Athletics: Injuries and niggles cast a shadow

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BRITAIN'S WORLD Championship team took on a bruised and battered aspect yesterday as the 400m hurdler Chris Rawlinson was forced to pull out with an ankle injury and Paula Radcliffe, a big medal hope in Thursday's 10,000m final, was reported to be suffering from a slight hamstring strain.

Rawlinson's ambitions here, stirred by his outstanding performance at the Zurich Weltklasse 400m hurdles earlier this month, came to nothing yesterday morning, when he exacerbated a problem which had been kept in check by intensive physiotherapy.

The 27-year-old Yorkshireman, whose time of 48.14sec elevated him to third in this year's world rankings, cut a sorry figure as he made his way through the lobby of the team hotel. It was a piece of atrocious timing for an athlete who missed the whole of last season with injury, and who looked capable of dramatic deeds in this championship. The world's two fastest men this year, Llewellyn Herbert of South Africa and Samuel Matete of Zambia, have both been troubled with injury in the run-up to the championships.

Radcliffe, who also enjoyed a morale-boosting performance in Zurich, over 3,000m, was said to have strained herself while working on her sprinting at the British holding camp in Portugal.

Jayne Pearce of UK Athletics confirmed the British women's team captain had a minor problem. "I wouldn't call it an injury, it's a niggle," she said. Improved sprinting was one of the main elements Radcliffe drew satisfaction from in Zurich, where she finished second to Romania's Gabriela Szabo and well clear of two of her rivals for the 10,000m title, Kenya's Tegla Loroupe and Fernanda Ribeiro of Portugal.

Meanwhile, John Mayock, who was brought down by Portugal's Rui Silva during Sunday's 1500m semi-final, flew disconsolately back to Britain yesterday carrying eight stitches and 17 cuts and abrasions on his legs. "I thought I was on for a bronze," he said. "I won't be able to watch the final on TV, I'll have to go out training and think about myself and the rest of the season."

On a brighter note, world record holder Jonathan Edwards qualified comfortably last night for tomorrow's triple jump final with a second-round effort of 17.28m, well over the qualifying mark of 17.00m.

"It was good," he said afterwards, giving the thumbs-up sign. But he was still suffering some effects of the heel injury which has hampered his preparations this season. "It is a bit sore, but it will be ok," he said, adding that his first jump, where he overbalanced on the step discipline and registered 16.70, had just caught him by surprise.

Chambers turns up heat, page 18