Clonmel based runner Sergiu Ciobanu has been training for Rio for the past number of years. The Moldovan born Ciobanu, now in Ireland over 10 years, ran a qualifying time to represent Ireland in the Rio Olympics with fellow Irishmen Kevin Seaward and Mick Clohisey.
By Paddy Ryan, TipperaryTimes.com and RunRepublic.ie
The selection criteria set out by Athletics Ireland to represent Ireland were pretty straight forward. The three men and women with the fastest time over a certain distance would qualify for Rio. It just so happens that the top 4 Irish Marathon Runners ran in the same race on the same day in the shape of the Berlin Marathon in September. One would imagine it would be a straight forward selection process as per Athletics Ireland’s own rules where the fastest three would go to Rio. And indeed that was the premise set out before the race that only the fastest would travel.
Ciobanu was the second Irishman across the line, finishing 24th in 2:15:14. Mick Clohisey was 29th in 2:15:35, but later surpassed Ciobanu’s time with a 2:15:11 run at the Seville Marathon in February. Paul Pollock who has now been selected ran 24 seconds slower than Ciobanu.
Unfortunately it seems Athletics Ireland have moved the goal posts, choosing Pollock over Ciobanu due to results over shorter distances. For those not familiar with marathon running, such an audacious statement as to choose Pollock, certainly a talented runner in his own right, over Ciobanu because of results at the IAAF World Half Marathon would beg the question “Are Athletics Ireland Just Changing the Goalposts”
“Eventually they said ‘we reserve the right to change our policy as we go along’, which is bullshit.” – Jerry Kiernan
Clonmel based Ciobanu is said to be devasted by the news. Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Ciobanu stated “I feel if I was born in Nenagh or Killarney then I would be in that team. I’m very disappointed, and I’m sure this decision won’t give hope to many athletes who tried their best to qualify”
While Ciobanu many have been disappointed, his coach Jerry Kiernan certainly didn’t mince his words stating that the decision by Athletics Ireland was “Unfair” and that Athletics Ireland have “kept moving the goalposts” in relation to selection criteria.
Kiernan went on to explain: “Eventually they said ‘we reserve the right to change our policy as we go along’, which is bullshit.”
Speaking of choosing Pollock because of his performance over a half marathon, Kiernan was again clear in his sentiments about the 26.2 mile distance
“Picking a marathon team on the basis of a half marathon makes absolutely no sense, it’s like picking someone who has run a 400m on an 800m team. Sergiu is intrinsically a marathon runner. He stays on his feet and gets home. I do not believe he’s the fourth best marathon runner in the country.
“If you look at the criteria, you would have to feel Sergiu deserved the gig rather than Pollock. They all ran on the same day on the same course and we had an outcome, which was Seaward, Sergiu, and Clohisey, with Pollock fourth. I’m not saying they’ve got it wrong but I’m not too sure they’ve got it right.”
Ciobanu is going to appeal the decision which may result in him being awarded the spot which he earned.
In a sport such as athletics, we should be focusing on our main athletes. Seaward, Ciobanu, Clohisey and Pollock are 4 great runners and should be celebrated. But in a race where it should have been all or nothing and a simple “first past the post goes to Rio”, Athletics Ireland are determined to change the fundamental rules of athletics. A dangerous precedent could be set should Pollock go ahead of Sergiu and one hope Athletics Ireland have the foresight to rectify their decision