Athletics: OCI demand 'A' grade for 2012
Irish athletes face an uphill battle to compete at next year's London Olympics after the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) confirmed they will only accept 'A' standard qualifying times.
This means the numbers of Irish track and field athletes competing will be significantly reduced and, based on 2010 times, only seven would make the cut. Paul Hession, Derval O'Rourke, Robert Heffernan and Fionnuala Britton are among that number.
The OCI allowed a number of athletes with 'B' standard times to compete for Ireland in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and the team at Beijing was 16 strong.
A clause in the OCI's nomination and selection criteria document sets out that, "only 'A' standards as agreed by the International Olympic Committee/IAAF will be acceptable" and "the parties agree that they shall not nominate any individual or team eligible to compete... unless he/she/they have achieved the standard."
The decision means a number of Irish athletes will need personal bests to make the London games. The qualification period for most events begins on May 1 this year and concludes on July 12, 2012, while the marathon and walking events opened on January 1.
The OCI will have the services of renowned physical therapist Ger Hartmann for the London campaign. He will work alongside doctor Sean Gaine, having been part of the OCI team in five previous Games.