Athletics: Backley out of Bislett

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The Independent Online
Steve Backley has lost the opportunity to assess his chances of turning the silver he earned at last year's Olympics into gold at this year's World Championship in Athens as he has been forced to withdraw from today's Bislett Games.

Backley, who would have taken on the world and Olympic champion, Jan Zelezny, in Oslo, is experiencing problems with the glands in his neck. After seeking medical advice, he reluctantly withdrew from what would have been one of the highlights of the meeting. Bislett is an event with a history of fine javelin performances, and a place where Zelezny has set a world record.

His withdrawal is another frustration for the Briton, who was due to meet Zelezny at last weekend's British Grand Prix in Sheffield, but the Czech thrower, who has been troubled with injury this season, withdrew. Backley won there with a throw of 86 metres, a similar distance that had given him victory the previous week at the European Cup. Zelezny has a 94.02m throw to his credit this year.

It is understood that the problem with Backley's neck is not serious and he could be back in action quite quickly.

A member of his management team said: "It is a precautionary measure. I would not be surprised if Steve, after seeing how he feels over the weekend, decided to compete in Stockholm on Monday night."

Linford Christie will also be seeking to get one over on his friend and training partner Frankie Fredericks, who left him trailing in Lausanne on Wednesday night as the Namibian finished second to the US champion, Maurice Greene. Christie's business partner, Colin Jackson, also has a point to prove in the 110m hurdles against two of the Americans who finished ahead of him in Switzerland, Allen Johnson and Mark Crear.

Sally Gunnell, well beaten over the 400m hurdles at Sheffield, returns to top flight action against the Olympic champion, Deon Hemmings, and the world record holder, Kim Batten.

While Oslo has hosted top quality spear-throwing, the outstanding performances have occurred in middle-distance running, particularly in the 10,000m. Haile Gebrselassie will tonight attempt to regain the world record he lost to Salah Hissou last year. The Moroccan's world record of 23min 38.08sec eclipsed the 26:43.53 Gebrselassie achieved in 1995.

Both the previous world marks were set within the sheltered but vibrant confines of the Bislett Stadium, with Kenya's Yobes Ondieki breaking the 27- minute barrier in 1993 and his fellow countryman William Sigei improving the mark to 26:52.53 the following year.