To say that the British Championships and Trials system is fraught with complications would be an understatement, dear and observant readers. Some have not gotten over selectors’ absolute screw-ups in 1988 (long memories). This time around, some issues arose, and Stuart Weir, RunBlogRun’s senior writer for Europe, was there. 

Here is his second story on the British Championships, which were also the British Olympic Trials. 

All athletes are equal, but some athletes are more equal than others (with apologies to George Orwell)

The US selection trials are brutal and unforgiving, but everyone knows the rules – come in the first three or perish.  No ifs, no buts. The GB trials were always a bit different.  Because we are a smaller country without the strength in depth, it is sensible to leave a place for an athlete injured or ill on the day of trials. Thus, the first two are automatically selected, and the third place is decided at the selectors’ discretion.  But there is another complicating factor: “2023 individual World Championship Medallists…are automatically selected” provided they demonstrate their fitness/  “Demonstrate fitness” basically means compete in the trials.  But there is another complicating factor.  2023 WC medallists can prove their fitness by running a different event.

While that is fine for the 2023 medallists, it can complicate life for other athletes if you suddenly find a superstar in your race.  And remember that only the top two are automatically selected – even if a world medallist finished in the top 2 at a distance at which they do NOT want Olympic selection, they still take one of the automatic places, leaving two discretionary places for the selectors but at the same time taking the discretionary place in their own event (which they are not running).

So we had:

Josh Kerr (1500m medallist) running 800m

Keely Hodgkinson (800m medallist) running 400m

Matt Hudson-Smith (400m medallist) running 200m

If that wasn’t complicated enough, then there was the issue of organizing the prelims – which was controversial in its own right. Let’s start with the women’s 100. The fastest athletes were given a bye – never a fan of that intrinsically unfair process – with the 16 fastest athletes progressing to the semi – comments from athletes that a combination of time and place would have been fairer, giving variations in wind speed from race to race.

Ben Pattison, Max Burgin, British 800m Trials, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

But the real controversy was in the men’s 800.  There were three semi-finals with 9 or 10 athletes each, with the first 3 in each race going to the final – no fastest nonautomatic qualifiers. The organizers tried to seed the races so that there was an equal ability spread in each.  However, that the seeding was based on 2024 times only and, some athletes had competed a lot more than others, and two top athletes (Burgin and Rowden) had not run at all this year seriously undermined the seedings

The upshot was that Elliot Giles won the first semi in 1:47.51 with 1:47.72, which was enough for a third qualifying place. Callum Dodds won the third semi at 1:47.67 with third qualifying place going. 1:49.44.  The result of semi 2 was:

1 Max Burgin 1:45.52

2 Ben Pattisen 1:45.74

3 Josh Kerr 1:46.04

4 Alex Botterill 1:46.12

5 Daniel Rowden 1:46.51

As you can see, the five fastest times were in semi-2. Spare a thought for Daniel Rowden, who represented GB in Tokyo and Budapest but found himself facing the reigning British champion, the World bronze medallist, and the reigning world 1500 champion. In either of the other races, he would have had a great chance of making the final. There was somehow a sense of injustice in the air.