Injury and illness dashes hopes of selection for Tokyo Olympics

Injury and illness looks as if it may have ruled two top Northumbrian athletes out of this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Laura Weightman and Guy Learmonth.
Laura Weightman and Guy Learmonth.

Laura Weightman, who is a member of Morpeth Harriers, and Berwick’s Guy Learmonth were both forced to withdraw from the British Championships – the qualifiers for the Games – in Manchester at the weekend.

Weightman suffered a hamstring injury in training whilst Learmonth still has respiratory problems after contracting coronavirus in March.

Weightman has the qualification time for the 5000m, but the top two from the British Championships gain automatic selection for the Games this summer, with Weightman’s fate now hanging in the hands of the selectors who will make a final decision over the coming weeks.

In a message posted on Twitter before Manchester, Weightman who is 30 this week, wrote:

“Sadly it breaks my heart to say I won’t be on the start line of this weekend’s Olympic trials. Just when things were coming together I sustained a small hamstring injury in training on Tuesday.

“Life seems like it’s against me right now after a number of challenges this last year. But one thing I do know, whatever happens in the coming weeks I will be stronger for this.”

Weightman, who is coached by Steve Cram, has already competed in two Olympic Games, at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

She started out as a 1500m runner, winning a bronze medal at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin, but later moved up to the 5000m, also winning bronze in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Learmonth has seen his Olympic hopes dashed due to COVID.

Learmonth, who is a 400m runner, was hoping to qualify for his first Olympics, but like Weightman, was forced to withdraw from the trials due to effects of the virus.

He was suffering from a respiratory problem and said: "I didn't want to admit anything was wrong. I was one of many that got Covid at the Euro Champs in March and after initially getting through it, I just cracked on with training almost immediately, raced a lot across America and Europe and put so much stress and strain on my body without the proper recovery.

"I was reluctant to accept that Covid had anything to do with it but as the races went on and my performances started going backwards, I knew deep down something was wrong with my body.

"I finally took the plunge and after a series of tests and respiratory scans this week we've gotten to the bottom of things instantly. The worst thing of all is it is a relatively quick recovery process and if I just admitted that something was wrong then I would have had this sorted in March and not two days before the Olympic trials. My own hubris got the better of me.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow," he said. "These last 18 months I've genuinely changed my entire life to gear for Tokyo and to fight for my place but I won't be able to make that walk this time around. It has been the hardest and most brutal decision of my life. But I will be back."