BRITAIN'S already depleted athletics team, lacking Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Sally Gunnell, sank deeper into anonymity here at the World Indoor Championships yesterday when John Regis decided against competing in last night's final of the 200 metres.
Apparently running well within himself, and carefully after recently having problems staying in lane, Regis had qualified for the final of an event in which he had hoped to reply to Christie's recent world record, but a hamstring injury sustained in Stockholm 10 days ago had been worrying him and his main rival Geir Moen, the Norwegian European champion, was left to win in 20.58sec, a time well within Regis's reach. Regis said: "I woke up this morning and my legs felt tied. I just knew that I couldn't go through with the final. It's too much of a risk." Verona Elder, the team manager, said Regis was flying home to get treatment for an injury that, presumably, could jeopardise his chances in this summer's outdoor World Championships in Gothenburg.
So the only potential gold winner left for Britain here is Tony Jarrett in the 60m hurdles. However, he has the misfortune of finding that the absence of Jackson, the world-record holder, is of little benefit since an American, Allen Johnson, is improving by the week. Yesterday, Johnson and Jarrett were drawn in the same semi-final. Jarrett clouted three hurdles while Johnson had no such accidents and won in 7.41sec, while in the other semi-final, Mark McKoy, the Olympic champion, recorded 7.46sec, exactly the same as Jarrett.
Jacqui Agyepong added a little brightness to the British efforts with her passage into today's 60m hurdles final. Taking second place in her semi-final, 8.02sec represented her second British indoor record of the season. But overall the British team are facing their least successful World Indoor Championships since the event was inaugurated in 1985, and to make matters worse, they are having their problems compounded by the fear of being caught up in further drugs' rows.
In the light of the Solomon Wariso affair, in which he was suspended for taking a pick-me-up that contained a banned substance, athletes are now afraid to take anything at all, even mild, over-the-counter illness remedies. Mark Hylton, who failed to qualify for the 400m final, confessed yesterday that he had been suffering from a heavy cold but was afraid to take anything to help. He was only one of several promising British athletes who have performed below par. Wariso himself, Michael Rosswess (a last- minute entry) and Melanie Neef have all succumbed, leaving the British camp less than bubbling.
What sympathy there has been here for the International Amateur Athletic Federation in its forlorn attempt to make this a truly representative championship has been lost in the antics of its president Primo Nebiolo, who thought he could persuade Christie to run but had the curious notion that someone else in the team, presumably Rosswess, would be delighted to step down in favour of the world and Olympic champion. Rosswess has been messed about enough recently, having been let down by the British federation, who failed to notify him about turning up for heats in the Birmingham trials, then at the last minute brought him into the team when he was not entirely race fit. Finally, he was dumped out of these championships by the toss of a coin after a dead-heated heat of the 60m.
While so many athletes have decided not to attend these championships, it was satisfying yesterday to witness another impressive run by Maria Mutola, of Mozambique. Qualifying for today's 800m final, she cruised through in 2min 03.29sec, recording her 40th successive victory.
Sergei Bubka won gold in the pole vault but failed to break his own world record.
Middle man Mayock, page 3
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