ATHLETICS: End of an era as Ngeny breaks Coe's last mark

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IT WAS AN indication of the present weakened state of British middle distance running that on Saturday, at Glasgow's CGU Challenge match, there was not a single men's event staged beyond 800 metres.

Then, yesterday, the last relic of Britain's 1980s dominance of the middle distances was erased from the record books by Noah Ngeny, the 20-year- old Kenyan, when he ran 2min 11:96sec to set a 1,000 metres world best in Rieti, Italy, beating Sebastian Coe's world record of 2:12:18 set in Oslo in July 1981.

Ngeny is the closest Britain is likely to get to a distance record, but only by default - the Kenyan spends four months of each year based at Teddington in South-west London along with Yorkshireman Kim McDonald's 100-strong stable of athletes.

By breaking the 1,000 metres record, Ngeny, the 1500m silver medalist at the World Championships in Seville last month, ends a summer-long pursuit of world marks.

British athletics, a sport that has frequently demonstrated a seemingly infinite capacity for shooting itself in the foot, on Saturday managed to drop a huge billboard on one of its more valuable limbs.

Paula Radcliffe, the courageous 10,000m silver-medal winner in Seville, was doing her PR duty at Glasgow, signing autographs for some of the 6,000 crowd at the Scotstoun Stadium after Britain and Northern Ireland had lost the CGU Challenge match to an overpoweringly superior United States team.

A group of about a dozen youngsters were leaning on one of the track- side advertising hoardings, when it suddenly collapsed and fell onto the Bedford athlete.

"It was really frightening" Radcliffe said. "All these kids landed on top of me. I had to scream at them to get off, it was crushing me."

Three hours in the casualty department of a Glasgow hospital on a Saturday night was another unwanted ordeal, but did at least show that Radcliffe had broken no bones, although her left ankle needed strapping and her thigh is still badly bruised.

She will decide tomorrow whether she is fit to race in that evening's Berlin Golden League meeting or in Saturday's Grand Prix final in Munich. Even her participation in the Great North Run could be in jeopardy.

Glasgow's end-of-season fly-past of World Championship medallists exhibited a lack of a certain, totally legitimate performance enhancing substance - adrenaline.

Most of the athletes had used all theirs up in Spain, so by the time world champions such as Maurice Greene and Gail Devers (the American winners of the men's and women's 100 metres on Saturday) and Colin Jackson (the 110 metres hurdles victor) turned out in Scotland, the exercise was principally to entertain the capacity crowd.

Greene, the 100m world record holder, is eager to accept Michael Johnson's challenge for a series of races next year to determine which of them is the world's fastest man. The sprinters are working on the $1m deal.

"I will face him in a best of three series" Greene said. "Though it will only take two races for me to win."