Wednesday 22 November 2017

Athletics: 'Upset' Cuddihy to appeal axe from Olympic relay team

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

CAITRIONA Cuddihy is lodging an appeal with the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) after being dropped from the 4x400m relay team -- just four days after modelling the team kit at the official team launch for London 2012.

She was still waiting last night to get clarification on the exact appeal process but confirmed yesterday that she intends fighting her case after being selected, and then dropped, by Athletics Ireland (AAI) within the past week.

Cuddihy finished fifth in yesterday's national 400m final in 55.27 seconds, a race won by her sister and defending champion Joanne, who won 'Athlete of the Meet' title after completing a 200m/400m double.

"It was very hard to concentrate, because I've been so upset," was all that Caitriona Cuddihy would say afterwards. "I'd just been trying to focus on keeping it together to run fast today and I'm happy I ran, I did the best that I could and that's all I could do."

Her older sister, who will compete individually and anchor the 4x400m in London, was more forthcoming on the embarrassing selection controversy that took another massive twist over the weekend.

"Hats off to Caitriona for putting her chin up today and just running with the pressure of the world on her shoulders," Joanne Cuddihy (right) said. "The relay (situation) has been heart-wrenching for her and for absolutely everyone on the team, it's just been unfair.

"I'm just a bit baffled by the whole thing. So many things should, and could, have been done differently. The way it's happened has just been cruel."

There was some surprise when Athletics Ireland named the Olympic 4x400m team early last week before nationals, which were the official selection deadline.

They added European 400m hurdles finalist Jessie Barr (Ferrybank) to the team and dropped Ballymena and Antrim teenager Joanna Mills (19).

Mills, like Caitriona Cuddihy, was one of two relay reserves who didn't run at the Europeans but was disgusted when she was not then included for the Olympics.

She successfully appealed her non-selection to Athletics Ireland on Saturday, arguing that, on times, she had the sixth-fastest 400m time in Ireland this season (54.41) and, as a result, Caitriona Cuddihy -- with a season best of 54.59 -- was deselected.

Olympic chef de mission Sonia O'Sullivan has pointed out that it would have been better to pick the team after seeing them all race at the Nationals.

Yesterday's final bore out the form. Joanne Cuddihy won in 51.89, followed by relay regulars Marian Heffernan (53.32) , Michelle Carey (53.50), Claire Bergin (54.19) and the younger Cuddihy.

But Mills was never going to be able to run in it because she has qualified for this week's World Junior Championships in Barcelona and departed for Spain on Saturday night.

"The AAI have shown themselves to be amateurish -- they made the mistake and now they've wrecked it for two girls instead of just one," Mills' coach Ian Neely said.

"Caitriona is feeling the same way that Joanna felt just four days ago and that's not nice. Joanna is obviously pleased that she is going but she feels for Caitriona too.

"It was mistake after mistake and two people are mentally scarred because of the whole thing."

Irish Independent

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