WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE
Just five days before the World half-marathon championships in China last weekend, Britain’s top marathoner Andrew Lemoncello was told that he could not compete and the US-based Scot has still not been given an explanation for his rejection from the event, writes Nicola Bamford.
Eighth and top British man on his debut with 2:13.40 in the Virgin London marathon last spring, Lemoncello qualified for the event with a 63:11 clocking in Japan back in February and had hopes of improving on his 26th place position from the 2009 edition in Birmingham, where he registered his current 63:03 lifetime best.
But a day after his 28th birthday, the former Olympic and World-level steeplechaser was given an unwanted belated gift in the form of an unexpected and frustrating dismissal from the second-most important competition of his autumn campaign.
“I wasn't told anything or given any reason for my visa denial,” Lemoncello explained.
“I tried to call and email every day but no one got back to me. I've never had any problems travelling before - I was in China for the (2004) Olympics so I don't know what the problem was.”
Guided by Greg McMillan and based in Flagstaff, Arizona for the past three years, Lemoncello had been in good form of late, placing ninth - and top Brit - in the Bupa Great North Run last month in 64:38, but he had hoped for better following a 28:47 10km personal best on the roads in Atlanta back in July.
In Nanning, China, Kenya’s Wilson Kiprop took victory in 60:07 whilst Bristol’s Claire Hallissey, as Britain’s sole representative and another who is based in the States, finished a commendable 18th in 73:07 in hot and humid conditions.
Originally from Fife and having lived in America for the past six years, Lemoncello, a Florida State University graduate revealed:
“I've got all the paperwork back and everything is filled out correctly. I sent away my paperwork three weeks before the championships and it was supposed to be a five-day process max.
I kept getting asked for more and more paperwork and to send off my American passport, as well as my UK passport.”
The 2005 and 2007 UK 3,000m steeplechase champion, who was fourth behind Australia’s Craig Mottram and Britain’s European 10,000m silver-medallist Chris Thompson in the Bupa Great Yorkshire 10km last month, continued:
“Training is going really well. I'm five weeks into my marathon training and starting to feel the strength gains already.
I will still want to run the World half in the future as it’s a great competition, it’s just a shame that I couldn't this year. I still watched the event online as two of my training partners were running.”
Targeting December’s Fukuoka marathon in an attempt to break the 2:12 barrier, Lemoncello will now switch his attentions to the Bupa Great South Run in Portsmouth this Sunday, where he will hope to put the disappointing experience behind him with a positive display.