By Owen Morgan
There will be no Welsh athletes competing at the World Athletics Championships in Doha later this month – unless the sport’s global governing body step in to offer world ranking invitations.
The final Great Britain team was announced on Tuesday with the news that marathon runner Dewi Griffiths – who had been pre-selected following his excellent showing at the London Marathon – had been forced to withdraw through illness.
The Swansea Harrier has been suffering from unexplained fatigue and headaches which have prevented him from training properly in preparation for the championships.
“I’ve just been tired with no explanation for being tired,” said the seven times Welsh Cross Country champion, who ran 2:09.49 on his marathon debut in Frankfurt two years ago.”
His absence from Doha is the latest cruel fitness setback for the Carmarthenshire distance runner after being forced to drop out of last year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games due to a hip injury.
The 28-year-old is unlikely to race again this season, but hopes to resume training within the next month with a view to competing at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“I still have the belief I can do it. I’ve already run a 2:09 marathon, so it’s not doing something I’ve never done,” he said.
Griffiths’ withdrawal meant there were no Welsh athletes in the 72-strong Great Britain team for Doha announced on Tuesday.
Now, the likes of 2011 400m hurdles world champion Dai Greene will have to rely on receiving one of the invitations issued by the IAAF to athletes with high world rankings in order to fill vacant spots at the Doha Championships.
Despite finishing second at the world championships trials and British Championships in Birmingham last month, Greene is just 0.19 seconds short of gaining the required qualifying standard of 49.30 this season.
The Llanelli-born athlete, whose season has been blighted by injury and didn’t start in earnest until early August, even travelled to the Belgian Championships in Brussels last weekend in a last gasp bid to gain the qualifying standard.
The 33-year-old has also been active on social media this week, trying to find a suitable race in order to achieve the standard and strengthen his case for invitation before the IAAF’s deadline of September 6.
However, the former British Champion could still gain an invitation based on his world ranking.
Despite being hampered by hip and hamstring injuries, Greene has been consistently lowering his times since he made his belated season’s debut on August 6.
Tuesday’s Great Britain team announcement will also have come as a disappointment to Cardiff sprinter Sam Gordon.
The Welsh 100m champion had hoped his showing at the trials and British Championships, where he placed sixth in the final, might have gained him a place in the 4x100m squad.
Apart from Greene and Gordon, a number of Welsh athletes had been on the cusp of gaining a place on the plane to Doha, but either failed to gain the required podium placings at the trials or the qualifying standards.
Race walker Bethan Davies, hammer thrower Osian Jones and steeplechaser Ieuan Thomas all gained medals at the trials, but missed out on the required standards.
Another race walker, Heather Lewis, who won the British world championship 20k trials had to abandon her pursuit of the qualifying standard due to illness.
Meanwhile, middle distance runner Melissa Courtney had achieved the qualifying standard in the 5,000m, but missed out on a top three place in Birmingham after being forced to pull out mid-race.
Commenting on the lack of Welsh representation in the GB team for the World Championships, Wales national coach Chris Jones said it was due to a combination of circumstances, including injury, the busy global schedule and planning for next year’s Olympics.
Jones said: “Whilst it’s disappointing to miss out on selection or to have had to pull out, there’s a longer, bigger picture for our athletes and coaches to consider.
“Last year was a Commonwealth year, and next year is the Olympics – it’s hard to target every major games, and with Doha being so late in the year, and presenting some potentially very challenging conditions for endurance competitors, there have had to be some tough but sensible decisions made.
“Overall, things are going well, We’ve seen some fantastic recent Welsh performances from the likes of Osian Jones, Dan Nash, and our sprinters, so the future looks good, and I’ve no doubt GB teams will continue to see strong Welsh representation going forward.”