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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ben Bloom

UKA chief defends ‘winning’ selection policy that sees British athletes miss out

UK Athletics’ chief selector, Stephen Maguire, with sprinter Desirèe Henry
UK Athletics’ chief selector, Stephen Maguire, says ‘tough standards’ will ultimately yield results. Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

UK Athletics’ chief selector has defended the organisation’s strict policy that will mean at least 19 athletes miss out on next month’s world championships after he named Britain’s smallest team for 15 years.

Only 12 British men will compete individually in Budapest this August, with no representation in events longer than 1,500 metres and one sole field entrant.

At least 19 additional British athletes will receive World Athletics invites based on their ranking positions at the start of next week, but the national federation will turn them down due to a strict selection policy that demands athletes must also hit the qualification standard.

Earlier this week, the Guardian reported anger among some of those who will miss out, with the 400m hurdler Lina Nielsen saying: “UK Athletics make us feel like the shittest athletes in the world. I feel like I am being robbed.”

Others have suggested looking into whether to take legal action against the organisation. Stephen Maguire, UK Athletics’ technical director, said he could not comment on the legal situation, but defended the reasons for the policy.

“The selection is very much based on a philosophy of challenging for finals and ultimately winning medals,” he said. “It’s about being really clear on what our expectation is.

“How are we going to be able to have the best team to represent us at those competitions with a very clear goal? Unashamedly, it is a really clear goal of how do we challenge for final positions?

“I think it is fair for me to recognise that athletes will be hurt because they haven’t made standards and they’ll see it as tough standards.

“It’s not necessarily like the athletes weren’t warned that this was going to be the case. The policy is out a year or 10 months beforehand.”

Lina Nielsen at the 2021 European Athletics Team Championships
Lina Nielsen has said: ‘I feel like I am being robbed.’ Photograph: Lukasz Kalinowski/Shutterstock

The squad of 51 will probably be boosted next week by around five athletes who will receive World Athletics invitations and have also hit the required standard demanded by UK Athletics, so they will be accepted.

Nonetheless, the team will be smaller than at any world championships since 2005. Britain’s last three squads have consisted of 92, 77 and 80 athletes.

With UK Athletics in significant financial turmoil after posting £1.8m losses for 2021-22, some athletes have suggested paying their own way to compete in Budapest if given the opportunity through World Athletics invitations. Maguire insisted that money is not a factor in the federation’s decision.

“We’re not trying to hide anything,” he said. “This isn’t about cost. This isn’t about it being too expensive or whatever.


100m: Dina Asher-Smith, Imani-Lara Lansiquot , Daryll Neita

200m: Dina Asher-Smith, Daryll Neita, Bianca Williams 

400m: Victoria Ohuruogu, Ama Pipi 

800m: Isabelle Boffey, Keely Hodgkinson, Jemma Reekie  

1500m: Melissa Courtney-Bryant, Laura Muir, Katie Snowden 

5000m: Megan Keith, Amy-Eloise Markovc 

10,000m: Eilish McColgan, Jessica Warner-Judd 

3000m steeplechase: Aimee Pratt  

100m hurdles: Cindy Sember  

400m hurdles: Jessie Knight 

4x100m relay: Dina Asher-Smith, Alyson Bell, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Daryll Neita, Asha Phillip (subject to fitness), Annie Tagoe, Bianca Williams 

4x400m relay: Amber Anning, Yemi Mary John, Jessie Knight, Laviai Nielsen, Victoria Ohuruogu, Ama Pipi, Nicole Yeargin 

High jump: Morgan Lake  

Pole vault: Molly Caudery 

Long jump: Jazmin Sawyers  

Heptathlon: Katarina Johnson-Thompson  

Marathon: Natasha Cockram 


100m: Eugene Amo-Dadzie, Zharnel Hughes, Reece Prescod 

200m: Zharnel Hughes  

400m: Matthew Hudson-Smith 

800m: Max Burgin, Ben Pattison, Daniel Rowden  

1500m: Elliot Giles, Neil Gourley, Josh Kerr 

110m hurdles: Tade Ojora 

4x100m relay: Eugene Amo-Dadzie, Jeremiah Azu, Jona Efoloko, Adam Gemili, Zharnel Hughes, Reece Prescod

4x400m relay: Joe Brier, Lewis Davey, Charlie Dobson, Alex Haydock-Wilson, Matthew Hudson-Smith, Rio Mitcham 

Discus: Lawrence Okoye 

“If we have 80 people making the team at this level that we’ve set then hallelujah, that’s great. But let’s have a nice high crossbar. That’s what we’ve done.”

Zharnel Hughes – the year’s fastest man in the world over 100m – will compete over that distance and the 200m after breaking both British records this summer. Olympic and world medallists Keely Hodgkinson (800m), Laura Muir (1500m) and Dina Asher-Smith (100m and 200m) are also part of the team.

In a team announcement that was largely rudimentary, the only slight surprise was the inclusion of 800m runner Issy Boffey at the expense of Alexandra Bell, who made the last Olympic final and beat Boffey at the British trials.

Richard Kilty is also a notable omission in a 4x100m squad that includes breakthrough 9.93sec runner Eugene Amo-Dadzie for the first time. It is understood Amo-Dadzie is likely to focus on the individual event over the relay unless required through injury.

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