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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 14:37 GMT
Money not medals
Steinle has been training at La Manga, Spain
Steinle is focusing on London and Chicago marathons
Marathon runner Mark Steinle will not run at the Commonwealth Games or European Championships for financial reasons. BBC Sport Online's Alex Trickett investigates.

It is a sad day for sport when an athlete avoids competing against the world's best because of a lack of money.

We are not talking here about a superstar - like Michael Johnson or Tiger Woods - refusing to compete without the lure of thousands of pounds in appearance fees.

This is not a case - as occurs in golf, boxing or darts - of a sportsman having to choose between rival tours or sanctioning bodies.

Gert Thys has not matched the times he ran as a youngster
Gert Thys: Ran too often

Rather, marathon runner Mark Steinle's dilemma surrounds his battle to make a living out of his sport.

The Blackheath Harrier, who won Sunday's Murcia half marathon in impressive style, has said he will not compete at this year's European and Commonwealth events for financial reasons.

Adopting a pragmatic approach to his career, he has elected instead to run in the London and Chicago marathons, at which he can expect to win significant prize money.

While the major championships can pay their athletes in prestige, future sponsorship and medals, they do not pay their entrants' bills.

And Steinle feels he must put cash before cachet.

"It has been proved once you start trying to run three or more marathons each year, you quickly go off the boil," he said.

Mark Lewis-Francis is a bright sprint hope for Britain
Sprinters earn more than marathon specialists

"It has happened to quite a few of the star names such as Gert Thys - who once did three sub-2:08s but is now running much slower."

Steinle finished sixth in London last year and considers the capital's money-spinning race a priority again in 2002.

"Of course, I would love to run in both the Commonwealth and European marathons. But I must get my priorities right," said the Kent runner.

Shorter-distance athletes have plenty of chances to make money appearing in meets around the world, but long-distance runners have to be more selective.

Lost medals

Steinle says that he expects to run only a handful of top-quality marathons in a career that is likely to last about eight years.

It is a great shame for major championships to lose athletes of his ability, but they can never meet his financial needs, promoting as they do a spirit of healthy competition removed from the contaminating influence of money.

Britain may lose medals as a result, and marathon fields will certainly be weakened.

While understandable, Steinle's decision to stay away will reflect badly on his sport.

British sprinter Jason Gardener
"Everything I do now is to build towards Athens 2004"
See also:

17 Mar 02 |  Athletics
Steinle proves fitness in style
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