British Olympic sprint hopeful Richard Kilty has voiced his dismay at members of the sporting community who have shunned the opportunity to compete at next month’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Golfers have been among the most high-profile withdrawals, with world No1 Jason Day, four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy and 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell all pulling out, citing fears over the Zika virus.
Kilty is currently participating at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, desperately striving to press his case for inclusion in Great Britain’s athletics squad and realise his Olympic dream.
“The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event in the world and I can’t understand people who would want to pull out,” Kilty told City A.M.
“While guys like Rory McIlroy have other priorities and the Olympics are perhaps not the pinnacle of their sport, for track and field athletes, it’s the top of the top. If you win the Olympics, you’re the best on earth, hands down.
“I want to look back and tell my kids and my grandkids that I was an Olympian. It’s such a shame to see people in other sports not taking it as seriously. You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get to compete at the Olympics.”
Proving a point in Amsterdam
Kilty, a world and European indoor 60m gold medallist, faces a battle to be selected for the individual 100m in Rio, having finished sixth at last month’s British Championships, which also acted as Olympic trials.
He did, however, breeze through qualifying on the opening day of the championships in Holland on Wednesday, finishing third fastest overall. The semi-finals and final take place on Thursday.
The 26-year-old would appear to have more chance of making the 4x100m relay in Brazil, although the self-styled Teesside Tornado still believes he can prove his worth across the board this week.
“To come out with two medals would be ideal. I’m 110 per cent capable of medalling in the 100m and in the relay we’re the best sprint nation in Europe,” added Kilty.
“I didn’t really perform throughout the trials. I’ve been struggling with illness for the last four weeks and found myself flat, while my reaction times were down.
“Hopefully I can redeem myself, put in a really strong performance and give the selectors something to think about regarding that third spot in the 100m for Rio. I want to justify getting on that plane to Rio.”
London 2012 heartache and joining the Marines
His desire to make the cut for Rio is fuelled by the injustice he felt at being denied the opportunity to run at London 2012, which led to him formally appealing the decision.
“I did watch that Olympics back home but it was pretty difficult,” he said. “I retired from the sport for a period and was considering a career change and going into the Royal Marines. I was in a really difficult, dark place.
“It was just a poor decision not to take me and I realised I had the ability to go out there and win medals. I’ve now got a medal in everything apart from the Olympics and not many British sprinters can say that.”
Relishing London return alongside Bolt
Kilty will be among those starring at this month’s Anniversary Games and he believes competing alongside the likes of Usain Bolt in London will prove valuable preparation for Rio.
“It’s huge. It’s the last event before the Olympics and I reckon it will be a similar atmosphere to the Olympics, if not better,” he said.
“It’s important to get out there and experience it as it will be similar to Rio in so many ways, in terms of crowd size and importance.
“It will be the last big test before then and there will be no better place for such a test than on home soil in the Olympic Stadium.”
For tickets to the Müller Anniversary Games visit britishathletics.org.uk