Championships, was also lukewarm about going.

Lee has told AAI she would change her training plan if they really want to send a team, but also candidly said: "What's to be gained (personally) from going to World Cross' and finishing 90th or 100th? We had a really good team for the Europeans, but I don't think it's at World level yet."

Ankrom said the door is still open and that AAI might consider some other athletes for selection if they showed particularly good form in some future cross-country events.

But he stressed that fielding a World Cross' team was not initially part of AAI's plans for 2013 and said he had a duty to support the individual plans which some of Ireland's victorious European Cross-Country team already had in place.


Britton admitted she had inadvertently stirred up something of a hornets' nest, but stood by her assertion that the marathon runners could double up.

"Paula Radcliffe has won World Cross' and run a good marathon afterwards – it can be done, but it has to be planned in advance," she said.

"It probably is a bit too late to aim to launch into World Cross' now, but I still think we could have a competitive team if we all wanted to be there or if we had thought about it sooner.

"The decision is in the hands of those competing, but, at the start, it also needs to be put out there by management.

"It's not athletes who are going to start that planning, someone has to bring all the athletes together the way we did for the Europeans."

There was clear consensus among the athletes about how AAI could best progress if they decide to send a team – by officially declaring next month's national inter-club cross-countries the official team trial.

The lengthy gap between European and World Cross' is a problem for Britton, who is now going to run a rare indoor season to help her prepare.

But she remained resolute that she can still medal at World Cross-Countries, despite the domination of African runners.

"Shalane Flanagan (of America) won a medal at the last one, so yeah, why not?" she said. "Everyone has to believe that they can, that there is always that possibility."

Irish Independent

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