‘To be so close was gutting’

Despite missing out on Olympic qualification by .02 of a second, DCU’s Steven Colvert enjoyed a progressive season on the track, but as he tells Eoghan Cormican, it was ultimately one tinged with regret.

Three weeks prior to the 2008 Beijing Games, the Olympic Council of Ireland engaged in a dramatic U-turn on their Astandard only rule to include three additional athletes who had achieved only the B-qualifyingstandard.
The lucky runners, Thomas Chamney, Michelle Curley and Pauline Curley, discovered they would be travelling to Beijing despite failing to satisfy the OCI’s qualification criteria.

Fast forward three years and the Olympic Council again applied a strict A-standard only rule to track and field athletes hoping to compete in London. This time around, however, there would be no U-turns, no exceptions. Steven Colvert knows only too well.

The DCU law student had been targeting the 200 metres Astandard of 20.55, but fell agonisingly short with a personal best of 20.57. Two one-hundredths of a second stood between Colvert and Olympic qualification; the OCI, however, were not for changing.

Speaking to College View Sport, the 22-year-old expressed frustration with the OCI’s criteria, saying that in certain cases, athletes attaining the B-standard should be sent. “I can’t say I agree with it when it comes to younger and developing athletes. If someone is under the age of 23 and they are running Olympic B-standard they most certainly should be sent.

“Athletes need to be given the experience to run in these major championships. It’s what all the top countries do. They don’t only look after their top athletes, they focus on developing and bringing up the younger ranks.”
On July 7, the last day of qualification, Colvert’s ticket to London was secured. Or so we thought. Crossing the line in the semi-final of the National Championships, the clock stopped at 20.40.

“To see the clock stop at 20.40 was thrilling. The crowd was behind me all the way and I really fed off their energy. It was great to run an Olympic qualifying time in front of a home crowd”, said Colvert.

His elation however, was quickly dispelled as the wind reading came up as +3.0 metres per second, outside the legal limit. With his chance gone, the Olympic dream was over.

“To be honest it was absolutely gutting. The Olympic Games is something every athlete aspires to compete at. I think what made it the hardest to bear was the fact that I had run a time of 20.40, well beneath the standard of 20.55 but a technicality denied me the Games in London.” Though the National Championships represented his last shot at qualification, Colvert admits it shouldn’t have come to that. Achieving the A-standard should have been sewn-up earlier in the season. Two races in particular play on his mind.

Competing in Slovenia in mid June, Colvert clocked a lifetime best of 20.57. Four days later, he was in Sweden tearing up the track in 20.59, alas, the A-standard remained elusive. Colvert realises that was his time.

“I was clearly in peak shape at that time. I think Sweden was probably the day it should have happened. I ran a good race and broke clear of a world class field, unfortunately for me a little bit of my inexperience showed and I lost focus in the last 50m and shut down to coast across the line. I knew that had I not lost focus that would have been a qualifying run.”

Thereafter, the leggy 6ft 5in Crusaders man competed in the European Championships in Helsinki, hopeful the necessary performance could be churned out, but disqualification due to a lane infringement cut short his involvement.

“Helsinki was a tough one. I knew an A-standard was possible. It was that little bit extra hard to take because having seen the competition, I knew the final and possibly a medal were achievable.”

While missing out on the Olympics was difficult to stomach, there was a silver lining of sorts in that Colvert has achieved the qualification for next summer’s World Championships in Moscow. Aside from that, the European Indoors and World University Games are other pressing items on this young man’s agenda.

Before we finished up, Colvert was keen to acknowledge DCU’s role in his on-track progression, paying particular tribute to Athletics Academy Director Enda Fitzpatrick. “When I was in UCD, I was in a degree I didn’t really enjoy, so I never pushed myself. I decided that DCU was where I needed to be as they had such a strong focus on athletics.”

Though London proved a step too far, Rio will be easily conquered. For Steven Colvert is Irish sprinting’s next big thing. Make no mistake about it.

Eoghan Cormican
Image Credit: Sportsfile

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