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|August 21, 2000||
Aussies side shoot blanks
Australia's athletics selectors have delayed finalising their team for next month's Sydney Olympics after a controversial end to their national trials.
Australia's national body announced an 83-member squad on Sunday but they have still to fill several spots. They are also facing appeals by disgruntled athletes who missed out.
A men's 1,500 metres re-run was ordered after the original final ended in farce. Winner Nick Howarth was disqualified for jostling with race favourite Craig Mottram who fell near the line.
Australia's selectors did not choose any athletes in three events -- men's discus, women's shot and triple jump -- but told the trial winners they could be selected if they met the qualifying standard before the Games begin on September 15.
The selectors have also delayed a decision on Australia's three entrants in the women's 200.
Melinda Gainsford-Taylor and Lauren Hewitt were given guaranteed places after finishing first and second in the trials but there is a problem over the third spot.
Cathy Freeman won the Australian 200 title earlier this year but did not compete at the trials after the selectors said she had been awarded an automatic berth.
Nova Peris-Kneebone, who won the 200 title at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, finished third in the trials but was not given a spot despite meeting all the criteria.
Peris-Kneebone appealed against her omission from the 100 for the Commonwealth Games but has indicated she will not protest this time after being selected for the 400 and 4x400.
But sprinter Tania van Heer has said she will take legal action after missing out on the team. A dual Commonwealth Games champion, van Heer was forced out of the trials because of an Achilles injury.
She was a strong contender for the 100, 200, 4x100 and 4x400.
Long jumper Nicole Boegman is also planning legal action after her omission.
A veteran of three previous Olympics, Boegman is the only Australian to have reached the qualifying standard but was overlooked after finishing second at the trials.
"Nicole is very disappointed and frustrated with the process," her coach Craig Hilliard said.
"She is planning to appeal, looking at the inconsistency with the selection criteria."
Australia's squad included 47 Olympic debutants, 26 set for their second Games and nine making a third appearance.
Marathon runner Steve Moneghetti was the only competitor chosen for his fourth Olympics while Georgie Clarke, 16, became the youngest Australian athlete chosen for the Olympics in 24 years when she won a berth in the women's 1,500.
Head coach Chris Wardlaw said he expected Australia to finish in the top five on the athletics medals table.
"I reckon it's got some nuances and surprises you probably didn't expect, but that's Olympic selection," he said.
Mail Sports Editor
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