Athletics: Grindley adds to his rapidly growing reputation: Britain's men ready to take on world after European successes in Rome while the women earn respectability

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FOUR YEARS ago the British men's victory in the European Cup was front page news; Sunday's recovery from fifth to second place behind Russia only made the back pages. But the total of seven victories - compared with just two by the winners - leaves the sport's profile in this country looking comfortingly high.

Britain still measures up in Europe. Now the winners in Rome have to take on wider challenges with the World Championships in Stuttgart seven weeks away.

Andy Norman, Britain's promotions officer, has indicated that the Oslo meeting on 10 July will provide formidable tests for two athletes who looked a class apart in Rome. Linford Christie will race Andre Cason while, at 400 metres, David Grindley will face Michael Johnson and Butch Reynolds. At this month's US trials Cason won the 100m with a wind-assisted 9.85sec and Johnson and Reynolds ran 43.74 and 44.12 respectively to finish first and second in the 400m.

It was Grindley's intention in Rome to announce his presence to the American 400m runners. He made one of the most impressive contributions to the team's cause as he anchored the relay squad to victory and finished nearly a second clear in the individual event in 44.75sec, the fastest time by a European this year. However, that would have only placed him seventh in the US trials. Oslo will give him a real measure of what he can expect in Stuttgart.

For Eamonn Martin, whose withdrawal half-way through the 10,000m with an injury was a crucial factor in Britain's disappointing first-day showing, the question is whether he can expect to be in Stuttgart at all.

He is now receiving intensive treatment on a strained ligament in the arch of his foot and as Frank Dick, the director of coaching, pointed out grimly after the final event on Sunday, it is an injury which will not clear up quickly.

Steve Smith, whose unexpectedly low placing of sixth in the high jump was another main factor in the first- day placing, now has to settle into a consistent pattern. 'I seem to be having one good competition followed by one bad one,' he said. 'On Saturday I felt more pressure than I did in the Olympic Games.'

Rob Denmark's spectacular success in the 5,000 metres, following his defeat of the Kenyan world champion, Yobes Ondieki in Seville earlier this month, served notice of his arrival in the highest class. While Steve Cram's conversion to the 5,000m has attracted huge interest from the media, Denmark's achievements have been relatively neglected. He said before Rome that the European Cup would be good for him, and it was.

Christie, John Regis and Colin Jackson all delivered maximum points as expected. Christie, whose start to the season was disrupted by a back injury, is not running fluently, and Regis is troubled with the knee injury which required two injections last week. Both won on willpower, but they will need more than that in the coming weeks. Jackson, in contrast, looks ready for the World Championships now. His task will be to maintain his form.

Sally Gunnell also looked impressive as she provided the women's team with an opening victory in the 400m hurdles. The team responded to earn a respectable fifth place, with Jackie Agyepong earning an unexpected second place in the 100m hurdles and Katharine Merry running close to her personal best of 23.20sec to take sixth place in a very strong 200 metres. Suzanne Rigg's brave fourth place in the 10,000m could give her a chance of World Championship selection if Liz McColgan's injury problems persist.