Athletics: Black looks to Zurich for glory

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The Independent Online
Roger Black has made the Zurich Weltklasse, the richest grand prix event of the year, his objective to prove he is still a world-class competitor. The meeting, a fortnight today, comes three days after the climax of the World Championships in Athens, where Black has been restricted to a relay role.

The Olympic silver medallist missed out on the last 400 metres place in the British team at Championships, which start on Saturday, after withdrawing from the trials in Birmingham as a result of a virus.

Black confirmed yesterday he will be ready to aid Britain's medal quest in the relay before making his individual comeback in Zurich, where the medallists from Athens will be in the line-up. "Certain training times suggest Roger is very close to his top 400m shape," said his coach Mike Whittingham, who, like Black, was upset he was not given extra time to prove his fitness.

"With two more weeks of quality training, he is looking forward to being a fresh member of the 4x400m relay team and, above all, proving his world- class status in the Zurich Weltklasse."

The virus, which affected Black on his return from training in California, has finally been diagnosed as cyto- megalo, a debilitating flu-like virus. It was not a recurrence of the Epstein Barr virus which affected him in 1994 and Black, 31, has been able to increase his training load in the last week with his body finally recovering.

Black, who will make his debut as the men's captain in Athens, had asked for extra time and had planned to run in a meeting in Belgium, but his request was rejected by the selectors, who instead picked Jamie Baulch after he finished third in the trials.

Haile Gebrselassie, the world 10,000m record-holder, has given in to pressure from the International Amateur Athletic Federation and will run in the World Championships. The 24-year-old Ethiopian, who recaptured his record in emphatic fashion at the Bislett Games in Oslo three weeks ago, had refused to race in Athens because he said the track was too hard for long-distance runners. However, Adidas, his shoe firm, have made some specially padded spikes for the double world champion and Olympic gold medallist.

After winning in Atlanta last year, Gebrselassie said: "I don't want to go through that again." His change of mind sets up an exciting meeting with the Moroccan Salah Hissou, whose record Gebrselassie broke by nearly seven seconds when he ran 26min 31.32sec in Oslo.

Patrik Sjoberg, the former world record high-jumper, said yesterday he will not compete in the World Championships.

The three-time Olympic medallist from Sweden said he was not fully recovered from a thigh injury he sustained in a "Superstars" competition last month.

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