Athletics: Hopes high for Britain

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The Independent Online
Britain's hopes of a gold medal in the 4x400 metres relay, the final event of these World Championships, were raised a little further yesterday by a report that Butch Reynolds, who flew in to join the United States squad on Friday, was not considered fit enough to run. The American coach Dean Hayes, who lost the individual champion Michael Johnson from his relay squad two days ago because of injury, spoke to Reynolds yesterday and decided that the world-record holder ought not to risk injuring himself further.

Britain reached today's final with a quartet comprising Mark Hylton, Roger Black - making his first appearance in these championships - Jamie Baulch and Iwan Thomas. The job was accomplished efficiently with Black, whose form was open to question, timed at 44.3sec for the second leg and Thomas anchoring the team home first in 3min 00.20sec. The Americans, anchored by the 110m hurdles champion Allen Johnson, clocked 2:59.78. Johnson, once he had crossed the line, finished on all fours, but the fastest US split (43.6sec) came from Antonio Pettigrew, who beat Black to the world title in 1991.

Britain's sprint relay team qualified for today's final in 38.25sec with Dwain Chambers, who set a world junior record of 10.06sec last month, getting his first taste of the championships in place of the injured Marlon Devonish.

There was an awful air of inevitability about Paula Radcliffe's failure to take a medal in the 5,000m final. As so often before, she did all the work, taking the lead with three laps remaining and trying, in vain, to get clear of the faster finishers who waited at her shoulder like murderers before striking on the final bend. Gabriela Szabo, of Romania, took gold in 14min 57.68sec with Italy's Roberta Brunet and Fernando Ribeiro of Portugal taking silver and bronze. For Radcliffe, who collapsed exhausted after finishing fourth, there was nothing.

Ana Fidelia Quirot provided a popular moment when she retained her world 800m title in 1min 57.14sec. She crossed the line a metre clear of her nearest challenger, raising arms scarred by horrific burns she received in her kitchen four years ago, an accident which caused her to give birth prematurely to a daughter who died after a week.

Quirot's victory in Gothenburg two years ago confirmed her return to the highest level, but that win came following the disqualification of the event favourite, Maria Mutola. The Mozambique runner was here, however, and as the field came round the final bend, she and Quirot ran side by side for 30 metres before the Cuban pulled clear. Mutola took bronze after being passed on the line by Yelena Afanasyeva of Russia.

Quirot's gold followed those of her compatriots Yoelvis Quesada in the triple jump, Javier Sotomayor in the high jump, and Ivan Pedroso in the long jump. "After the medals of Javier and Yoelvis, I wasn't sure if I would be able to fulfil the expectations of El Comandante and the people of Cuba," she said. "I was thinking the whole night about this and hardly could sleep."

The dreams which she should have had at night were fulfilled in daylight. On her lap of honour, she spotted the head of Cuban sport and former Olympic champion, Alberto Juantorena, waving a Cuban flag. Soon she was wrapped in the embrace of both.

The women's marathon was won by Japan's Hiromi Suzuki in 2hr 29min 48sec. The defending champion, Manuela Machado of Portugal, who was injured in a car accident only six weeks ago, took the silver medal in 2:31:12 with Romania's Lydia Simon (2:31:55) claiming the bronze. Of the 75 runners, 21, including the Olympic champion Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia, dropped out in the oppressive heat. But Britain's quartet - Angharad Mair, Sally Goldsmith, Danielle Sanderson and Carolyn Hunter-Rowe - all finished to secure sixth place in the World Marathon Cup team event which was run in conjunction with this race.

Nigeria's Chioma Ajunwa, the Olympic women's long jump champion, was injured during her first jump and had to be carried away by stretcher.

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