Athletics: Black seeks the heat

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The Independent Online
ROGER BLACK'S learning curve is likely to rise steeply at the Stockholm Grand Prix tonight when he meets Quincy Watts, who has made a dramatic impact on the 400 metres event this season.

The 20-year-old Watts, from the University of Southern California, headed the early world rankings this season with a time of 44.00sec, and dipped under that at the US Olympic trials to claim the third pace for Barcelona behind Danny Everett and Steve Lewis.

'Now it's about to start to get hot, and I'm looking forward to it,' said Black, whose season's best is 44.84sec. 'I was waking up each morning and hearing about the times the Americans were doing at the trials. It's not something that scares me, but it makes you realise how much work there is still to be done.'

Black's training partner, Kriss Akabusi, who had planned to meet what he described as 'all the big guys' in the 400m hurdles, has had to withdraw from the meeting because of illness.

Akabusi felt unwell on Sunday night after winning his event at the Olympic trials in Birmingham, and spent Monday in bed with a sore throat and swollen glands. 'I feel a lot better now,' he said yesterday, 'but I wouldn't have been in the right shape to compete. There would have been no point in going there and running 49.5 when I'm looking to get as close to 48 seconds as I can. Hopefully I will be fit to run in Lille on Monday.'

Tom McKean, beaten by Curtis Robb at the Olympic trials, has an early opportunity to restore his high profile in an 800m where he will meet Mark Everett of the United States, who ran 1min 43.67sec to earn an Olympic place last week. Kenya's Nixon Kiprotich, with a best time of 1:43.38, also competes.

Steve Backley returns to the stadium where he set his first world javelin record two years ago. His opponents include his training partner Mick Hill, who threw 83.50 in Helsinki on Tuesday behind Seppo Raty, of Finland, and Tom Petranoff, of South Africa. .

Sally Gunnell, having sharpened up by winning the 110m hurdles at the Olympic trials, reverts to the hurdles over her specialist distance of 400m, where she meets Sandra Farmer-Patrick, winner of the US Olympic trials.

In the men's high hurdles, Colin Jackson races against his old rival Jon Ridgeon and Vladimir Shishkin, of the CIS, who has a best of 13.21sec.

A final decision on whether Katrin Krabbe will run the 100m and 200m for Germany in Barcelona will be taken tomorrow, her coach, Thomas Springstein, said yesterday.