The 400m runner was left relying on a good performance at the European Championships in Amsterdam to reach his third Olympics
Martyn Rooney said his last-minute appeal to compete at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing left him in no doubt of his need to perform at the recent European Championships in Amsterdam in order to secure his Olympic spot.
Rooney failed to guarantee a place on Team GB at the trials in Birmingham last month, finishing third and losing out to Matthew Hudson-Smith and Rabah Yousif, but came back into form in impressive fashion as he defended his European 400m title in the Netherlands.
Prior to running his two fastest times of the season in Amsterdam – 45.04 in the semi-final and 45.29 in the final – Rooney’s season’s best was 45.78, comfortably outside the 45.40 Olympic qualifying standard, leaving his Olympic dreams precariously balanced.
The 29-year-old faced a similar situation in 2015, being initially listed to just compete in the 4x400m relay in Beijing after failing to finish in the top two at the British championships, but launched a successful appeal to British Athletics, which paid off handsomely as he produced a 44.45 PB in his heat.
After his Rio selection was confirmed, finalising his place in a third Olympic squad, Rooney told AW: “I knew what I had to do. The writing was on the wall. I’ve been in the sport long enough to know if you don’t perform, you don’t get picked.
“I knew I had to run quick. I know I’m in good shape. My coach has been battering me all winter and he knows I can go and run a PB this year. I know I’m in shape and for myself I had to go and prove that.”
A stalwart on the international stage for a decade now, the five-time British champion and double European champion said his eagerness to win the national championships, rather than solely focusing on securing a top-two finish, played heavily on his mind in the build-up to a disappointing run in Birmingham.
Rooney added: “This is the first time I’ve been emotional about the trials. I went in there and really wanted to win it. Matt was running very well. That was my big target and I really wanted to take it.
“I wanted to win the trials. I hadn’t won for a while. I think I just put too much emotion into it. I was out in lane eight and instead of making sure I qualified for the Olympics I tried to win it. I was in far better shape that day.”
After reaching the 400m final at the Beijing Olympics eight years ago where he finished sixth and suffering two agonising fourth-placed finishes in the 4x400m relay in both 2008 and 2012 – Rooney could yet receive a bronze from 2008 after Russia’s Denis Alexeev reportedly tested positive in a retest – the Croydon sprinter is adamant an Olympic medal is up for grabs for the British relay team this time.
“I’m trying not to focus on what’s happening with the Russians in 08,” he added. “But if I win an Olympic medal I’ll cry. I’ll cry on the track. It would be incredible. The opportunity is there, hopefully we can take it.”