Tamsyn Manou, the veteran distance runner, occasional face of athletics, and occasional irritant, has launched a strident attack on Athletics Australia for the overly difficult Olympic selection criteria for the London Games which has ensured she was left out of the team.
Writing a blog ahead of the official announcement of the Australian team today Manou said she felt “chewed up and spat out” by the sport she loves, saying the administrators were ignorant and the impact of their policies was the slow death of the sport at lower levels.
The 33-year-old three-time Olympian, who is also a 17-time national champion, did not run an A-qualifying time for the 800 metres — her best time this year was two minutes 1.53 seconds in Sydney, more than 1.5 seconds outside the A-qualifier — but did run a B-qualifying time. Manou needed to have run an A level time of 1:59.90 for the 800 by Monday’s deadline.
Few exceptions are expected to be made for B-qualifying athletes for the team with only those considered young and developing given any latitude.
Manou has often been a contentious figure in athletics known for her public spats with two-time world champion hurdler Jana Pittman.
Manou wrote that Australia has a qualifying standard that is higher than the IAAF standard and that an A standard was good enough to make the Olympic semi-finals.
Manou said he IAAF raised its entry standards “expecting countries to select the Bs if they only had a B as the B standard is truly world class still. The fact that our federation has set standards tougher than the IAAF ones doesn’t deter some of them from still having a go!
“If an athlete is IAAF qualified and the best we have then how can you be nothing but supportive? I watched the worlds last year and if there was no Aussie in an event I turned the channel. Speaking with the general public they do the same, the minority are elitist the majority are patriotic and want an Australian represented. I mean you get one chance every four years,” Manou said.
She added: “For those unsure of how difficult an A is in most events I will use my event, the 800m, as an example: only 2 Aussie women have ever run the time electronically (hand times don’t count) in the history of the event! Plus at last Olympics in the heats only 5 athletes ran the A and I was one of them.”
Manou said she was told by Athletics Australia’s head coach (Eric Hollingsworth) a few years ago that the focus would be on technical events — the jumps, vaults and throwing — and as such she felt the most hotly contested running events were being neglected.
“At this stage we have no Aussie in the womens and mens 100m, 200m or 400m … yet we could have one athlete in nearly all these events. How is it better for the future and growth of our sport to not have an Aussie represented in these blue ribbon events?” she said.
“I truly believe that there is a lot of ignorance within AA towards the discipline currently.”
Manou wrote of the difficulty of the lack of competition for the better athletes in Australia in achieving an A standard.
“It is not easy to run from the front and chase a time. Middle distance is not about time trialing when it comes to the first rounds, it is about racing!! The theory you have to be in it to win it should not be forgotten. When I won my world title (indoors) they didn’t even have an Aussie flag for the victory lap because I wasn’t supposed to win … You will never have a Duncan Armstrong moment in our sport if we have empty lanes …
“In track and field the sad part is at the top level you are thrown on the scrap heap, often before your time and the elitist way that is slowly destroying the heart and soul of our sport at grass roots is paradoxically the only place where an athlete on their way out gets any sort of recognition and support.”
Manou will retire at the end of the European season.