Athletics: Benefactor funds French trip

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The Independent Online
UNLESS you happen to be a Daley Thompson or a Denise Lewis, being a multi-event athlete is a thankless occupation. Along with pole vaulters and shot putters, decathletes and heptathletes have always been right down the pecking order in terms of resources and prestige.

But more than 50 of Britain's second-class athletic citizens are currently preparing for the trip of a lifetime. And it won't cost them a penny.

The weekend after next, a noted patron of the sport, the Greek shipping magnate Sir Eddie Kulukundis, has decided to put on a little bash for them all. He has hired the Fournier stadium at Arles in the south of France for a two-day meet which will offer a warm-weather venue for competitors who would otherwise be thinking in terms of fixtures at Stoke, Hexham or Chester-le-Street.

Like marathon runners, multi-eventers can expect to produce only a couple of decent performances in a year and this unexpected windfall will provide ideal preparation for the forthcoming European Cup.

Among those who will take advantage of the trip - for which all travel and accommodation expenses will be paid - are Nick Buckfield, Janine Whitlock and Du'Aine Ladejo, who is due to compete in his first decathlon.

Kulukundis, a former theatrical impresario married to the actress Susan Hampshire, accepts that this project is "more quixotic, more exotic" than any he has ever attempted. And the cost? "Well, over 20," he said. Yes, we were talking thousands...