Athletics: Jackson in form at just the right time

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S Colin Jackson warmed up for next month's World Indoor Championships with a comfortable win in the 110m hurdles at the Melbourne Grand Prix event yesterday.

The Welshman clocked 13.24sec in the outdoor event, improving on his 13.30sec last week, and had a clean run after a good start. "I'm happy with my indoor preparation. It's been fantastic. My coach will be really, really pleased that I stayed relaxed," said the world record holder. Jonathan Nsenda from Belgium was runner-up in 13.60sec.

Namibia's Frankie Fredericks won the 200m. The indoor world record holder recorded the fastest-ever time in Australia for the event, coming home in 19.92, outclassing his rivals, with Patrick Stevens of Belgium runner- up in 20.42. Fredericks shattered the previous best of 20.19 by the Australian John Dinan.

It was the second time in two weeks he had notched a sprint record on Australian soil. Last week at the Sydney Grand Prix he recorded 9.94sec for 100m. "I'm happy to come here and run fast," Fredericks said. "I'm up to where I was in 1996. I think I'm in wonderful shape."

Russia's Sergey Makarov upstaged European Championship bronze medallist Raymond Hecht in the javelin and set an Australian all-comers record. He threw 87.13 metres to beat Germany's Peter Blank with 85.89m. Hecht, also a German, was third on 83.55m.

Kenya's Luke Kipkosgei won the 5,000m in 13min 11.11sec, while Australian Lee Troop broke a 33-year-old national record of Ron Clarke. Troop clocked 13:14.82 to beat Clarke's 13:16.6 in Stockholm in 1966. Clarke has been critical of the inability of Australian runners to match his old times. "He gave me no praise," said Troop. "He actually mocked me a bit."

The Australian 400m world champion, Cathy Freeman, won her event easily in 51.48sec, beating Britain's Alison Curbishly and Australian Susan Andrews. "I haven't been feeling very well, all I wanted to do was win," Freeman said. "I had some sort of bug and I'm lucky I'm in strong shape."

The veteran sprinter Merlene Ottey has dismissed any talk of retirement after breezing to victory in the 60m at the European Athletics Association Indoor Invitational in Athens on Wednesday night. The Jamaican, who hopes to run in the 2000 Sydney Olympics just before her 40th birthday, clocked 7.05sec and said she could have done better. "I did try," Ottey said. "Everybody said this was a fast track but it wasn't. I'm not going to pressure myself."

Sydney would give Ottey her last chance to win the Olympic gold that has always eluded her. In Wednesday's race, she beat Greece's Katerina Thanou, who finished in 7.16sec.

Ashia Hansen looks in form to take on the world after dominating the women's triple jump at the Six Nations track and field indoor in Genoa, Italy, the last major meet before the World Indoor Championships at Maebashi, Japan, from 5 to 7 March.

Hansen's victory on Wednesday night, with 14.38m, 0.78m off her world mark, was the only one by a Briton as Christian Malcolm, was upset in the men's 200m. Malcolm, a double world junior champion last year, finished runner-up to France's Marc Foucan who won the 200m in 21.04sec. Malcolm clocked 21.12sec.

Another French sprinter, Vincent Caure, took the men's 60m in 6.71sec. Otherwise Russian athletes won the most events in the Six Nations competition which also featured Italy, Spain and Portugal. Russia led both the men's and women's standings for a winning total of 131.5 points. Spain finished second with 86.5.