Top Brits vying for remaining three Olympic spots

With Olympic places up for grabs on Sunday, ambitious British athletes must adopt a do-or-die mentality

Liz Yelling (Mark Shearman)

Scott Overall has the luxury of knowing his place for the Olympics is firmly secured after a 2:10:55 debut in Berlin last autumn and the Blackheath & Bromley athlete will be assuming pace-making duties this weekend to help Britain’s leading domestic aspirants achieve the UKA qualifying standard of 2:12:00.

Selection for the women’s team will be even tougher as two berths have already been occupied and while the UKA standard is 2:31:00, it is likely that any potential candidate will need to run faster than Jo Pavey’s 2:28:24 PB. Pavey has opted out of this race on the strength of her performances in 2011 – which included 2:28 performances in London and New York City. But if they won’t suffice, she has suggested she’ll try to qualify in the 10,000m instead.

Having just missed out on a top 20 finish in Daegu last year, which would have strengthened his selection credentials, Lee Merrien still must be fairly confident about his chances of claiming a sub-2:12 performance. The eighth-placer from the European Championships is the fastest of the British contenders at 2:14:27 and a recent half-marathon PB of 64:12 shows he’s in shape.

James Walsh was one of the leading Brits on the track last year and he rounded off his season with a top-20 finish at the European Cross-Country Championships. Could the Leeds City athlete produce a surprise debut performance?

There was disappointment earlier this week for Phil Wicks, meanwhile, when he withdrew with a hamstring injury. The Belgrave Harrier ran 2:15:38 in Amsterdam last autumn, but then after a 63:14 half-marathon win in Wokingham earlier this year the injury surfaced and he said he was “completely devastated to pull out”.

Other domestic contenders on the men’s side include experienced internationals Andi Jones, Ben Moreau and Ben Whitby – the latter a friend and training partner of Overall’s.

The most experienced of the female contenders is Liz Yelling, who is seeking her third successive Olympic selection. A clubmate of Paula Radcliffe at Bedford & County and the fastest on paper with a 2:28:33 PB,Yelling has been preparing for this race at altitude in Colorado and she sharpened up with a 16:29 5km last weekend.

Claire Hallissey broke the 2:30-barrier more recently in Chicago last year to put herself into Olympic contention. She finished behind Yelling in the Wokingham half-marathon, 72:58 to 73:32, although she comes fresh from a ten-mile PB of 54:37 in Washington.

Louise Damen made a promising 2:30:00 debut in London last year although she struggled in the hot conditions in Yokohama last autumn. Despite another under-par performance in the Bath half-marathon, Damen is confident her preparations at altitude in Iten have gone well.

Another athlete who has reaped the benefits of altitude training in Kenya is Alyson Dixon who won the Brighton Marathon last year in a PB of 2:34:50 which she hopes to break this weekend.

Susan Partridge must be capable of breaking her 2:34:13 PB based on her performances at the shorter distances. She ran a 32:44 10km in the New Year’s Eve race in Madrid which was followed by a half-marathon PB of 71:34 in Bath where she finished ahead of Yelling and Damen.

Chester-le-Street’s Freya Murray will be looking to convert her form at the shorter distances to the full marathon distance. Her credentials include a 32:28 10km PB and a 52:27 10-mile PB which augurs well for a successful debut.

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