Athletics: Jackson shows dangerous edge: Hurdler looks best British hope to strike gold in Barcelona as sprinter Christie maintains momentum

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The Independent Online
COLIN JACKSON is beginning to look like Britain's best hope for an Olympic gold medal this year. Having beaten all his major US rivals at Crystal Palace last week with a European record of 13.06sec, he underlined his point in last night's Vauxhall Invitation here by defeating Tony Dees, whom he has replaced as the world's fastest 110 metres hurdler this year. Arthur Blake, another of the US choices for Barcelona, was back in sixth place.

Jackson pushed hard from the start, finishing in 13.17sec despite banging over one hurdle and running into a two metres per second headwind. After the years of defeats by Greg Foster and Roger Kingdom, he is now growing accustomed to beating high hurdlers from the other side of the Atlantic.

Given the headwind, he viewed this performance as better than his in London - 'in perfect conditions, I would have run near 13 dead,' he said. But he is looking for a time of 12.8 at the Games themselves, where he feels his main rival will not be an American, but a Canadian, Mark McKoy, who has been staying with Jackson at his home in Cardiff, training with him, but not - until Barcelona - racing against him.

Linford Christie, beaten only once over 100m this year, also maintained his momentum for Barcelona as he ended a night of competition against US sprinters with a record of one win and a draw. In the 100m, his surge over the last 30 metres proved too much for Mike Marsh who has the fastest 100m of the year to his credit with a time of 9.93sec, and made the US relay team after finishing one place outside the first three at the trials in New Orleans. Christie drew away to win in 10.32 into a headwind.

The European record holder then took part in a fearsomely competitive 200m against the man who is widely seen as his most likely rival for the 100m Olympic gold now that Carl Lewis has failed to qualify, Leroy Burrell. Burrell led with 10 metres to go; Christie led with five to go; they finished in a dead-heat in a time of 20.47. It may be as close in Barcelona, too, although Lewis, who won his last long jump before the Games unconvincingly with a fourth leap of 8.23m, does not think so.

'Leroy has to be the favourite because he is the only one who has broken 9.90sec,' he said, before giving diplomatic praise to the British runner as the greatest European sprinter ever.

The prospects for John Regis also look encouraging. He won over the rarely contested distance of 300m in 31.67sec, a European and Commonwealth record which was inside his own British record of 31.99 set in Belfast last year, holding off Steve Lewis, the Olympic 400m champion and winner of the US trials. It was also the third fastest time ever recorded, behind Danny Everett and Roberto Hernandez, who were both credited with 31.48 in the same race two years ago. What a pity it is for Regis that the 300m is not an Olympic event.

Steve Backley won his last javelin competition before the Games with a final throw of 87.12m. That was no surprise given the field, although Backley, who admitted that he was throwing with half a mind on not getting injured, drew some satisfaction from the fact that his throws got steadily better.

There was a surprise in the 800m, however, where Tom McKean beat George Kersh, fourth in the US Olympic trials, but was passed in turn by Steve Heard, who will accompany him to Barcelona, and the eventual winner, Dave Sharpe, who will not. Steve Crabb, who is going to the Games following Peter Elliott's withdrawal, won the 1500m in 3.37.17.

Elana Meyer, making her debut in Great Britain following South Africa's arrival back in the international fold, won the 3,000 metres without distress in 8min 39.11sec, a time bettered only by Britain's Yvonne Murray this year.

Impressive going for an athlete concentrating on the 10,000m in Barcelona; compulsive viewing for Liz McColgan, her rival for the gold, who had run three seconds slower in Nice on Wednesday. McColgan finished second in the 1500m in 4.07.29 after being outsprinted by Shelley Steely of the United States.

The evening had begun inauspiciously for Britain as two of their Olympic team, Derek Redmond and Sally Gunnell, withdrew from the meeting because of injuries which perhaps owed a little to pre-Games jitters. Gunnell suffered a slight thigh strain warming up earlier in the day; Redmond pulled out because of an Achilles tendon problem. Given that the British 400m record holder has had four operations on his Achilles tendons in the last three years, his failure to make the starting line was worrying.

Jon Ridgeon, who made his debut at 400m hurdles in a British League B race last week, having failed to earn a place in the 110m hurdles team for Barcelona, improved on his time with 50.89sec. But he was in somewhat different company here, and finished only seventh behind the winner, Niklas Wallenkind of Sweden, who ran 49.18.