Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland sprinter Leon Reid fears it's end of the world for Ireland dreams

 

By Graham Luney

Leon Reid has admitted his dream of competing for Ireland in the World Championships next month looks to be shattered.

The Northern Ireland sprint champion sent an open letter to IAAF President Seb Coe in a desperate late bid to run for Ireland in London, however the 22-year-old now feels it's mission impossible.

Reid, who competed for Northern Ireland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games but has decided to switch allegiance from GB to Ireland, hoped the IAAF could speed up the transfer process which would allow him to race for Ireland in London. The response, Reid admits, has been slow.

"There's not a lot we can do after writing to the IAAF," said Reid, whose late mother was from Belfast. "We are looking at how and why this has happened, why the transfer has not gone through. It is now looking very unlikely. There is always hope but the IAAF have not shown any willingness to be flexible."

The transfer process started a year ago and the final date for selection was Sunday, but Reid’s application stalled earlier this year when the IAAF chose to halt all international transfers, pending a review, because of concerns over the number of African athletes switching nationalities.

The Bath-based athlete was given some hope when it emerged the governing body allowed eight Russian athletes to compete under a neutral banner in London, but the IAAF insisted the cases were different.

“I was told that there was no special treatment there as their national federation was suspended as a result of doping,” added Reid, who ran the World Championship 200m qualifying standard when finishing third at last month’s British Championships.

“There is clearly flexibility concerning the Russian athletes. It is very unfair that the same stance is not being applied to me as all the papers on my application to compete for Ireland were forwarded on January 4.

“As the ban on athletes transferring countries was not announced until February 6, it should not have been backdated.

“It is unfortunately probably too late now for any decision on my case before the Worlds. Competing in London for Ireland would have really helped me as my season is going so well.”

Reid, who has a 200m personal best of 20.38 seconds, spent much of his childhood in the British care system before being fostered by a family who have strong Irish connections.

“It said on my mother’s birth certificate that she was from Belfast,” he added. “Negotiations are ongoing with the IAAF but their responses have been negative.”

Meanwhile, Athletics Ireland have confirmed that only four track athletes will be competing in London.

Lisburn AC’s Ciara Mageean goes in the 1,500m following her impressive time of four minutes, 4.49 seconds in Rome last month. She will be joined in London by Thomas Barr (400m hurdles), Brian Gregan (400m flat) and Mark English (800m).

Holywood’s Paul Pollock is included in the marathon.

Elsewhere, Athletics NI officials have been reflecting on the outstanding success of the four-person team which came away from the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas with gold medals in the boys’ 200m and the girls’ high jump.

Of the total of 12 medals for the entire NI team, athletics is  the only sport which managed to secure gold.

Sommer Lecky’s memorable high jump season continued with an emphatic victory of 1.83m.

The 16-year-old Strabane schoolgirl will gain further Commonwealth experience next year as a member of the NI team for the Gold Coast Games.

Aaron Sexton’s 200m win came as something of a surprise as he was only fourth fastest going into the final. However, he snatched gold in 21.57 seconds.

John Allen commented on behalf of Athletics NI: “These are tremendous performances which exceeded our expectations. It reflects the hard work of the coaches and NI staff, not to mention the huge support from the NI Youth Academy.”

 

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