RICHARD KILTY will defend his European Indoor 60m title after the European Athletics Council offered him special dispensation to compete at next month’s European Indoor Athletics Championships.

Kilty was controversially omitted from the British squad that was selected for the event in Glasgow, with the selectors opting to leave two of their available slots unfilled.

While the organisers of the European Championships permit anyone who has posted a time of 6.78secs or under this season to compete in the 60m, the British selectors set their own qualifying mark of 6.60secs.

Kilty has missed most of the winter programme because of an Achilles injury, but the Stockton sprinter stepped up his recovery with a victory at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix at Birmingham.

His winning time of 6.63secs would have secured him a place in the final at the last European Indoors, but even though he boasts a proven pedigree at major championships having won gold at European and World Championships indoors, the selectors refused to budge.

However, while UK Athletics did not grant Kilty a place on the start line, the event’s organisers, the European Athletics Council, are keen to have as many reigning champions as possible defending their crown. As a result, they have offered Kilty a starting spot in the 60m, which the Teessider intends to take up.

“This situation of a defending champion from the host nation being fit but not making his or her national team is fairly unusual,” said European Athletics Council president Svein Arne Hansen. “Our invitation is really a special case.

“It helps the individual athlete of course, but more importantly it shows that we are ready to react to opportunities that will help our events succeed.”

At the outdoor European Championships, reigning champions are automatically qualified for the following edition, even if they fail to achieve their national governing body’s qualifying criteria.

That does not automatically apply indoors, but by offering Kilty a special dispensation, the European Athletics Council are clearly expressing their dissatisfaction at UK Athletics’ refusal to adapt their own criteria to accommodate Kilty, who is a European and World Indoor champion.

“We all know that it adds interest for the public when they see that national stars, especially champions, will be competing,” said Hansen.

“I am looking to the future and although there are factors we need to discuss, I intend to ask the council to consider extending the automatic qualification rule to the Indoor Championship.”

Kilty will now compete alongside Ojie Edoburun, who was UK Athletics’ only 60m selection even though he could only finish in last position in the final of the recent British Indoor Championships.

I am really thankful to European Athletics for giving me the opportunity to stand on the start line and realise the dream I set after I had my Achilles surgery.

"The main thing for me has been to get on that start line as a defending champion at a home championships," said Kilty, in response to confirmation of his starting spot.

"I struggled mentally for a couple of days after the team announcement but now I feel phenomenal and I can put it to the back of my mind and run for my family, my fans and the home crowd – that is all I am thinking about.

"I want to please the fans and the home crowd that want to see me run in Glasgow and I want to make my family proud.

"Once again I am so thankful for the opportunity from European Athletics and I can’t wait to stand on the start line and try and win a third title in a row."

The European Indoor Athletics Championship will take place between March 1-3, and Kilty will now start as one of the favourites to retain his crown.

The Northern Echo:
AMY TINKLER has confirmed she will miss April’s European Gymnastics Championships as she continues to recover from a serious ankle injury.

The Bishop Auckland gymnast, who won a bronze medal on the floor at the Rio Olympics in 2016, has suffered a frustrating 12 months as she has battled against major injury issues.

She had ligament reconstruction surgery in April 2018, and required a further operation last October to remove scar tissue. She has now been forced to undergo a third bout of surgery, which took place in Madrid last month.

The 19-year-old was forced to miss last year’s Commonwealth Games as well as the World and European Championships, and has now accepted she will not be back in time for this year’s Europeans, which are due to take place in Poland in April.

However, she remains hopeful of competing at October’s World Championships in Stuttgart, and should still have sufficient time to achieve the qualifying criteria to compete at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.

“I can’t wait to start working hard on my rehab and training, and be back out there performing again at the end of the year,” said Tinkler.

The Northern Echo:

JACK LAUGHER enjoyed a successful start to the year as he teamed up with new partner Dan Goodfellow to win gold in the 3m synchro event at the British National Diving Cup in Plymouth.

The Ripon diver, who was one of the stars of last year’s Commonwealth Games, has teamed up with Goodfellow after his long-term partner, Chris Mears, opted to take a year out of the sport.

The British Nationals represented their first competitive outing together, and they enjoyed a comfortable success as they posted a score of 387.99 to top the standings.

The Leeds-based duo’s best dive saw them claim 84.36 points for a successful forward four-and-a-half somersault routine, but while Laugher was reasonably happy with their efforts, he is confident there is more to come with the opening World Series event of the year looming.

“Individually, we did some cracking dives, but unfortunately I don’t think it was a true reflection of how we’ve been doing in the synchronised element of the event,” said Laugher. “We scored some amazing eights and eight-and-a-halves, but we just need to bring that together and I’m hoping it’ll come together really well for the World Series.”