Steffensen told to qualify DANIEL LANE
April 11, 2010 - 12:08AM
AN OUTRAGED John Steffensen ;)claims he’s being forced to compete at the Commonwealth Games trials in Perth this week despite having back surgery 12 weeks ago.
Steffensen, the defending Commonwealth Games 400 metres gold medallist, has been granted an exemption, but was warned if three of his rivals ran the A-qualifying time this week it was possible all the individual 400m positions could be filled by the end of the month.
If that happened, the best Steffensen could hope for is to go to New Delhi as a relay runner.
“I applied for exemption three weeks after my back operation,” he said. "Basically the reply I received is I have to race. They’ve [Australian Athletics] pushed me into a code red. There’s no backing here, there’s no sense of ‘you’ve given good service to the sport’; it’s as though they talk as if I’m in my first year of the sport.
"I’m a grown man. These guys don’t pay me, they don’t come to the gym every day to help me, they don’t hold my water bottle, but they want to dictate when they want to pick [the athletes] and when they don’t want to pick. It doesn’t work like that in track and field. It might in cricket, but it doesn’t in track and field.
“They want me to go out and sacrifice my season, sacrifice my body and I don’t know if my sacrifice is going to get me anywhere.”
Hurdler Sally McLellan, pole vaulter Steve Hooker, 400m hurdler Jana Rawlinson and distance runner Craig Mottram have all been granted an exemption from the meeting.
However, Australia’s high performance manager Eric Hollingsworth, who coaches Steffensen’s rival Sean Wroe, insisted Steffensen was not being discriminated against.
“John can have an exemption if he puts in the required paperwork for exemption from injury because of his back,” Hollingsworth said. "His problem is that the selection policy states the selectors can close off the team if they deem the quality of the individuals in the 400m is up to the level required.
“Which means John feels the pressure to compete, not because of me or anyone else, but because of the level of competition in the 400m in Australia. This quandary is not because of discrimination in the system but because of the quality in the 400m.”
Hollingsworth said the reason Rawlinson could perhaps afford to breathe easy and take the exemption was because it was highly unlikely three competitors would run the A-qualifier in Perth.