Athletics: Flying Fergus beats 'new Christie'

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THE printed result of yesterday's 60 metres final at the Birmingham Games, the first indoor meeting of the season, made fascinating reading for Jason Fergus. If he gazed at it for longer than it took to scan the details, then who could blame him?

There, in black and white, was confirmation of his first victory as a senior athlete, with two more fancied figures behind him - Darren Campbell, a fellow member of the gold medal-winning team at last year's world junior championships, and Mike Rosswess, an Olympic 200 metres finalist four years ago.

It was something of a breakthrough for this 19-year-old from Brentwood, who had lost to Campbell on the previous four occasions they had met.

The Sale Harrier, who took the 200 metres title with some ease yesterday ahead of Ade Mafe, is seen by many as the natural successor to Linford Christie; but he is not the only one of our young sprinters with lofty ambitions.

'Darren gets the credit which is his due because he was the top junior,' said Fergus, who finished fifth in the world junior 100m individual final in which Campbell won silver. 'But everyone's got their dreams.'

Fergus's immediate aim is to earn himself a place in the world outdoor sprint relay squad this summer, although he has half an eye on the world indoor championships this March.

His preparation for yesterday's event was not out of the coach's handbook. Having found himself in the same hotel as his two other colleagues from the world junior relay, Allyn Condon and Jamie Baulch, he stayed up chatting in the lounge until 2.30 in the morning. It did not prevent him reducing his personal best from 6.89sec to 6.79sec.

Campbell also ran a personal best with 6.80, and his 200 metres time of 21.27 will advance his claim for a world indoor place. He was his normal ebullient self at the end of the afternoon. 'Obviously I don't like to get beaten, but I'm not upset. I've just come back from a week's endurance work on the dunes at Bournemouth so I'm pleased with the speed I still have in my legs.'

Katharine Merry, a fellow struggler with Campbell on the south coast as part of Keith Antoine's training group, also reassured herself by winning the 200m ahead of Louise Fraser in 24.22sec.

In the women's 60m final, Bev Kinch, whose season last year was ruined by an Achilles injury, won in 7.34sec in front of the Olympic 400m finalist Phyllis Smith, running as general preparation, who recorded 7.46.

Since her performance in Barcelona, Smith has come to realise how much of an impact she made by grinning hugely at the camera before the starts and displaying a message of greeting to the butcher who supplied her with meat.

'So many people have spoken to me about it,' she said. 'Even when I was competing in Cologne, and when I was on holiday in Devon.' Whatever else Smith does in her career, she has made Arthur Cackett, purveyor of fine meats from his shop in Coven, off the Staffordshire Road, a happy man.