Athletics: Boldon and Johnson's Rome race

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ATO BOLDON and Michael Johnson, the world and Olympic 200 metres champions respectively, will race each other for the first time this year over the distance at the Golden League meeting in Rome today.

The race looks set to overshadow the 100m, which has the world record holder, Maurice Greene, competing as the overwhelming favourite.

Boldon said he regretted that his decision to run in the 200m would deprive the crowd of seeing him run against Greene, his friend and training partner. "It's just not possible for the two best runners in the world to race against each other week in, week out." he said. "I think Maurice and I pride ourselves on being sprinters rather than 100m runners, and sprinters have to prove themselves over different distances."

The Trinidadian is still smarting from his disqualification for stepping on the line during his 200m victory at the first Golden League meeting in Olso last month. "In nine years of running this event I've never had a disqualification of this type. It's just not something that someone of my experience does," he said.

Despite suffering minor tendinitis and a back injury caused by a fall in Helsinki, Boldon holds the fastest time in the 200m this year and will start as favourite against the world record holder Johnson, who is running the distance for the first time in six weeks.

Greene's main challengers in the 100m will be the Canadian Bruny Surin, Britain's Dwain Chambers and the 1992 Olympic bronze medallist, Dennis Mitchell. Of the trio, only Surin, with 9.92sec, has run a time this year which will trouble Greene, whose 9.79 shattered the world record in Athens last month.

The world champion Marion Jones is favourite to win the women's 200m, while the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj returns to the track where, a year ago, he slashed over a second off the 1500m world record. Denmark's Wilson Kipketer starts as favourite in the 800m while Svetlana Masterkova is expected to dominate the women's event.