Hayley's extra hurdle


Last Updated: March 24, 2010

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Aussie athletes sunk by red tape
Mike Hurst
From: The Daily Telegraph
March 24, 2010 12:00AM

Red tape … Hayley Butler trains as her son Cooper watches on. Picture: Gregg Porteous Source: The Daily Telegraph

AS IF there weren’t enough barriers placed in front of amateur athletes, new Sydney mum Hayley Butler qualified for the Commonwealth Games in the 100m hurdles last weekend only to have her time and title rubbed out because she forgot to check in before the race.

If you want to know what’s wrong with athletics in this country, look no further than the red tape tripping up the battlers who make up 99 per cent of the players here.

In her first race over hurdles in three years - following retirement because of injuries and then the birth of son Cooper, who is almost 14 months old - Butler established herself as favourite for the Australian title with her win in the ACT titles in 13.46sec (legal tailwind 1.6m/s).

The time betters the B-qualifying standard for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October and ranks second nationally behind Olympic silver medallist Sally McLellan, who will not defend her national title in Perth next month as she rebuilds from a career-threatening back injury.

However, even before her amazing comeback time in Canberra, local officials advised Butler, 25, that she had been disqualified because she forgot to have her name marked off at the check-in zone as part of the marshalling protocol.

On the advice of coach Penny Gillies, Butler fired in a protest and was permitted to compete subject to her protest being heard. But Gillies has since spoken to Athletics Australia and received a flat rejection along the familiar lines of rules are rules.

“I do understand there are rules and procedures but if they want to make Australian athletics strong they should make an exception if a person does a qualifying time,” Butler told The Daily Telegraph yesterday. “They should show some leniency.”

Butler’s run is all the more remarkable because for the first time in three years she had trained over hurdles - in only three sessions, going no further than six flights, and all in the week leading up to the ACT titles.

The disqualification also hurt her husband, Steve, a former Parramatta junior who returned from his own injuries to be selected for Australia to play a rugby league Oztag international against the Kiwis last weekend but declined so that he could mind Cooper while Hayley competed.

“Steve couldn’t go because of a commitment to my athletics, and with the baby it was too much. So it’s my fault,” Hayley lamented.

She is now just one of many pursuing a Commonwealth quali- fying time or distance at the NSW championships which run from Friday to Sunday evening at Sydney Olympic Park.

The state titles, particularly a three-hour period from 6pm to 9pm on Saturday, is packed with international class finals.