Twell selected over Purdue in controversial selection decision by British athletics

Charlotte Purdue to appeal selection decision which saw Steph Twell selected for the GB Olympic marathon team.

Charlotte Purdue, the fourth fastest women marathoner in British history has, according to reports, launched a formal appeal against her omission from Britain’s marathon Olympic team after Steph Twell was selected ahead of her.

When the full team was announced, it would be accurate to say that most observers were surprised to see Purdue not selected. Although she had a medical exemption from the marathon trials this year, not racing was always going to be a risk and so it proved, with Steph Davies the only woman to run under the necessary qualifying time of 2:29:30 at the trial race itself.

The controversy, however, comes from the fact that despite both Purdue and Twell not racing the trials, British Athletics selected Twell, being more than a minute slower over the 26.2 miles distance. Purdue too has significant competition pedigree being the only woman to represent GB in the marathon at the 2019 world championships in Doha. Her PB of 2:25:38 also came from 2019 after she was the first Brit to cross the line at the 2019 London Marathon.

Twell’s best also came in 2019, when she ran 2:26:40 on a fast course in Frankfurt. Unsurprisingly, given both women ran their PBs in 2019, and with Purdue significantly quicker, Twell’s selection has raised eyebrows throughout the sport. After Steph Davis ran the time at the trials and comfortably won the race, her place was assured and most athletes and fans expected that Jess Piasecki, the fastest of the remaining 3, would be selected with a PB of 2:25:28.

It was always likely to be a tough decision, but with selectors not required to explain their decision, their silence has resulted in far more questions than answers including accusations of nepotism.

One possible explanation is that with selectors having to assess fitness without the athletes racing at the trials, the reality is that Purdue has not raced since February 2020 where she ran an excellent 68:23, just shy of her previous PB in the half marathon. On the other hand, Twell has raced twice in that time, running 16:20 in a 5000m track race in the USA recently. Twell’s experience might have counted in her favour too having represented GB at the 2008 games over the 1500m and in Rio 2016 over 5000m and is the current British champion over 10,000m. 

Of her selection, Twell said, “I know it sounds crazy, but I feel like it’s even better than my first and my second [selections]…I feel like a third Olympics symbolises my love for the sport.”

Publicly, Purdue has remained quiet on her omission, but her decision to appeal the decision is evidence of her discontent at being left at home. Whether or not her appeal is successful remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the selectors had a far simpler choice for the men. With Callum Hawkins already pre-selected after coming 4th at the world championships in Doha, the remaining places went to trials winner and 39 year old veteran Chris Thompson after he ran an inspirational personal best 2:10:52, well inside the qualifying time of 2:11:30. The runner-up, Ben Connor who had already ran the necessary time and just needed to finish first or second, took the third spot after coming second at the trials race in 2:12:06.

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