Jo Pavey has admitted that time is running out on her dream of becoming the first British track athlete to compete in five Olympic Games, and fears that a prolonged chest infection could wreck her ambitions to retain her European 10,000m title in Amsterdam next month.
Pavey, 42, was still feeling the effects of three weeks of illness as she finished 10th over 5,000m in the Diamond League meeting in Birmingham on Sunday in 15min 47.64sec, nearly half a minute down on the A standard she will need to qualify for the Olympics.
While Pavey believes she is still talented enough to challenge for places at the Olympics and European championships she knows she is fighting what appears to be a losing battle.
“I am running out of time,” she said. “I need a couple more months, which is really frustrating. At the start of the year things were going fine then I had a bad illness, and the way I am running I won’t be selected for the Europeans or Olympics.”
Pavey missed out on qualifying for Rio in the 10,000m when she failed to finish in the top two at the British trials in Highgate in May because of a chest infection. However, she still hopes to make it in the 5,000m by running the qualifying time of 15.20 and being in the top two at the Olympic trials in Birmingham on 26 June.
“I am up against it,” she said. “The other British girls are running well and they have their qualifying times, and I don’t. In an ideal situation I would just train now for the trials, but as I haven’t got the time yet it’s hard to know what to do.”
To complicate matters further, Pavey also needs to run 33.20 over 10,000m by 20 June to be allowed to defend her title at the European championships in Amsterdam early next month. That time should be well within her grasp given she ran only two seconds outside it while ill in Highgate a fortnight ago. If she attempts it in the next fortnight, however, it could have an impact on her chances of Olympic qualification in the 5,000m.
It is a frustrating situation that could lead to Pavey ploughing on for another season, instead of retiring, in the hope of making the British team for the world championships in London next year. “It’s difficult at my age,” she said. “When you are 25 and running bad, people think: ‘I wonder what is bad, do you have a problem.’ Whereas people [now] think I am just getting old.
“If anything, if I miss out on Rio it would make me not retire and stay on another year to prove to people I am not over the hill. I want to show I am not as old as I appear to be running at the moment.”
Meanwhile, British selectors have performed a U-turn and granted Martyn Rooney his wish to defend his European 400m title in Amsterdam. The 29-year-old won the first gold medal of his career in Zurich two years ago but last week said his ambition of becoming a double champion had been thwarted because selectors wanted him to focus on glory in Rio.
However, a compromise has now been reached and Rooney will run in the individual 400m and skip the 4x400m relay.
The British Athletics performance director, Neil Black, said a “sensible approach” had been taken given that the European championships and Olympic Games are scheduled so close together this year.
“When Martyn commented on European selection in Loughborough, the conversation was very much still ongoing and we had not yet agreed on a plan of action that will allow him to perform at his best in Rio,” he said.
“It’s a fluid process as each athlete has very individual performance requirements that can change as the season develops. This is exactly the same philosophy we adopted in 2012 – the first time the Europeans and Olympics were held in the same year.”
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