The team announcement for next month’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow would not have made happy reading for many athletes with connections to the West Midlands conurbation.
Luke Lennon-Ford, Brett Morse and Meghan Beesley are the only authentic Birchfield Harriers in either the men’s or the women’s squad – ignoring Michael Bingham and Shara Procter’s tenuous links, while many of the either-or selections seemed to go against the Stags.
Indeed, 400 metres hurdler Beesley, whose steady career has enjoyed something of a breakthrough this year, and discus thrower Morse are the only members of the club to be competing in an individual event. Lennon-Ford goes to Russia as part of a seven-man 4x400m relay set-up.
For other Birchfield athletes, even relay places proved too difficult to come by and both Danny Talbot and Joel Fearon suffered heartbreak and missed out on the 4x100m squad.
That decision by performance director Neil Black would have been all the more distressing given both Fearon and Talbot had cases for individual spots in the 100m and 200m respectively.
Talbot’s omission is most contentious. The 22-year-old was one of four men who have run the qualifying time. Unfortunately fourth in a three-man team is an uncomfortable position.
With four A standards and victory at the trials in Birmingham last weekend it is impossible to dispute James Ellington’s selection, however there are points to be made on Talbot’s behalf in comparison with Adam Gemili and Delano Williams who were picked instead.
Gemili has three A standards and the fastest 200m time of any British-born athlete this year but he was beaten by Talbot when they raced at the European Under-23s last week. Talbot took the silver medal, Gemili finished fourth, no doubt weakened by winning 100m gold.
The fly in that ointment was the fact Gemili had not attained the qualifying time over the shorter distance and it would have been a nightmare trying to justify taking the 19-year-old ahead of 100m sprinters with the A standard.
World Junior champ Williams, who comes from the Turks and Caicos Islands, recently transferred allegiance to Great Britain and although his PB is 20.27 secs, he ran terribly in Birmingham, finishing third after a horrendous starts behind Ellington and Richard Kilty.
Talbot’s two A standards, 20.45 secs and 20.46 secs, were both run into slight headwinds yet for the second summer in succession he finds himself having gone fast enough to run an individual event at a major championships but not being given the opportunity. At least at London 2012 he had the compensation of a sprint relay call-up.
Even that has eluded him this summer despite the fact he was one-quarter of the team that set a new European Under -23 record at the weekend.
In the 200m, therefore, one can only wonder if Talbot has paid for choosing to compete in Tampere rather than at the British Championships. And in the relay perhaps he has paid for the mix-up with Gemili at London 2012 which saw GB disqualified.
The powers-that-be probably have nothing against him personally but he is one extremely unlucky athlete given the fact he won European senior bronze last summer.
Fearon cannot claim to be quite so surprised. His two 100m qualifying times also came at a meeting in Switzerland and he fluffed his lines at the trials. Having coasted through his heat on Friday night, Fearon was thrown out of the competition when he false-started in his semi-final. Things moved on apace after that, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Dwain Chambers ran the requisite time and James Dasaolu made history.
Black admitted after the trials that Fearon’s error had changed the selection conversation.
Yet he too had a very strong claim for a relay spot but instead Black opted for Andrew Robertson whose PB of 10.14 secs – run only five days ago, compares unfavourably with Fearon’s 10.10 secs.
Again it is difficult not to wonder if the selectors have taken issue with Fearon’s bobsleigh commitments and questioned the validity of his altitude-aided performance in La Chaux-de-Fonds.