Maduaka’s sprint double exposes the lottery of UKA funding
By David Powell, Athletics Correspondent
WHEN UK Athletics sent out its new contracts last month to 186 athletes, insisting that they sign or risk losing lottery support, they can hardly have imagined that one they omitted would be a double winner at their trials for the European Championships.
But Joice Maduaka, left out in the cold by UKA, completed a sprint double in the baking sunshine in Manchester yesterday.
Maduaka, having run, at 32, the quickest 100 metres of her life on Saturday, backed that up on the second and final day of the trials for Gothenburg, incorporating the AAA Championships, with a clear-cut victory over the half-lap. Yet she is not regarded as worthy of lottery funding. “I was only ever funded for two years, the rest of the time I have had no funding,” Maduaka said.
Once disenchanted at the way she was treated, Maduaka has adjusted to being, as she sees it, undervalued by UKA.
“It is not a problem,” she said. "I work full-time as a communications manager at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I enjoy it, I love the balance and the mix, and I am happy that I am not funded because I do not have to answer to anybody.”
Maduaka won the 100 metres in 11.23sec to equal Paula Dunn’s record of five AAAs titles at the distance, achieved between 1986 and 1995. In the 200 metres she recorded 23.24 to win by three metres and earn her 25th AAA Championships medal. Maduaka may have left improvement late, but she is at the same age Linford Christie was when he won the Olympic 100 metres title, while Merlene Ottey recorded a career-best 10.74 at 36.
It was Maduaka’s obsession with John Carlos who, with Tommie Smith, made world headlines for giving the black power salute at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, that led her to a change of coach. That and England failing to select her for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March. “I mean, I was not even selected as a non-travelling reserve for the relay team,” she said, cuttingly.
It proved a stroke of luck. “If I had been selected for the Commonwealth Games I would never have gone to the World Indoor Championships (in Moscow in March and never have met the American coach (Thomas Johnson) who is coaching me now,” she said.
“I was just in the lobby and I met John Carlos,” Maduaka recalled. “I was having one of those ‘Oh my God, wow,’ moments, ‘I cannot believe this is John Carlos’. I have never been in awe of anybody before but I wanted to be in the presence of this man every time I saw him. And every time I saw him he would say ‘and this is my friend, Thomas’.
Maduaka soon realised that Johnson, who was in Moscow as manager of the United States team, had expertise to offer her. He agreed to coach her, mainly by telephone and e-mail between London and Washington, although she still taps into Ron Roddan, her former coach and Christie’s former trainer. Johnson believes that Kathy Cook’s 25-year-old British record of 11.10 is within Maduaka’s reach. UKA say that she is likely to be among some 300 athletes to be offered lesser contracts.
After the withdrawal of Dwain Chambers, the favourite, with injury before the men’s 100 metres final, Marlon Devonish took his chance to match Maduaka’s double. Devonish added the half-lap title in 20.69 yesterday to his 100 metres win in 10.19 on Saturday. But, unlike Maduaka, Devonish was run close in the 200 metres, by 21-year-old Rikki Fifton.
Although Greg Rutherford’s 8.26 metres winning long jump was the performance of the championships, the thread of youth was at its strongest in the middle-distance events. The highlight was provided by Stuart Rimmer, who, at 20, won the men’s 800 metres. Of the 12 athletes finishing in the top three of either the men’s or women’s 800 or 1,500 metres, only three were over 24. The notable exception was Helen Clitheroe, 32, who won the women’s 1,500 metres.