25 April 2012, Sport, Journalist: Lee Gaskin. Canberra Times Photo by Jeffrey Chan. Runners and training buddies (rear from left) Lauren Boden, Brendan Cole and Melissa Breen with Coach Matt Beckenham before training at the AIS Athletics Track. They are about to go to Japan for a pre-Olympic competition. Matt Beckenham with his crew Lauren Boden, Brendan Cole and Melissa Breen.
Helpless athletics coach Matt Beckenham will drop his stable of athletes at the Olympic Games gates and hope they can “star in the class” in his absence after being denied access to watch their races in London.
In a cruel twist to four years of preparation, Canberra coach Beckenham will watch sprinter Melissa Breen and hurdlers Lauren Boden and Brendan Cole from a big screen rather than the inside of the main stadium when they compete.
It’s like parents dropping their kids at the school gates for the first time and watching them disappear into a life-changing experience.
Beckenham is with the Australian team as a “personal coach” for his three athletes and is not one of the main coaches.
It means his accreditation gives him access to most areas, including the warm-up area, but not the Olympic Stadium.
He put off buying tickets not knowing where his accreditation would allow him and he is still exploring every option with officials for a late call-up.
But Beckenham could be forced to hear the roars of the crowd while watching from the warm-up track just a few hundred metres away.
“It would be great to be in there, but they’re big kids so they’ll be able to look after themselves,” Beckenham said.
“There’s not much I can do from now, they’re in good shape and you’ve just got to hope they can go into the classroom and can star in the class. I’m just hoping there’s a big screen at the warm-up track, it is about the athletes and it’s not the end of the world . . . I’m still going to look at every option available.”
Beckenham raced at the Sydney Olympics in the 400-metre hurdles and has imparted his knowledge to his talented squad.
Breen will be Australia’s first female in 12 years to race the 100m sprint, while Boden and Cole have been strong performers in the 400m hurdles.
Beckenham has been with them on every part of their journey from Canberra unknowns to the biggest stage in the world.
He has been on the emotional wave of tight losses and personal best times, but will have a unique experience if he can’t find his way into the Olympic Stadium.
The tight-knit training group works at the Australian Institute of Sport and has been in Europe for the past month finalising preparations.
Athletics Australia officials are working with Beckenham to try to get him into the events, which will begin when Breen and Cole race this Friday.
But Beckenham said they were bound by quota systems and he was unsure if he would be given a chance to be in the venue.
The athletes moved into the Olympic Village on Monday, while Beckenham remains at the Athletics Australia base in Tonbridge – an hour outside London.
He said his trio of athletes was primed for strong performances at their debut Olympic campaigns after impressive lead-up work.
“The hard training is basically done now and it’s about the confidence and getting it right,” Beckenham said.
“Lauren’s training has been great and I’m still optimistic she’ll run well.
“Mel is jumping out of her skin after running a PB [two weeks ago] and BJ [Cole] is tracking on exactly the same form line he had domestically, which is fantastic.
“I’m confident when they get on the big stage they’ll step up and run well.”
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