East’s injury dims England gold prospects
By Tom Knight
England lost another potential medallist when Michael East became the latest athlete to pull out of the Commonwealth Games.
East, 27, who won the 1500 metres title in Manchester in 2002, cited injury as his reason for withdrawing from the Games, which start in Melbourne on March 15.
The British No 1 has been suffering this winter because of problems with a hamstring and an Achilles tendon. He told the magazine Athletics Weekly: “I’ve been able to run for only about two or three weeks this winter and I would rather turn down the chance to defend my title than go to Melbourne only 60 per cent fit.”
East was one of England’s 12 gold medallists in Manchester - where England topped the medals table with 29 ahead of Australia’s 26 - in a competition which many saw as a major breakthrough for the Portsmouth athlete.
But his career since then has failed to ignite. After a year in which injuries took their toll, East managed to qualify for the World Championships in Helsinki, but was then eliminated in his semi-final after suffering from a stomach upset.
It was thought that the Commonwealth Games would give him the chance to make amends, although he admitted that the competition in Melbourne would be better than it was in Manchester.
“You’re going to have three very good Kenyans and a couple of New Zealanders,” said East, who will now concentrate on getting fit for the European Championships in Gothenburg in August.
The favourite to win the Commonwealth 1500m could be Craig Mottram, the 5,000m Australian bronze medal-winner in Helsinki.
East’s withdrawal could help Mottram, who hails from Melbourne, to make up his mind whether to double up over 1500m and 5000m rather than the 5,000m and 10,000m.
While the Australians, as host nation, are aiming to win 30 medals in the specially adapted 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground, the chances of English athletes replicating their triumphs at the City of Manchester Stadium are slim.
Of the Commonwealth champions, Jonathan Edwards and Dame Kelly Holmes have retired and Ashia Hansen is still recovering from the knee injury she sustained in 2004.
Nathan Morgan, who won the long jump in Manchester, has opted to aim for the World Indoor Championships, which take place in Moscow at the beginning of March.
East is not the only recent withdrawal. Larry Achike, the Commonwealth triple jump title-winner in 1998, pulled out of the England team this week because he is still recovering from knee surgery.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games take place in New Delhi, India, but they could return to Britain in 2014.
Glasgow is bidding to host the Games for the first time in a competition that will be decided in Sri Lanka in 2007. The rival bidders are Halifax in Canada and Abuja in Nigeria. The Games were held in Scotland in 1970 and 1986, when Edinburgh was the host city.