Athletics: Jackson's gentle touch

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The Independent Online
OF THE 925 athletes competing in the CGU World Championship trials this weekend only one knows what it feels like to be crowned world champion. It is six years now since Colin Jackson struck gold in Stuttgart. In doing so he struck down the world record for the 110m hurdles. His winning time in the Neckar Stadion, 12.91 sec, remains unbroken.

It was never under threat in the Alexander Stadium yesterday as Jackson completed the formality of qualifying for Britain's world championship team. The Welshman took it gently on his personal accelerator as he coasted to an untroubled victory in 13.24sec. It was, nevertheless, a performance of historic note by the Cardiffian.

In collecting his ninth AAA title, Jackson eclipsed the record haul for the high hurdles he shared with Don Findlay, whose winning streak was so rudely interrupted by an inconvenience which became known as the Second World War. For six years Findlay was a wing commander in the RAF. He was decorated with the Air Flying Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Jackson will be seeking honours too when he takes on the world in Seville next month. He will need to be flying in the metaphorical sense if he is to regain the title from Allen Johnson and resist the challenge of the US champion Mark Crear. At 32, though, he is still one of Britain's best bets for a medal in a championship in which they will be desperately difficult to come by.

Britain may have reaped a golden harvest at continental level last summer, collecting nine titles from the European Championships in Budapest, but there has been just one British success at the two World Championships and one Olympic Games held in the past six years. Jonathan Edwards, the triple-jump world champion in 1995, is one of the notable absentees from the trials in Birmingham, having chosen to rest a foot problem, his selection already effectively assured.

The Gateshead Harrier is one of two British athletes who presently top the world rankings. The other, Steve Smith, won the high jump yesterday with a 2.28m clearance. But Mark Richardson will not be challenging for the AAA title in his event today. He withdrew from the 400m final "purely as a precaution" after suffering a hamstring strain in his semi-final yesterday.

A calf injury has prevented Denise Lewis from showing her form in the heptathlon so far this summer but the European and Commonwealth champion will be going for gold in Seville. At her home track yesterday the Birchfield Harrier finished sixth in the javelin with 46.30m and fourth in the shot with 15.10m, both satisfactory results.

Bob Weir was a happy Birchfield Harrier too. The Brummie defeated athletes half his age with a winning throw of 61.35m in the discus. In doing so, the 38-year-old effectively secured his place in the British team for Seville, thus taking his career full circle.

Of the 925 trialists, he happens to be the only one who took part in the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki 16 years ago. While Carl Lewis was marking his debut in international championship competition with three gold medals, and Daley Thompson and Steve Cram were striking gold for Britain, Weir was a qualifying-round competitor in the hammer. Like Colin Jackson, he can now start packing his bags to take on the world once again.