Deposed British sprint champion Marlon Devonish insisted his Olympic hopes were still alive despite flopping in Saturday’s 100 metres final and withdrawing from the 200m citing illness.
The Coventry Godiva athlete revealed after his embarrassing display in the blue riband event, in which he finished second-last in a time well outside the qualifying standard, that he had competed against doctor’s orders, having struggled in the days before the event with a respiratory tract infection.
That leaves his hopes of reaching Beijing hanging by the thinnest of threads. He is unlikely to be selected as one of the three 100m entrants, five men have run faster and were better placed in Saturday’s final and even if the High Court rejects Dwain Chambers’s appeal against his life-time Olympic ban on Wednesday and reduces that number to four, the selectors are virtually compelled to look elsewhere.
His situation in the longer event is not quite as parlous, although he could have done without Christian Malcolm winning the 200m in a qualifying standard of 20.52secs. That leaves Devonish as one of four men who have run the time but, with Malcolm and the athlete he beat, Alex Nelson, assured of selection, that leaves a straight choice between the fading force of British sprinting and the younger Tim Abeyie.
The relay is his best option. The 32-year-old was part of the quartet that won 4x100m gold in Athens and has been a vital cog in that relatively well-oiled machine for several years. His ability to run the third-leg bend is prized by UK Athletics but to select an athlete who has won 15 major medals during the course of his long Great Britain career, would be to ignore the rather more pressing claims of many others.
But first Devonish must recover his fitness and then his form. “I had been feeling ill all week but had to run,” Devonish admitted. “These championships are hugely important to me so I desperately wanted to defend the 100m and 200m titles I won in 2006 and 2007 and book my place for Beijing. With all the added media attention surrounding the event, I wanted to show everyone how well I’m running.”
He did exactly the opposite. Having looked quite comfortable in shadowing Craig Pickering every step of the way in his semi-final earlier in the day, Devonish was never in the final as Simeon Williamson and Chambers raced clear. Indeed, the man who has dominated British sprinting for the last couple of years was fortunate not to have finished dead last after only just managing to overhaul Mark Findlay.
“With hindsight, I should have pulled out of the competition this weekend but I didn’t want people to think I was backing away from the challenge that lay ahead,” he said. “Given the fast times that other competitors had run this season, the athlete in me wanted to be on the starting line with them, to beat them.
“I pride myself on being able to step up to the challenge and compete with professionalism, but should never have tried to ignore my illness. I didn’t seek medical advice until after the 100m final. I then had an assessment by the UK Athletics doctor who told me I had a respiratory tract infection and advised me not to run the 200m. He also told me that had I spoken to him before the 100m, he would have advised me not to compete at all.
“Obviously, I’m bitterly disappointed that I was unable to perform to the best of my abilities when both Dwain and Simeon ran fantastic times. My aim now is to get myself 100 per cent healthy again quickly and focus on the task ahead, so that I’m in the best possible position to compete for individual and team medals in Beijing this summer.”