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Friday, August 18, 2000

Butler misses British squad

  Kathy Butler's gamble to forsake the Canadian track and field team to try to make the British squad for the Sydney Olympics has backfired.

 The Waterloo-raised long-distance runner caused a furor in Canadian amateur sport last November when she switched allegiance to Britain. A dual Canadian/British citizen, Butler felt she would blossom more in Britain, which gives its athletes much more support than Canada, particularly financial aid.

 But nine months after the move, Butler is not going to Sydney -- unless she does the tourist thing. At the British trials last week in Birmingham, Butler, 26, failed to finish the 5,000-metre event, won by Paula Radcliffe in 15 minutes, 5.48 seconds. Butler did not have a good season, with a best time of 15:42.22, compared with her personal best of 15:10.69.

 Many track insiders believe the Scottish-born Butler, who moved to Canada with her family at age 10, likely would have made the Canadian team had she had stayed in North America. The quality of runners in her event is not as high in Canada, which did not qualify anyone in the women's 5,000.

 "She knew the standards would be tougher over there," Cecil Smith, the dean of Canadian track and field, said. "Obviously, she miscalculated. But I'm sure we'll see her at the world championships next year for Britain. She's too talented to stay off that team for long."

 Butler, a three-time NCAA champion at the University of Wisconsin, finished an impressive fourth at the world cross-country championships in Belfast last year, although she had to spend $1,500 of her own money to make the trip.

 Many elite athletes in Canada are going into debt to represent their country since cutbacks have forced many to pay their own travel expenses. The difference is, Butler had an option in Britain. Unfortunately for her, it didn't pan out.

 Tina Connelly of Port Coquitlam, B.C. won the 5,000 metre title at the Canadian trials in a personal best 15:33.59. Connelly will instead compete for Canada in the 10,000.

 BAILEY BACKS BUDDY: Sprinter Donovan Bailey is pushing to have his training mate, Trevino Betty, named to the Olympic relay team. Betty, a member of Canada's 4x100- metre relay squad at the 1999 world championships, finished sixth in the 100-metre event at the Canadian trials in 10.35 and was left off the six-man squad. Bailey believes that, with himself, Bruny Surin and Glenroy Gilbert recovering from hamstring injuries, the Canadian squad needs four healthy bodies Down Under.