Athletics: Gunnell is beaten by Batten: McColgan faces empty season after struggle with knee and foot injuries

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The Independent Online
BRITISH women's athletics, which raised its profile with last month's dramatic qualification for the World Cup final, had a downcast look yesterday as two of its major performers suffered setbacks.

Sally Gunnell, racing in the Nice grand prix from which Britain's two other world champions, Linford Christie and Colin Jackson, had withdrawn because of injury, suffered her first 400m hurdles defeat of the season.

Meanwhile, Liz McColgan, the 1991 world 10,000 metres champion, was facing up to the far more depressing prospect of an empty season after announcing that she was not sufficiently fit to run in next month's Commonwealth Games in Canada. She has no qualifying time for the European Championships, for which the final team will be announced on Thursday.

Irish athletics, however, maintained a profile to match its footballers as Sonia O'Sullivan won the 1,500m in Nice in the world's fastest time this year as she lowered her national record to 3min 59.10sec.

Referring afterwards to her European 3,000m record on Friday, she said: 'I am a little tired after that. At the European Championships I am definitely running the 1,500 but I haven't decided if I will also do the 800 or the 3,000.'

Gunnell lost out to her American rival Kim Batten after five straight victories despite recording her fastest time of the summer - 53.91sec. Batten, denied a clear run at Gunnell in Lausanne a fortnight ago when she was hit by a cushion from the crowd, won in 53.72, the fastest time in the world this year.

The world and Olympic record champion and world record holder was not at her best and her run was littered with errors. 'Maybe that's what I needed,' Gunnell said.

McColgan, at 30, faces a barren prospect. She had been hoping to win her third successive Commonwealth title and had been given until the end of July to prove her fitness after knee and foot injuries.

McColgan has raced only once in the last 14 months - a low-key 10km road race in Scotland. 'I don't want to go to the Commonwealth Games to be an also-ran,' she said.

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