Athletics: Flight failure gives Yates anxious wait: Unlucky break for Britain's world 1500 metres finalist whose place in Britain's European Championship team is in jeopardy

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The Independent Online
MATTHEW YATES'S chance of being included in the European Championship team when the selectors announce their final list today was in serious jeopardy after he failed to turn up for the KP Classic here between Britain and the United States.

The 25-year-old Basildon runner, who has managed only one full race because of injuries this season, was held up at Stansted Airport after his flight was cancelled due to technical problems.

Yates's problems may now be more than technical. Although he ran inside the qualifying time on Monday night in finishing seventh in Nice, he needed to show the selectors evidence of his competitiveness. Last night was his last chance.

Yates, who has had back trouble, said: 'I'm worried I may have put my chances at risk. I just hope the selectors will view what happened sympathetically.'

Others managed to get it right on a lacklustre night which saw the United States win the men's match by 206-180 and the women's by 168- 152. Mark Rowland, returning from a three-year period of injury which involved four operations on his Achilles tendons, ensured that he would be offered a European Championship 3,000m steeplechase place by winning in 8min 41.45sec. That, added to the qualifying time which he ran two weeks ago, will be more than enough.

But Rowland, Olympic bronze medallist in 1988 and European silver medallist four years ago, is still not certain that he will be fit to take up the place, having missed all of March and April this year.

There have, he admits, been times when he has not expected to run competitively again. This was only his fifth steeplechase in four years, and his first international appearance since 1991. He will not run the Commonwealth Games, but his decision on Helsinki has still to be made.

In Yates's absence, Kevin McKay, already selected for the 1500m in Helsinki, won with ease in 3:45.70. With Gary Lough looking likely to earn a place after his showing in the European Cup and his run at Crystal Palace last Friday, where he reduced his personal best by five seconds, it looks as if Yates will have to sweat over the third place in competition with David Strang, the world indoor champion.

At 800m, Craig Winrow, the national champion, made virtually certain of selection by winning with a well-judged surge over the final 60 metres in 1:47.17, but he nearly relaxed too much in the run-in.

With Andrew Lill, already picked for the Commonwealth Games, finishing as the second Briton home, and Tom McKean, the world indoor champion, already in possession of a qualifying time, things look bleak for Martin Steele, second fastest in the world last year. He could only manage fourth place in 1:47.99.

Steve Backley returned from injury to beat his training partner, Mick Hill, with a final-round javelin throw of 84.68m, his second best of the season. Just the ticket as he approaches major championships in better shape than he has been for two years.

In the 100m, Jason John did himself the most good as the leading Briton home, running 10.52 for fourth place. Sally Gunnell recovered from her 400m hurdles defeat in Nice, running a personal best of 51.04 to win the 400m flat event.

John Regis won the 200m in 20.44, a stadium record, while Tony Jarrett, who claimed he was nudged by an American, slipped back to third place in the 110m hurdles after losing his concentration. He ran 13.45, with Robert Reading winning in 13.36. Yvonne Murray, for once not tailing Sonia O'Sullivan, won the 1500m in 4:04.20.

(Photograph omitted)