Scottish Daily Mail

Being denied chance to race at home Games still hurts after all these years

- JOHN GREECHAN Chief Sports Writer

ALL bonhomie and back- sl apping as he fulfils s o me none- too- onerous ambassador­ial duties, the smile on the face of Allan Wells — Olympic champion, holder of four Commonweal­th Games golds and all-round sprint legend — turns to a grimace as he recalls the one race he simply couldn’t win.

And no, the Scot isn’t talking about going head-to-head with the American stars who boycotted the 1980 Games in Moscow; he beat them all not long after the defining moment of his career.

Rather t han some on- t r ack contest, Wells is thinking about a selection meeting that ruled him out of the 1986 Commonweal­th Games. An Edinburgh boy who had volunteere­d at the 1970 Games in the capital, the Glasgow 2014 ambassador was distraught at being denied a chance to run for gold in front of his ain folk. It rankles still.

‘I was prepared to run in the Commonweal­th Games and it’s sad that I wasn’t allowed to,’ he admitted. ‘When you consider I had four Commonweal­th gold medals, one silver and a bronze — and I was the Olympic champion from 1980 — it just didn’t make sense to me.

‘ I look back and feel that I could have added to my tally. I really do.’

Wells had missed the Scottish trials through i njury but the r ei gning 100 and 200metre champion was declared fit in time to compete at Meadowbank. He’d prove that point — in emphatic fashion — soon enough.

But Scotland team selectors voted to overlook Wells in favour of Elliot Bunney, James Henderson and Cameron Sharp in the 100m — with Sharp, George McCallum and a young Brian Whittle nominated to compete in the 200m.

For the record, Bunney and Henderson both made the final of the 100m, while a team of Bunney, McCallum, Henderson and Sharp finished third in the 4x100 relay.

Wondering what they might have done with Wells in the team? It’s a

“I was told I’d be picked, then they had a vote”

question that’s been asked often enough since. Starting a few days after the closing ceremony in Edinburgh.

Wells recalled: ‘I competed on the Tuesday after the Games finished — they’d wound up on the Sunday — and I beat both the Commonweal­th sprint gold medallists, Atlee Mahorn in the 200 and Ben Johnson in the 100.

‘I know that Ben wasn’t really bothered, but I still achieved the two wins and showed what I might have done in Edinburgh.

‘I was asked at the time if it was egg on the faces of the selectors and I just said it was up to them.

‘I did what I was told to do, I was told that I would be selected. I’m being honest, I was told I would be picked. But then they had a vote on it.

‘I actually had the case full of the Scotland team athletics gear, the jerseys and everything that all the other athletes got — that’s how much they were telling me I was going to be taking part — and I gave it back.

‘ You know, the vote was 21 against and six for. It must have been some big selection panel back then. I didn’t pay much attention to it, to be honest. I got a phone call from Mike McLean, who had competed in the 800m in 1970 and was on the selectors’ panel, and he said: “Allan, I’m really sorry. I tried everything I could to get you in the Games but you’ve not been selected”.

‘I did ask him if a certain party had voted for me, he s ai d no — and t hat certain party said he would, so that was the most annoying thing. It’s what I remem

ber most.

‘But ultimately, it’s history. If I look back to how I started, to think I would one day have even won a bronze medal would have been a phenomenal thing.’

Remarkably, Wells still turned up to support his home nation in ’86, explaining: ‘I went to watch. It was second nature to me. ‘But the Games were an anti- climax because the African countries weren’t there. That was a big loss to the Ga me s in Edinburgh. ‘I thought at the time it was a shame that Glasgow hadn’t been awarded the Games in 1986 but that was just as well for Glasgow, because it was devalued, especially in the distance events.

‘ It will be so different this time. It will be phenomenal. When the baton

goes into Glasgow, it’s going to be mental.

‘Glasgow have always been second behind Edinburgh in not having hosted the Games. So here’s an opportunit­y for the city to showcase what it’s all about.

‘ I’ve been i nvolved as an ambassador, I’ve seen the volunteers, helped induct them, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

‘The focus now is on July 23. The week-and-a-half after that is going to be just amazing.’

As Wells knows from experience competing and watching, the level of amazement may depend on just who turns up.

Mo Farah’s decision to run both the 5,000m and 10,000m at Hampden is a major boon. Now all Glasgow 2014 needs is a certain Jamaican sprinter to get himself fit for the Commonweal­th’s showpiece event.

Wells, who delivered the Queen’s Baton to a Commonweal­th Games Scotland function at the Royal Yacht Britannia earlier this week, revealed: ‘I have spoken to Usain Bolt. I spoke to him at the end of last year, at the IAAF dinner they had in Monaco.

‘My wife Margot and I were invited over to this big dinner because they were having a 1980s theme.

‘ I had the opportunit­y to speak to Usain and the first thing I said was: “Look, are you coming to the Games?”

‘ He s ai d: “I want to come but it’ll be up to my coach. I really do want to come”.

‘I told him: “Look, if you do come to Glasgow, you will be greeted by the warmest crowd ever. You will not be let down”. So I’ve done my wee j ob, planted the seed. Hopefully he does come to Glasgow.’

His role as ambassador means Wells will have been involved in three home Commonweal­th Games, with the then-teenager famously among the group of gangly kids helping out at Meadowbank the first time Edinburgh played host. ‘I was a volunteer in 1970, al t hough I didn’t do very much, to be honest,’ he said. ‘I gained a lot from it, though.

‘But as an i n di v i dual involved in athletics, I looked at what these guys were doing on the track, how they prepared etc.

‘To not just simulate them but actually go on and win in the Games, achieving the same levels, was fantastic.

‘I must have been 18 at the time and my job was putting out the hurdles on the track. That was my job, especially the 400.

‘The problem is I had gone away on holiday just before the Games, came back — and wasn’t really doing much.

‘But I learned an awful lot from seeing the athletes up close, seeing the performanc­es. It was fantastic. You couldn’t ask for anything better.

‘ Having experience­d both sides, I would have preferred to be in the race, of course. It’s such a lift.

‘Watching in 1970, then achieving the dream of competing and winning gold medals eight years later, I couldn’t believe it.’

 ??  ?? Snub: Wells was left out despite win in ’82 Games
Snub: Wells was left out despite win in ’82 Games
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