The country’s leading 15 and 16 year old athletes will not have the opportunity to compete internationally in 2014 after British Athletics decided it would not be taking a team to the Youth Olympics.
It cited reasons of timing for its decision not to select a team for the competition, which is to be held in Nanjing, China, in August.
Next year will see the World Junior Championships in Eugene, USA, as well as the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. British Athletics feels these competitions should take priority over the Youth Olympics, and has also stated any U17’s born in 1998 will not be eligible for selection to any of these championships regardless of whether they reach the required standard or not.
The decision means many of the top athletes in the U17 age group will miss out on the chance to test themselves on the international stage and will have to wait until 2015’s World Youth Championships in Colombia to do so.
Last year’s World Youth Championship squad, held in Donetsk, featured several U17s, including Morgan Lake, Tom Somers, Reuben Arthur, Jack Crabtree and Shannon Hylton. Many of the athletes reached event finals and were able to compete with older U20’s in their events.
At the last Youth Olympics in 2010, sprinter David Bolarinwa claimed bronze in the boys’ 100m, as did Charlie Grice in the 1,000m, and Bolarinwa and fellow sprinter Annie Tagoe took silver and bronze respectively in the medley relay as part of the European teams.
The ruling means several top athletes in the U17 age group will not be eligible for selection despite being ranked at the top of their events in the coming season. It also means last year’s U17’s who competed internationally will be able to do so again in 2014.
British Athletics has also stated its decision is partly based on its development model which suggests the focus for young athletes in 2014 should be the World Juniors if they are looking to medal in 2016 and 2020. However, it was believed younger athletes would be given the opportunity to qualify for the Youth Olympics to gain much-needed international experience, as they will still be eligible for world youth and junior events in the coming years.
It may be that unfortunate timing has influenced British Athletics as the Youth Olympics start a few weeks after the World Juniors finish so perhaps it would have been difficult to ask athletes to prioritise between them. With many on the cusp of their senior careers and looking to be selected for the Commonwealths and European Champs, perhaps it is a case of one competition too many.
Whatever the reasons behind the ruling, there’s no doubt those affected will be left feeling hard-done to by British Athletics at having to put their international athletics careers on-hold for another season.