China set for downsized aths team for home Games

face the prospect of fielding a smaller athletics team than England’s at next year’s home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

The team is currently scheduled to be almost three-quarters the size of that sent to Glasgow four years ago.

Athletics has been told by the Commonwealth Games Federation that it can field a team of 73 for the Games in April. England has been told it can send 75. Four years ago in Glasgow, took a team of 92. None of these figures included Paralympic athletes among them.

AA last week sent an email to coaches and athletes to confirm the team size of 73. With marathons and walks being popular public events, they will take 12 spots.

also aim to fill all relay places – another 20 athletes – so excluding the 100m, 200m and 400m events where runners will come from the relay teams, that leaves 41 places for 32 events.

Two of those events are the men’s and women’s 10,000m for which the Zatopek 10 at Albert Park on Thursday night doubles as the Commonwealth trial. The first two in those races will be selected, meaning there are then 37 athletes for 30 events.

thus face fielding a team of barely more than one athlete in the majority of events despite likely having more than one athlete qualified in those events for a home Games.

The CGF has set a cap of 90 for athletics teams from any country. Only England and get close. But the CGF, randomly, imposed 73 for this year. AA and the Commonwealth Games remain hopeful of pushing the number closer to the maximum of 90 but as yet there are no guarantees.

Normally athletes who have an A standard and come first or second are automatic qualifiers for a team.

Other athletes with A standards are normally picked regardless of how they went at the trial to make sure the best athletes are not left behind because they missed the trial. That occurred with Jane Flemaming in 1990 when she was injured for the trial but eventually picked for the team and went on to win two gold medals.

In the men’s 10,000, have four men – Pat Tiernan, Brett Robinson, Dave McNeill and Stewart McSweyn – all regarded as legitimate chances to achieve the A standard at the Zatopek.

But only the first two across the line will be picked.

With the Games in less than four months, it makes qualifying confusing for athletes, who don’t know how many will be able to take.

Winning the trial is the surest way to guarantee selection, but as with Flemming, there are examples of the country’s best athletes being unfit at the trial but fit by the Games.

“I think it would be unlikely we would have an A qualifier not selected,” coach Craig Hilliard said.

Senior running coach Nic Bideau was not as confident of that if the number remained at 73.

“If it stays at that number there will be events where there are three A qualifiers at the trial and they won’t take three,” Bideau said.

“It’s hard to believe they could accept having a smaller team than England’s at our home Games. Our final number might be higher but so would England’s.”

The Zatopek is at Albert Park on Thursday December 14. The women’s 10,000m is at 8pm and the men’s at 9pm.

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