Athletics: Britain's best left to wrestle reality

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The Independent Online
FOUR OF Britain's European gold medallists came back to chilly reality here last night at the Athletissima IAAF grand prix meeting, where continents collided once again.

None won - although Colin Jackson came desperately close in the 110m hurdles, finishing 0.02sec adrift of America's world and Olympic champion Allen Johnson in 13.09sec. On an increasingly blustery evening, it was a performance which gives the Welshman realistic hope of approaching his world record of 12.91sec before the season is over.

Darren Campbell, who announced his ambition of going out and meeting the big boys after winning the 100m title in Budapest, had his wish. They were just as big as he had expected - he finished seventh in 10.18sec in a race won by the world champion, Maurice Greene, in 9.92sec.

The winning time is territory that the 25-year-old Manchester sprinter hopes to inhabit sooner rather than later - but he was pleased enough with his performance so soon after a strenuous programme of championship racing.

Jonathan Edwards matched Jackson's second place in a triple jump competition where the overall standard was well down on that witnessed in Sunday night's concluding European Championship event. His last round effort of 17.00 metres fell just short of the winning effort of 17.07 by Charles-Michael Friedek of Germany.

Steve Backley finished third with 83.18m in a javelin competition won with a throw of 86.76 by the man who failed conspicuously to deliver in the European Championships, Ari Parviainen of Finland. A nation of javelin lovers have made life extremely uncomfortable for the 23-year-old, who failed to qualify in Budapest despite heading this year's world rankings with 90.88.

Mark Richardson, anxious to put the disappointment of finishing third in the European 400 metres behind him, went some way towards that by taking fourth place, in 45.22, behind the winner, Michael Johnson, who recorded 44.29sec.

Campbell wants above all to establish a new level of performance after his breakthrough to 10.04sec in Budapest. "To come here and run 10.18 after a championship makes me very pleased. The important thing is to be racing under 10.20 consistently. What I didn't want to do was to run 10.04 one day and 10.30 the next. I didn't want to go back there - that's where I've come from. This is just the kind of race I need to bring me on."

Jackson, who ran 13.02sec twice in the space of an hour to ern his third European title, was level with Johnson approaching the final hurdle, but lost his momentum after clipping it.

"When that happened I pitched forward and I couldn't get a sprinting position,' he said. "But I was happy with that tonight. It is usual to be a bit flat after championships, but I feel I am maintaining a level now."

Johnson welcomed the re-emergence of a rival who has not been in this kind of form since he won the world title in 1993. "We get the best out of each other," Johnson said. "He is capable of the world record again - he's back to his best. By the end of the season I think we could see two high hurdlers breaking 13 seconds in the same race for the first time."

Marion Jones, the world 100m champion from the United States, maintained her awesome progress this season with 17th victory over the distance this season in a time of 10.72sec, just 0.01sec off the personal best with which she leads this year's world standings. It would have been faster had she not misjudge the finish line.

Jones was the only one of the four remaining athletes still in with a chance of sharing the IAAF Golden League jackpot of $1m (pounds 650,000) to compete here - Hicham El Guerrouj, Bryan Bronson and Haile Gebrselassie were all saving their energies for the next Golden League meeting in Brussels on Friday.

But it will be at that meeting that Jones will receive perhaps the first meaningful challenge of the season in the person of France's Christine Arron, who took the European 100m title last week and then won the relay with one of the most exhilarating final legs ever witnessed.