All roads lead to Gothenburg

Sport-BY-SPORT GUIDE TO 1995: Trinidad's finest to set tempo for visit of calypso cricketers as Ryder Cup heads for Rochester : ATHLETICS

Unoriginally, 1995 has been designated "The Year of Athletics" by Primo Nebiolo, president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation. What, one wonders, was the fixture-crammed year of 1994? The Year-And-A-Half of Athletics, perhaps.

Whatever the designation, most within the sport will welcome the contours of 1995. After the endless mountain range that was last season, it rises comfortingly towards a single peak - the IAAF World Championships in Gothenburg (4-13 August).

The foothills form a familiar progression, starting with the indoor world championships in Barcelona (10-12 March). Colin Jackson is likely to seek the world 60 metres hurdles title, one of the very few he has not yet won, and the opportunity is there for athletes to break through to the top rank as Du'Aine Ladejo did in winning the European indoor 400m title last March.

Durham hosts the World Cross-Country Championships on 25 March, with the London Marathon on 2 April. And Britain's team spirit will be put to its now annual test in the European Cup final on 24-25 June at Villeneuve d'Ascq, France.

Despite widespread dissatisfaction over their biennial status since 1991, the World Championships are likely to attract as strong an entry as gathered in Stuttgart two years ago. From a British point of view, one of the main questions will be whether theBig Three - Linford Christie, Jackson and Sally Gunnell - can retain their titles.

Christie, whose personal highlight from last season was his rainswept victory over the American sprinters in Zurich, will face a daunting transatlantic challenge over 100m, regardless of which trio strike it lucky at the US trials on 16-17 June.

Jackson's chances of retaining the 110m hurdles title seem at this distance to rest simply upon whether he can remain fit this season; his own world record of 12.91sec may prove the sharpest spur. Gunnell's dominance of the 400m hurdles is under greater threat as America's Stuttgart silver medallist, Sandra Farmer-Patrick, re-enters the scene after having a baby, and France's world 400m champion, Marie-Jose Perec, experiments with the event.

Having won the 200 and 400m at successive World Championships, America's Michael Johnson is now planning to go for both titles. Frankie Fredericks and Britain's John Regis, gold and silver medallists in the Stuttgart 200m, will train with an added edge.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the championships will be the performance of the Chinese. The women, whose coaching and diet are overseen by the charismatic Ma Junren, have had a muted 1994, with several, mysteriously, undergoing operations to remove swollen appendices. Will the Chinese women return? Will any Chinese men achieve anything?

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