Athletics: Devers no diva as she shares intimate secret

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The Independent Online
ANYONE WITH any doubts that the heat is now off after Seville only had to see Gail Devers clowning around on the Scotstoun Stadium track yesterday. Hamming it up for the benefit of photographers in a giant pair of shoes, the American danced and let out an infectious laugh - she expects 6,000 Glaswegians to join in with her today.

The 110m hurdles gold medallist from the World Championships may have been promoting the CGU Challenge Great Britain v USA match, but Devers gave the impression that this was a therapeutic date in her calendar rather than the latest stop in a grinding schedule.

Maybe it was the fact that Glasgow was a good 20F cooler than Spain, or the fact that she is heading back to the States after this end-of-season finale, but Devers is no diva. "The World Championships were very draining, and it took a lot out of everyone, but this is different - it's our chance to put a smile on people's faces."

The race organiser Jon Ridgeon predicts Scotstoun will have an "intimate atmosphere" and that struck a chord with Devers, as well as Maurice Greene and Colin Jackson, who shared the press conference yesterday with America's first lady of the track. "Even if you were not inspired to run," said Devers, "this would do it for you. Its good to know that the crowd will be so close. If they are excited, then we are excited.

"This is our way of saying thank you. We cannot shake everyone's hand, but we know we have plenty of supporters who see us on television, and if they see us for 11 seconds, 12 seconds... or even eight seconds," she laughed, nodding at Greene, " then it is our way of giving something back."

Such noble thoughts seem to belong to the more Corinthian era of 1961, when the Great Britain v USA match began, rather than today's fast-moving and lucrative world of athletics, but Devers believes the sport needs occasions like this to stimulate new blood.

"Signing autographs is no hassle," said the woman whose hurdles performance in Seville - her fifth World Championship title - indicates she is back to her best. "I also love talking, in fact it's my second pastime after athletics. As long as people approach you in a respectful way, and want to talk about their child who is an up-and-coming athlete, that is fine. The sport has had too much negative publicity ever since 1988 and it overshadows the positive aspects."

Devers believes that she and the cream of America's track stars are in "partnership" with Jackson and the rest of the Brits in raising athletics' image, but our only gold medallist from Seville would like nothing better from today than nudge Britain ahead in a series that is tied at 6-6. "The event has a lot of heritage," the 110m hurdles champions agreed. "We feel that we are the best team in Europe and they are the best in the world, but we've got a chance of doing something, especially in this kind of venue. It is nice and small and, after Seville, everyone appreciates that."

Even though the scales seems tipped in the USA's favour, Jackson, as you would expect of the only Briton ever to regain a world title, refuses to flinch. "Maurice [Greene] taught me a lesson earlier in the season, simply because he has no fear - none of us should, we train to compete, not to hide!"

Greene is relishing his re-match with Dwayne Chambers and Darren Campbell in the 100m, but after his exertions in Seville, he didn't think a record- breaking run was on the cards: "My body needs to recover because I used up every ounce of my energy in my body last week, so don't expect a world record."