Furious British athlete threatens legal action over UK Athletics 'robbing' individuals of places

Amelia Strickler - Furious British athlete threatens legal action over UK Athletics 'robbing' individuals of places

Two-time British shot-put champion Amelia Strickler faces not being allowed to compete at the World Championships – PA/Martin Rickett

UK Athletics has been warned that it faces a talent drain of athletes unless it reverses the controversial selection policy that is said to be ‘robbing’ individuals of their places.

The national governing body will on Friday announce its team for next month’s World Championships in Budapest but there is already fury among a group of around 20 athletes who will be invited by World Athletics but not be selected as part of the British team.

While World Athletics accepts athletes according to either their world ranking place or reaching a particular qualifying standard, UKA say that every athlete in the team must have reached their stated time or distance in 2023.

This UKA selection standard has been made more challenging in a number of events this year and means that Britain will go into the World Championships either without any representation, or without a full quota of possible available places, in some events.

Amelia Strickler, a shot-putter who also narrowly missed out on UKA ‘s strict Olympic standard two years ago, is ready to take legal action and questioned whether chief executive Jack Buckner, or UKA board members, should now be a funded part of the official British delegation when athletes with the world ranking to compete were being turned away.

She also said that Great Britain was losing athletes who might have the option to compete for other nations with different selection rules.

“It [a talent drain] is already happening,” she said. “It’s shocking. It sucks. World Athletics is saying we are good enough. The federations should be taking that as gospel. I feel robbed of a big opportunity. It’s not easy to be in the rankings – you have to consistently have good performances throughout the year.

“It seems they are trying to cut the budget where they can, and only take medal potentials, but some of these people [not going] are ranked awfully high in the world. You don’t need to take some of the staff that they take. The CEO [Jack Buckner] doesn’t need to go. He’s there to watch. Why can’t his plane ticket be for an athlete that’s deserving? It’s devastating to be completely counted out before we have crossed the finished line. It’s heartbreaking.”

Strickler is currently ranked world number 38 in the women’s shot put (and Britain’s number one) and is adamant that the affected athletes would all find a self-funded way to get themselves to Budapest even if UKA simply accepted rather than funded their places. Also set to miss out are Lina Nielsen, who is ranked 25th in the world and whose 400m hurdles time would have been good enough even by UKA standards last year, as well Joshua Zeller, who finished fifth in the 110m hurdles world final last year and is currently ranked 29th.

Lina Nielsen - Furious British athlete threatens legal action over UK Athletics 'robbing' individuals of places

400m hurdler Lina Nielsen is also set to miss out on the World Championships despite being ranked 25th in the world – British Athletics/Nathan Stirk

The heptathlete Jade O’Dowda and the discus thrower Jade Lally are both in the world’s top 20 but have narrowly missed the UKA selection standard and so their places will go to athletes from other countries who are beneath them in the World Athletics list.

“I personally am looking into taking legal action,” said Strickler, who competed but did not make the final in last year’s World and European Championships. “Even if it doesn’t benefit me right now, if it can benefit others down the line I think that would be massive. As an organisation they [UK Athletics] have not done anything for me except make things difficult.”

Nielsen told the Guardian that “UK Athletics make us feel like the sh***est athletes in the world” while Zeller said that UK Athletics “just makes up its own rules”.

UK Athletics are adamant that the selection policy is not influenced by finance and there is a strong feeling that it is fairer to have predetermined standards so that athletes know exactly where they stand at the start of the year and selection is less subjective. The UKA selection standard is devised by statisticians and event group experts.

Buckner had already warned earlier this year that there would be a “slightly sharper edge” to a selection policy that would focus “on the big hitters” and mean smaller teams at events like the World Championships and Olympic Games. He implemented a comparable policy while CEO of British Swimming, whose athletes achieved huge success at the Tokyo Olympics.

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