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Smith only NZ athlete to skip Games

Published: 4:32PM Wednesday July 21, 2010 Source: NZPA

  • New Zealand runner Kimberly Smith (Source: Photosport)
    New Zealand runner Kimberly Smith - Source: Photosport

Marathon runner Kimberley Smith remains the only New Zealander to have made herself unavailable for the Commonwealth Games as more world class athletes pull out of the October event in India.

The United States-based Smith has decided to contest the New York marathon on November 7 instead of attending the Games.

She said in May she was reluctant to race in New Delhi, expressing dual concerns over security and the impact of air pollution, although she still would have contested the 10,000m if the Games were held earlier in the year.

New Zealand Olympic Committee communications manager Ashley Abbott said her organisation had accepted Smith's decision for the sake of her long-term goal of chasing a medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

"She has decided for her Olympic campaign she is better to do that (New York) because she wasn't able to do both," Abbott said.

"She has the opportunity to change her mind but from our communications with her, we believe that she will need to do that international marathon circuit to go through to London."

Smith finished eighth in the London Marathon in April, running a time of two hours 25 minutes 21 seconds to break Allison Roe's 29-year-old New Zealand record.

Abbott said no other New Zealand athlete has yet expressed doubts over their involvement at the Games from October 3-14.

However, several big world names in athletics and cycling have announced their unavailability, undermining the value of the four-yearly event.

Jamaican Olympic sprint champions Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser have withdrawn, stating the Games come too late in a long season, while compatriot and former world sprint champion Asafa Powell is in doubt. Also missing will be world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis and fellow-Briton Paula Radcliffe, the marathon world record holder who is expecting her second child in September.

British cyclist Victoria Pendleton joined decorated Scottish track star Chris Hoy in placing the European championships ahead of the Games, with the events running concurrently.

Pendelton described her decision as a "no brainer" as Olympic qualification spots were on offer.

"The Commonwealths have been a really important competition in the schedule, just one below the Olympics," Pendleton said.

"But if you can't qualify for the Olympics, then it puts us in an awful situation. I'm really disappointed that I can't support India in their Games, as it's somewhere I really want to visit."

The complete New Zealand Games contingent will soon be finalised, with badminton, netball, rugby sevens, cycling, weightlifting and table tennis teams to be announced over the next two weeks.