Athletics: Battle of the sexes

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WOMEN will be able to race against men of a similar standard on the track for the first time next year following an innovative reform by British athletics officials.

The British Athletic Federation is believed to be the first national governing body to sanction races between men and women in graded races - that is, events tailored for athletes of comparable standards.

The change in the rules, which will come into effect on 1 April, has followed representations from women athletes who have been unable to find sufficient calibre of competition locally. These include Chris Cahill, the Olympic 1500 metres finalist, and Kirsty Wade, the double Commonwealth champion.

'This is about providing the right level of competition for ambitious women at the stage of the season which best suits them,' Gwenda Ward, the secretary of the federation's women's advisory group, said.

Ward reasoned that 'in many areas of the country there are not enough women of high calibre to provide that competition.' She added: 'We are allowing women to compete against men in the same way that many of them train with men on a daily basis. It is as simple as that.'